What more can be said about the Metal Gear Solid series? It is well known for an intricate overreaching plot that spans the series with twists and turns at every corner that connects the games together somehow, and characters that convey such strong emotions that you feel for them. It featured in game graphics that pushed both the PS2 and the PSP to their limits. Hideo Kojima didn’t just set out to make great games, but to also make cinematic experiences.
The MGS series defined how stealth games should be portrayed and set the standard in storytelling through its in-game cinematics. The games took risks that ultimately paid off. For the 25th anniversary of the franchise, Konami and Kojima Productions decided to give three of the defining games of the series an HD upgrade. Those games are Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. These three games make up the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. Since this is a compilation pack, this review will focus on the overall presentation and any new added content in the collection.
Substance and Subsistence - Not content in only giving players two of the most influential games of the PS2 generation, Kojima decided the games would be Substance (MGS2) and Subsistence (MGS3) instead. What’s the difference, you may ask? The difference is that these two games are the “director’s cuts.” In Substance, players have access to Snake’s Tales (the plant stage played through the eyes of Snake) and the VR Missions. With Subsistence, the ability to move the camera around is given and the two original games, Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, from the MZX computer system are included in here as well. Though these are the directors’ cuts of the games, not quite everything made it into the HD Collection. That will be explained in a bit.
Peace Walker Online Play - Online play for Peace Walker on the PSP was restrictive due to its only having ad-hoc multiplayer support. Now that it has made the jump to home consoles, connecting to a three on three squad match is now so much easier. Recruiting other players, co-op missions, going in with a small squad to invade other players, and trading soldiers all benefit from the more robust online play found on the home consoles.
Achievement/Trophy Support - The MGS games always had an internal achievement system to them. Collecting dog tags, wildlife or soldiers on the battlefield would result in the player getting a really neat message or title. Now that the games have made it to next gen consoles, players can further feed their addiction to achievements/Trophies. And staying true to the nature of the games, some of the achievements/trophies have over the top names and conditions, such as Sexting, Like a Boss and Snake Beater.
Peace Walker Analog Control - Anyone who played Peace Walker for hours on end will tell you about the hand cramps they suffered while playing through the game. From the awkward hand positioning when trying to hunt down monsters in the Monster Hunter missions, to the finger numbing button smashing of the games QTEs, playing it took a toll on player's hands and fingers. Now that it has been ported to home consoles, hunts and boss fights are easier to handle thanks to the second analog stick, and the QTEs hurt much less.
A DYING SNAKE
Age Hasn’t Been Kind to Snake - Like most last gen console conversions, MGS HD Collection does suffer a bit when it comes to graphics. This mostly affected MGS3 and Peace Walker due to the games taking place in organic environments. Plants and shrubbery look flat when the camera closes in, some spots of grass won’t move in response to Snake’s movements, and character models look a bit too sharp. This is heavily prevalent in Peace Walker since it was ported from a portable system to HD. While it doesn’t detract from the gameplay or the story, it is something that you will notice.
No Extras From Original Games - As I said earlier, not all of the extras from the original games made it over to the HD Collection. Substance took a minor hit with the exclusion of the Skateboard Evolution section that has Snake and Raiden tearing it up on the Big Shell plant. Subsistence, however, took a bigger hit. The secret theater, Boss Rush mode, Snake vs. Monkey, downloadable camo packs and vs. Monkey could not be included because of Sony owning the monkeys from Ape Escape, but why not the rest of the extras? These additions made the overall package of Subsistence so much better than the original Snake Eater.
The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is a must have for fans of the series. Even if you have the games from the PS2/PSP era or already have beaten them, the story, characters and gameplay will always bring you back for more. Add in online play and analog support for Peace Walker, and you would have a perfect example of what an HD Collection should be. Unfortunately the collection comes up just a bit short with the exclusion of the secret theater and Boss Rush mode for Subsistence and age hasn’t helped the game either in the graphics department. Regardless, these games are not to be missed out on by anyone. If you’re new to the series or a veteran of the games, this HD Collection is a good pick up.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review copy provided by the publisher.*