Icons are aplenty in the gaming industry, and among Master Chief, Lara Croft, and Mario is the prodigious Solid Snake, who found his way to fame on the shoulders of acclaimed developer Hideo Kojima. Tactical espionage is not a genre that has much room for error, and the Metal Gear series most certainly hasn’t had much competition within it. Indeed, the franchise has stood on its own among the giant titles of the gaming industry since its first 3D outing in 1998. Now it holds itself up as a relic in the newly released Metal Gear Solid HD Collection in hopes of enhancing the lives of more gamers than it already has. The heart of any MGS fanatic can only hope this Collection holds up to today’s standards of gaming, since one of the featured titles hasn’t touched a console in nearly a decade.
The MGS Collection is comprised of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Metal Great Solid: Peace Walker, and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, listed according to timeline chronologically. Most of this journey through the collection is the telling of Big Boss’s story as he works through the defection of his mentor and the betrayal he receives from his country, as well as his personal establishment in the world with his group of mercenaries, Militaires sans Frontieres.
All of the MGS games require a bit of a soft touch, since being covert is the most efficient way to play them. Enemies can be simply shot, but that makes them obstacles and obvious worries for other enemies. Running through is doable, as well, which makes this game very diverse, but the AI can be very unpredictable, in terms of movement. Enemies retreat, enemies push, and enemies call for backup, so literally running through the game is counterproductive to the overall experience. This especially holds true in Snake Eater and Peace Walker, since the jungle is a dynamic landscape full of traps and vulnerabilities. Peace Walker also has a scoring system that rewards players for efficiency. The series may take a bit of time for acclimation, but the experiences within each game are well worth the slight dedication.
My memories of this series are vivid, since my first PlayStation experience was Sons of Liberty. I remember jumping every time I was discovered, even with that ridiculously humorous explanation point over the enemy’s heads. The music, the voice acting, the sound effects; all key features to the series that thankfully remain intact here beautifully. I never really recalled the music when I was younger, but the ebb and flow in constant motion with the narrative gives such a sophisticated emphasis to the plot that the games would feel naked without them. And the sounds! After playing this game with the PlayStation Wireless Stereo Headset, it’s really hard to avoid using it, since the surround sound used in those games was very meticulously delivered, especially for their times. Thankfully, these important aspects have remained in their perfect glory.
Peace Walker and Snake Eater feature a camouflage system called the Camo Index, which indicates the player visibility to the enemy. This system depends on stance and which camouflage has been donned, but it’s much more specific in Snake Eater, since actual camouflages can be switched out and manipulated. Snake Eater also features a Cure system, where the player has to manage injury and disease with supplies procured through the game. These two features give the collection a very distinct and involved feel to the overall gameplay experience.
The story is obvious, and a non-issue. This narrative will appeal to old timers to the series, as expected, and will hopefully give newcomers a proper glimpse into how gaming used to be. Still, the story may prove a little sluggish for some modern gamers, since the series still has an Eastern appeal to character development. Due to this, I recommend everyone to play through these games in order of release. Sons of Liberty moves much faster and is much shorter than the rest, so it can ease new players into the famous style that Kojima refines throughout the franchise.
However, the biggest hump that anyone may have to overcome is the graphics. Though still very good, especially the vast foray of textures, rigid edges and uneven textures in characters as well as environment look very "icky" by today’s standards. I say this mostly because Sons of Liberty has some very distinct discrepancies, especially in terms of colors and shades. It being the first attempt on PlayStation 2 can excuse these issues, since the game, like the other two on the disc, plays like a golden harp. However, dark textures look nasty, and Snake even starts meshing into the shadows in a very unnatural looking way. On a brighter note, however, the weather intensity on the Tanker level is still as glorious as it had ever been, showing violent and changing rain fall; though, the ship doesn’t move on an obviously violent Hudson River like the boat did in Uncharted 3, but the comparison is unfair for both parties. I would also like to accredit Sons of Liberty for having very clean gameplay, though the cut-scenes are far from beautiful, which is how the game looked and played in 2001. Apart from these discrepancies, Sons of Liberty is still a strong game and more than worthy of being included in this collection.
Snake Eater looks and sounds great, even though a lot of limitations from the hardware of the last generation can still be shown within it, such as rigid and defined environments as well as unblended textures between a character’s face and the rest of his or her body. Regardless, it has one of the best stories ever told within the last 10 years and it still holds true today; for those of you who know the story, I still teared up at the end of the game.
Peace Walker was the game I was the most worried about heading into this collection, since it is a PSP game remade for PS3. Many of the nuances in both design and texture remain in the game, albeit upscaled and enriched, which give it the feel that the game is still a handheld game. The mechanics however feel very refreshing in comparison to the rest of the games on the collection. The art drawn by Ashley Wood has been rendered vividly in HD to still deliver a story in prime Kojima standard. The graphics don’t really do much of a favor for the game in unforgiving HD. Nothing within Peace Walker is rigid or awkward, but nothing is redone or enhanced outside of texture refinement and fluidity of performance. With the cooperative play being such a complete and enthralling experience that mimics the popular Monster Hunter series, not having a better looking game is a bit of a disappointment. In that regard, the game still plays flawlessly and beautifully, especially with the added joystick and having extra triggers available for weapon swapping.
Overall, a collection of games inspired by one of the most revolutionary games in the gaming industry would be a worthwhile purchase for any reason. If the historical reference isn’t enough, then the stories within each game are great enough to entice anyone who enjoys a deep and engrossing plot. Graphics aren’t even close to the potential of today, but the charms and angst that created a legendary franchise are embedded and primed once again within this gaming relic called Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.