The entire Metal Gear franchise has come a long way since the good old sprite days. From the instant that you throw yourself into the series, no matter what the game, you will encounter some level of “weird shit” that only Hideo Kojima can bring. At a given time, you’ll be dropped into a 45 minute cut scene, and even if you follow the series closely, you probably won’t get it. If you do understand it, then congratulations; you’ve achieved a level of insanity that few on this earth will admit to! Somehow, if you manage to survive all of the dialogue, you’ll find an oddly challenging game of hide and seek that has rewarded fans for decades.
The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is a bundling of the two PlayStation 2 entries in Hideo Kojima’s tale of mercenaries and tactical nuclear deployment; Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3:Snake Eater. Both games have some very unique aspects to them, making this collection a good sampling for those hesitating to dig deeper into the series as a whole.
However, I feel the need to point out that unlike last year’s Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 release, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is not included. Also noticeably missing is the original Metal Gear Solid (which still can be played on your Vita if you buy the PS1 Classic from the PSN)... as well as a slew of PSP titles that nobody really cares about that much anyway. This is, by no means, a definitive collection, but for the price of admission, you get two great PS2 titles and two NES-era throwbacks to occupy your time.
The basic game mechanics are largely unchanged in this PlayStation Vita port, adding the functional and intuitive front touchscreen mechanics for item swapping to make up for the lack of buttons. You can crawl, hide in lockers, and run straight into the enemy’s cone of vision like the best of them. The controls feel great on the Vita, acting incredibly responsive for such a diminutive device.
Of the two games, MGS2 is the weakest still, sporting an otherwise lackluster story of espionage split between the famed Solid Snake and the randomly-inserted Raiden. The later composes of much of the game’s content which, at the time of the original release, pissed off a lot of fans. Still, even within MGS2 you’ll have lots to accomplish aside from the main story and the task of getting a platinum trophy. There are a ton of challenge missions to be had as well as “Snake Tales”, which was Konami’s way of apologizing to fans by allowing you to play through the second half of the game as Snake and not crybaby Raiden.
From a technical standpoint, Metal Gear Solid 2 looks pretty good considering how old it is, but it still controls as clumsily as it ever did. Edging up to corners against the wall often is a little finicky, as is moving around in third person while crawling against the ground. The biggest offender is how the first-person perspective works. Aiming your weapons in first-person is one of the least satisfying parts of the game. While this has changed a lot over the years (and has lead to larger changes seen in Metal Gear Solid 4), it can be jarring to some players and frustrating to others. Metal Gear Solid 2 is preserved well in this collection, but it comes down to whether or not that is something you’ll want to relive with a better resolution.
As alluded to earlier, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the major reason why this collection works. This game is, in a word, superb; however it does deserve the qualifier of “for a Metal Gear game”. Heck, “especially for a PS2 game”. A lot of what I have issues with in MGS2 feels improved upon, but it still has the same control quirks (namely first-person aiming and 3rd person obstacle navigation) that came with the time period. Disregarding those comparatively minor technical issues, it is the limitation placed on the player that make for a different and more challenging game. By removing modern technology and placing you with an inexperienced operative, Kojima made a deeper gameplay experience. You are constantly fighting fatigue as well as armies of surreal enemies and the naturally-occurring dangers of the Russian forest.
It is the sense of urgency and desperation that really sets Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater apart from its predecessor. MGS2 felt more like a prank show at sea as I snuck around under a box, tricking the dimwitted AI into thinking nobody was shooting off rounds from their pistol right behind them. Aside from the occasional timer, I didn’t feel incentivized to move forward. In Snake Eater, though, you had to book it. Snake is exposed to the environment with few true placed to hide. Even then, you could encounter a crocodile that could take you out in seconds. If you didn’t hate the great outdoors after playing this game, you at least wanted to spend as little time as possible in it, lest be attacked by a lethal crocodile.
Through it all, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is one of the best purchases you can make for your Vita library right now. This is including the criticism of feature-incomplete and progressively dated-feeling games. Really, that is how good the collection is; it is flawed in so many ways yet it stands as a testament to the stealth-action genre. You might not be playing “Snake vs. Monkey” anytime soon (one of the few omissions in this collection), but you still have the bonus of having Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. If you’re looking for a challenging game with a complex, often irreverent narrative, look no further.
Developer: Aspect Co. Ltd.,Genki Co.,Armature Studio,Bluepoint Games,Kojima Productions
Genre: Compilation, Action-Adventure, Action
Release: November 8, 2011
Available On: PlayStation Network (Vita), PlayStation Vita, PlayStation Network (PS3), Xbox Live Marketplace, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Syphon Filter: Meh
No More Heroes: Like it
Deus Ex: Love it
Metal Gear Solid: Like it... until I hate it