Metal Gear Solid HD Collection Review
Game: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
Developer: Konami, Bluepoint Games, Genki, Aspect Co.
Available on: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
The Metal Gear series has been around for over 25 years now and is still being played all over the world. With its complex but enthralling story lines, combination of stealth and action gameplay and a series of unforgettable characters, it is fair to say that Metal Gear is something of an institution. Unfortunately in recent years gamers who want to relive these games (because the games have a notoriously long gap in between releases) have to rely on old consoles to enable them to get their fix of Snake and company. It is always great fun to go back to the original, but fans of any gaming series always want to see their favourite characters and stories thrust into modern times because they want to play their favourite games on the latest consoles. Over the last few months we have seen a resurgence of these games like Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Resident Evil 4 and they always seem to show up on a new console one way or another.
Well, now the fans prayers have finally been answered as we see the arrival of Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for the PlayStation 3 as well as the Xbox 360, allowing fans who have changed consoles, for whatever reason, to play the original titles whenever they choose. The collection consists of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (which includes the original titles from the MSX console, Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake) and also Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, which was originally a PlayStation Portable game.
Not only do you get to play all of these games on your consoles, but they have also had a nice polish up on the graphics as well as being rendered in glorious HD, allowing you to experience these titles on your big TV’s without any problems. But has Snake been given a new lease of life and will having the stories retold for a new generation draw in more fans of the series? Or is it time for him to gracefully bow out and let someone else take the reigns? Let us find out!
STORY: All of the Metal Gear Solid games have deep and engaging story lines and the majority of people will know them already. But if you’re new to the series, or simply cannot remember them, here is a refresher for you, but because the games are set in different time lines, we will go through these in chronological order:
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – The story is set just after the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962, with the Cold War in full swing. The threat of an all out nuclear war is poking its doom laden head over the horizon, America and the Soviet Union undergo some intense negotiations and the Russians move their nuclear missiles out of Cuba, which seemingly has allowed humanity to survive a nuclear holocaust. However, there was a secret condition that really put an end to the crisis, and that was for America to return a Soviet Rocket Scientist called Nikolai Sokolov, who had only recently defected. America complied with this condition, only to then find out that Sokolov had been designing some nightmarish weapons. Now with Sokolov back in Soviet hands, he can continue to build this weapon and should it be completed, it will mark a new age of fear.
Realizing the urgency of the situation, the CIA hatch a plan to recapture Sokolov and dispatch the covert FOX unit to his research facility located south of the Soviet fortress of Groznyj Grad. Led by former SAS member Major Zero, the FOX unit specialize in covert intelligence and solo sneaking missions. Enter the man who is to roam this hostile land and re-secure Sokolov; the man with the code name of Naked Snake.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker – The year is 1974 and Big Boss (after his exploits from the Virtuous Mission and Operation Snake Eater) disappear out of America and has created his own “Army without a Nation” mercenary group named “Soldiers without Borders” and has set up camp in Colombia, South America. Haunted by his former mentor and sailing aimlessly in the breeze, he is approached by visitors from Costa Rica, which is known as a “Nation without a Military”.
With the Cuban Missile crisis long gone but never forgotten, Latin America has become the key to maintaining the power balance between the East and the West. But now a mysterious armed force has emerged and threatened to disrupt this fragile balance. So to preserve peace and neutrality in Costa Rica and potentially prevent another crisis, the Soldiers without Borders, led by Big Boss, spring into action. In time they come to be known as the founders of “Outer Heaven”.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – Set after the events of the Shadow Moses Incident, technological data of the Nuclear-armed all terrain battle tank known as “Metal Gear” has been leaked onto the Black Market. Solid Snake and his allies from anti-Metal Gear, Non-Government Organisation, “Philanthropy” set off in chase of a tanker that is said to be carrying a new Metal Gear prototype. Unfortunately Snake falls into a trap set by former FOXHOUND member Revolver Ocelot, and is believed to be lost at sea along with the tanker at the bottom of the Hudson River and the new Metal Gear prototype stolen.
Two years later the Big Shell, which is an oil spill clean up facility constructed in the wake of the tanker disaster, is taken over by terrorists and capture the U.S. President who was visiting the facility at the time. If that wasn’t bad enough, the terrorists claim to be led by the legendary soldier, Solid Snake. The government sends Raiden, a new recruit to the FOXHOUND unit to infiltrate the Big Shell and rescue the President. But everything is not as it seems…
As you can tell with all of these stories, they are very much in depth, intricate and all out entertaining. Some people may find that they take a while to get going and sometimes you will find yourself watching a lot of plot unfold before you actually get to play anything which may put you off. But if you fully engross yourself into the story and fully get into the game, the pay off will be outstanding. That said, you really must pay attention as well, as sometimes you may miss something and wonder what happened, but because of the way it is written, you can catch up quite easily and carry on.
Due to the nature of these titles, you will feel that you are playing an epic action movie and you will be thoroughly gripped by the events that take place. It may seem at times that it is clearly written with 80’s/90’s action movies as a clear inspiration, but they have stood the test of time and make you feel like a super spy and an ultimate soldier all at the same time.
