The lights are on
Amidst so many of its Sony alumni cashing-in on HD collections, the now 25 year-old Metal Gear Solid series has nevertheless continued the trend to present loyal fans with its own package of last-generation nostalgia. Featuring the critically acclaimed entries of Snake Eater, Peace Walker, and Sons of Liberty, the Metal Gear Solid HD collection defies expectations as both a testament to its glorious past as well as adding a number of impressive bonuses that are sure to please fans and newcomers alike. From my play-through of it, MGS is easily one of the best game collections on the market thus far and a must-play for old fans and newcomers alike.
Like countless others, MGS’s HD collection features the kind of content typical of game collection, but can certainly claim to do them better. From the start, MGS’s HD collection offers players the convenience of quitting any of the games in mid-play and returning to the collection’s title screen to choose another, providing a welcome amount of freedom rarely seen in HD collections. The graphical overhaul of all three games, already based on MGS 2 and 3’s previous remasterings, shines through in the games’ beautiful animations and smooth frame-rate that should still impress to this day. Trophy and achievement support is also included with over 140 trophies/achievements total. Excluding Peace Walker, (whose on-line play is no longer offered), gamers should have two great titles to conceivably 100% or platinum. As a bonus, the collection also includes the additions of the first two Metal Gear games, Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, to make for an extra special trip of nostalgia to veteran fans of the series.
The collection’s best feature by far is, of course, its classic titles. All three entries have lost little of their edge with age and can still prove their elite status among the stealth-action genre for fans and newcomers alike.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
The earliest released title on the collection, 2001’s Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty still stands strong as an innovative and entertaining title even after more than a decade. With Konami’s trademark story-telling, stealth, and plenty of post-game content, MGS 2 was a game that kept things fun and challenging at the same time. Its controls have maybe not aged the best of the MGS entries, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that Sons of Liberty’s inventive combat and graphical quality are amazing for its era. Though a bit awkward to get used to, its stealth mechanics still retain a pleasant amount of complexity to them, whether in performing such things like surprise hold-ups on guards to hiding their unconscious bodies in lockers. Levels never left me with an intolerable sense of frustration and always kept me guessing how to proceed while engaging my interest in the environment with its tons of secrets and collectibles. Boss battles, true to the series, combine the best of bizarre villains and ingenious gameplay, making for particularly clever fights that make you use your head.
Based on its updated, 2002 “Substance” version, MGS 2 also includes all the neat after-game extras players enjoyed on the PS2, including Snake Tales, Boss Survival, and the oddly amusing Casting Theater modes from the Japanese and PAL versions of the original revamp. All 300 VR training missions are there to boot as well as the game’s cool secrets, from Snake’s infinite ammo bandana to every cardboard box. Most importantly, MGS 2‘s characters are as classically colorful and fascinating as you remembered them, and it’s tear-jerker death scene is as priceless as then as it still is now.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
The collection’s proudest entry to behold, my personal favorite of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, is arguably the best of the series to date and one of the PS2’s greatest games of all time. While it does everything that MGS 2 did in terms of technical quality, it always seemed to do them even better with its own sense of depth and added excitement. Sneaking through Cold War Russia’s still brilliantly animated forests and mountains are a vast improvement from MGS 2’s dank corridors and factory walls and its element of stealth doesn’t suffer for it. Hiding behind stumps and crawling around in the grass is while throttling an enemy by the collar is great, but your additional amount of weapons, tools, and special gadgetry makes for even better options in combat.
With its greater sense of space, Snake Eater’s levels feel even more like traversing a full countryside and with it comes the game’s oddly amusing/disgusting feature of foraging certain, ermm, critters for food, in homage to its namesake. Unforgettable boss battles like Revolver Ocelot’s gun battle and the uniqueness of The End’s tricky sniper duel contribute to the game’s heightened trait for creativity in its combat strategies, along with sequences like the final battle with the Shagohad Metal Gear.
The final icing on the cake, though, is Snake Eater’s timeless story. Its 1960s era spy story is a thrilling tribute to the best of James Bond from its soundtrack to its arch-villains’ conspiracies of world domination. As a prequel to the series, Snake Eater also offers an intriguing amount of backstory to the origins of so many of the franchise’s characters. Naked Snake’s last showdown with his mentor of the Boss still hasn’t left me since I played it and helps the level go down as one of gaming’s most heartfelt moments.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Last on the collection and the most recent MGS entry thus far is the portable game of MGS: Peace Walker. It’s also undoubtedly benefited from the collection’s HD overhaul the most, allowing for much improved controls thanks to the PS3‘s dual analog sticks and takes after Metal Gear Solid 4 in feeling like the smoothest game on the collection for gameplay. On a further note, Peace Walker also includes features like its new “Transfarring” system, allows PS3 Peace Walker players to transfer their saves to the PSP and continue playing while on the move, a nice for any busy players while traveling. Unfortunately, the game’s original “Metal Gear On-line” multi-player mode is no longer offered, cutting the chances of 100%ing or platinuming Peace Walker short.
Since its release, Peace Walker also remains the most divergent of the series in many of its creative changes from its predecessors. While it still involves plenty of the same stealth and combat you could expect from its series’ history, its chosen focus on action often makes it feel like far less of a traditional MGS game. Due to such artistic decisions, straight up fights are a lot more frequent and boss battles are limited to giant robots and vehicles. Such battles are still fun and aren’t ever terrible, they will make the game genuinely feel less appealing to the hard-core Metal Gear fan.
What Peace Walker does do right is in its interesting recruitment system in which players can capture, train, and assign in-game enemies to positions within your unit to help with tasks back at base. This feature is lengthy and tedious at times, but its benefits toward upgrading your weaponry and back-up in combat should still come appreciated.
On its story-front, the game is the shortest and most concise MGS entry. Spending its time introducing a variety of new character and developing its more obscure ones, Peace walker has remarkably fewer revelations or plot twists for the series save for one odd one, but its bonus levels and collectible audio tapes do offer a few interesting insights into its characters.
Peace Walker is nevertheless a worthy entry in the MGS series and since isn’t included in the PS Vita’s HD collection, it makes the PS3/360 collection even more invaluable to players wanting more of the definitive Big Boss storyline.
Metal Gear Solid is undeniably the best stealth-action series in the gaming industry and revisiting the immense quality of its past titles should continue to prove that. Despite so many years on game shelves, each of these games deserves some of the highest praise for their longevity in the series’ genre and even accounting for their aged controls, they all stand tall as fun and classic game experiences. With a collection of games this good, my only complaint would be that there’s simply not of it. With such critical series entries like Snake Eater and Sons of Liberty on the collection, it’s a shame that the original Metal Gear Solid, or its remake of Twin Snakes, is left out of the mix. Nevertheless, everything that MGS has as a collection it does right and should give any other game franchise reason to take notes.
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