Monday, 9 July 2012

Game Review: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection

It's pretty cool that we are seeing HD ports of older video games being brought to our most recent consoles. There's a great dose of nostalgia for the good 'uns that pass into the borders of a high definition update. Titles from the Silent Hill and Devil May cry series have already made their way onto Xbox 360 and PS3 with some shinier pixels and it seems like this could go on for a little while longer. I personally find it a little strange that they can sell old games for your typical £40 or more, but the price covers a small handful of games that undoubtedly were popular at the time and still have a strong enough fan base that doesn't make a re-release redundant.

Unless you've been living under a cardboard box, you may have heard of one of these new HD collections being released. Metal Gear Solid HD, which features MGS2: Sons Of Liberty and MGS3: Snake Eater for the Playstation 2 and MGS: Peace Walker, originally on the PSP. If you've ever played any of these games and craved to see them in a shiny new way then you're in luck! I won't go on much about the plot points for these games, because it'd be a difficult and time consuming set up to summarise, but if you've played these titles before, the game-play and story remain exactly as they were originally. Smoother graphics that support 720p resolution on home consoles, crisper sound and integration with the trophy and achievement systems, some sweet reasons to go back and play some classics belonging to a series that brought so much to games upon their release.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty was originally released in 2001, and was the much anticipated sequel to the groundbreaking release of Metal Gear Solid on the original Playstation. The first game, alongside such other gaming classics as Super Mario 64 and Ocarina Of Time, helped to set the bar for what could be seen as a damn good game. So it was a pretty big deal when the second was released. A lot of people felt a little annoyed with the character shift however. In the first game, you played as Solid Snake, a spy soldier of commando unit FOXHOUND. Working alone, you had to infiltrate a military base and destroy the nuclear weapon, Metal Gear. However in the second, though you do play as Snake for the first portion of the game, it isn't long before you swap to a newbie character. Raiden wasn't exactly the expert bad ass spy that the fans were accustomed to, but he was still a pretty good character nonetheless. Raiden's mission sees you sneaking through the huge offshore oil cleanup facility, the Big Shell. Most of the game mechanics featured in the first game remain, updated for a better game play experience. The story line got some flak for being a little too complicated but if you can really pay attention to it, it's fantastic.

The graphics hold up really well, even to this day. There may be some flat textures and jagged character models but everything else is practically top notch. Even on it's release it was pushing the envelope for a great looking game. I don't think I ever saw a better looking game in that generation of console gaming until Snake Eater was released! The lighting is great, the animations of the characters and NPCs in cutscenes are well done and the game is just generally pretty. With the polish and buff from HD, it's as if it brings it into 2012 a brand new game.

Some people may find the controls a little hard to grasp at first. Sticking to the original game's control scheme, the camera would remain in a fixed position and move when you enter a new room or area, or turn a corner. Movement feels a little odd at first, if you're used to the newer angles and control methods in MGS4 or Peace Walker, (or MGS3 Subsistance, which is the version included in this pack!) then it might take a little while to re-adjust, though it's certainly not enough to put you off playing entirely.

This particular re-release of MGS2 is actually of Sons Of Liberty: Substance, which was sort of like DLC before you could download it. It included over 500 virtual and alternative missions set in both areas from the game and the VR computer constructed levels. It included all sorts of different tasks and exercises. Using different weapons to take out targets, sneaking missions, bomb disposal and many more whilst trying to get the best score you can. It added a lot of longevity to the game, as it's a pretty huge expansion. And that's not even mentioning the new 'Snake Tales' missions, that have you playing as Solid Snake in different scenarios, all with their own written narratives, each of these about an hour long at the least. Including the Boss Survival and Theater mode, (which comically allowed you to swap character models in significant cutscenes for others, resulting in plenty of chuckles) the MGS2: Substance edition packed so much into a disc that I reckon could have been considered mad at the time.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the third proper instalment into the MGS series. Released in 2004 on PS2, Kojima managed to catch the fanbase off-guard by releasing a prequel to the canon. MGS3 saw you playing as Naked Snake, or as he was later to be known, 'Big Boss', and tells the tale of how the entire story came to be from the very beginning. Set during the cold-war period in the 60's, the game follows Snake on his mission to infiltrate Soviet Union territory by moving throughout the jungles. The locations are what really set this game apart. Well detailed and unique, you need to rely on using the new camouflage system to effectively blend into the environment unseen by enemy soldiers. It introduced plenty of new features, such as the stamina gauge. If your stamina got low, it would require you to eat in order to keep Snake's strength up and continue. You would be able to obtain food by hunting for animals or finding flora. Some of it would be good, some bad, so you couldn't just eat anything. If you sustained an injury from a fall or a burn, these would have be treated properly in the Survival Viewer with splints or bandages. These new features really added a whole new level of depth to the game and made the survival element a big part of the game. No longer just about sneaking, it was about keeping Snake alive to complete his mission. In terms of controls, Subsistance made use of a completely 3D analogue controlled camera, rather than the fixed camera positions used in previous titles.

So whilst I said the graphics in MGS2 were fantastic, I found the HD visuals of Snake Eater to be absolutely outstanding. Particularly during cut-scenes, I found it difficult to believe that this game was released in 2004! With the amount of detail in the jungle areas and the characters, guns, wildlife, just everything, this could have been one of the best looking games on PS2 ever. Thanks to this HD collection, it gets to shine in the spotlight once again to show just how good looking it is, even in this day and age of gaming.

While this is technically MGS3: Subsistence, a few features of the original are missing. The mini game 'Snake VS. Monkey' is no longer there, nor is the Boss Survival mode, (or that strange nightmare sequence that happened when you reloaded the game at a certain area in the game...) instead being replaced with the original 2 Metal Gears from the MSX2 system and the NES. As a result, Snake Eater can feel a little bare when you finish the actual game, but despite having aged a lot more than the main acts in the collection, these are still two great games that you should play through. Even at the time, they were pushing great, innovative ideas that had never been seen before in video games. This particular edition also doesn't include Metal Gear Online which was originally included in Subsistence, which is a shame, as for the limited time it was out, it was great fun.

The final addition to the MGS HD collection is the port of Peacewalker, originally released for the PSP in 2010 and follows the journey of Big Boss 10 years after Snake Eater in Costa Rica. A sequel to Portable Ops, also on the PSP, the game used the same gameplay features which were in turn, a bit of a departure from earlier games in the series, not including MGS4. Similar 3D camera functions were used from Subsistence, but the actions were a bit different. Precision aiming is done in 3rd person, rather than first person typically used in the game's predecessors and the Close Quarters Combat (CQC) originally seen in Snake Eater isn't quite the same either. The main difference in Peace Walker compared to the others is that it's broken up into smaller missions. It features plenty of new areas and locations, but they are rather small, and not quite as detailed as they could have been if they were on the same platform as previous games, even in HD.

In Peace Walker, Snake is in control of a small army of mercenaries. This is a key point to the game. You need to expand your group by 'convincing' people to join your side. At the beginning, most of your new members will most likely be enemy soldiers that you extract from the battlefield, but as you become a larger force, more people will want to join you freely. With these members, you can choose to put them in different areas. Infantry, for sending into battle and as your main source of income, Medical for treating injured units, Intelligence for added benefits in new missions, the Mess Hall for keeping the morale of your crew up with some good nosh, and the technology department for creating new weapons and items. All are equally important in developing your army and progressing the game and as you proceed with the story, new opportunities will arise that will allow you to expand more.

If you haven't played Portable Ops before this, it might seem like an odd transition from games before, but once you get used to it, it's a pretty good game with a great story that continues to talk about the origins of the series. Of all three, this is graphically the weakest, but the HD remastering certainly helps bring it to life on the big screen.

If you have any sense as a gamer at all, it's definitely worth your while picking up the Metal Gear Solid HD collection. With two undeniable classics in it, you'd be a fool not to play them. And whilst Peacewalker doesn't quite have all the aspects of a gaming icon like Sons of Liberty or Snake Eater, it's still a great game and absolutely worth your time. If only they could have included the Twin Snakes too!

Developers: Kojima Productions & Bluepoint Games
Publisher: Konami
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, 
Playstation Vita (excludes Peacewalker)
Genre: Stealth, action, third-person shooter
Release Date: February 3, 2012
Price: £29.99/$39.99

- Andy Robison


Great review, I agree with your points about Snake Eater missing some of the minigames ect that was included in the ps2 version. I think Twin Snakes wasn't included because nintendo own the rights, and the ps1 version of MGS1 wasn't included as its a bastard to port ps1 games with HD graphics on the ps3 and xbox.

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