GRAPHICS: The Metal Gear series have always used the best graphics available when releasing a new game, and you’ll be glad to hear that they are still in their original format, but now all nice and shiny due to it’s HD make over. Snake Eater looks amazing in HD and the detail that was in the game originally is magnified because of these. Sons of Liberty is still exactly the same as it was on the PlayStation 2 but because of the HD refit, everything looks smooth and crisp. It may not be as graphically impressive as some games out there but it still looks great.
The biggest surprise is Peace Walker, it looks very impressive indeed. It was obviously a PSP title originally and looked good when it was released, but to have it now available on your TV without any flaws and obviously in HD it is an outstanding achievement. Having said that you can at times tell that it is a PSP game as it is not as well developed. In order to make up for this, Peace Walker breaks away from the FMV cut-scenes and goes for a comic book style which looks fantastic and suits the game.
The facial animations are great in Snake Eater but only minimal in Sons of Liberty as when it was released, games were only beginning to use that sort of animation. The lip syncing isn’t great but then it originally never was. Even though Sons of Liberty was an early PlayStation 2 game, some of the textures are still a little odd. Apart from this, however, the game’s hold up well graphically and once again still look good for the majority of the titles in this day and age.
SOUND: All of the original sound tracks of the games are used in their entirety, with the full orchestra action movie feel for the dramatic bits and the cool spy-esque music for when you are sneaking around. The Metal Gear series has always been able to encapsulate the mood of the game perfectly which gives these games extra feeling and Oomph, whether it be the James Bond style of music in Snake Eater to the blockbuster action movie style music in Sons of Liberty.
The sound effects for each title are good as well with every gunshot, footstep, knock, bang and explosion sounding as you would expect them to. The voice acting is always spot on, with David Hayter doing his growling voice for Snake. Sometimes the scripts can be a little cheesy and make you cringe, but the voice acting is well portrayed and as believable as possible.
GAMEPLAY: The majority of you will know, the Metal Gear series is a stealth action game, but the way you play it will determine how much fun you can have with it. You can sneak around avoiding everyone and fighting only when you have to do so or you can stun/kill enemies without being detected, meaning that you have to hide the bodies. You can even just go around killing everyone without worrying about stealth if you so desire, but that may become difficult and sometimes you have to hide before you can progress. It is obviously not ideal to play like this but the option is there. To get around without being seen, you have to use cover appropriately and your surroundings to your advantage. In every area you enter, there is always more than one way to get by without being detected, and the fun part is finding these out.
To get around you can either run, crouch walk (this function is only available in Snake Eater and Peace Walker) or crawl (only in Snake Eater and Sons of Liberty). Each of these have their positives and negatives aspects. If you want to hide from the enemy, you’ll be better crawling under an object or crouching around the corner. If you want to sneak up behind an enemy, then crouching would be quieter than running and quicker than crawling. This once again would be how you decide to play the game. The enemies usually have set patrol patterns and only deviate from these when they see or hear something suspicious. So use this to your advantage. Vision wise the enemy’s field of vision is a set cone, and if you are spotted within that cone, he will sound the alarm. This can be odd because this cone only goes out a certain distance, so if you stand in front of his field of vision but at a distance, he won’t alert anyone which sometimes dampers the realism that these games usually strive to achieve.
As Snake progresses, he collects a vast array of weapons and items that he can use to either kill, stun or hide from the enemy. For example, you have pistols, machine guns and RPG’s to take people out, but you also have binoculars, radars and distraction items like a magazine to make the enemy do what you want, allowing you to sneak efficiently.
There are a lot of similarities in these games but there are differences as well. Snake Eater and Sons of Liberty have the option of shooting enemies in first person, whereas in Peace Walker you only have a third person Uncharted-esque style of shooting. In Sons of Liberty, you play in an almost top down style whereas in Peace Walker and Snake Eater, your view is behind Snake. Sons has an very descriptive radar, Snake Eater and Peace Walker radars only detects movement or sound depending on the equipment you choose. Snake Eater and Peace Walker have a camouflage system to assist you in hiding from the enemy but Sons doesn’t. The list can go on, but the enjoyment is finding all of these differences, no matter how big or small, and using them all to your advantage.
Package-wise you have a lot of extra stuff with each game. Snake Eater is the Subsistence version, which has the original MSX versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake but unfortunately no Metal Gear Online and Sons of Liberty is the Substance version, which has loads of Virtual Reality and Alternative missions as well as Snake Tales. Peace Walker is the same as the PSP version, except that the second analogue stick is now mapped into the control system for easier use.
Peace Walker has a few different gameplay aspects when compared with the other two. Instead of a continuous mission that is split by cut scenes, the game is split in to separate missions which you access on your Mother Base home screen. Mother base is where you can organise your Army without a Nation as, during the game, if you knock out an enemy you can capture him by the Fulton Recovery System and send him back to your base, where you then convince that enemy to join your side. From then on the majority of the missions can either be played as Big Boss or the people you have captured or recruited.
Also on the Mother Base you can task your army with other jobs such as R&D, Mess, Sickbay, Intel or just your fighting force. The more people you have doing these jobs will increase the effectiveness of your force. For example, increasing the amount of people in R&D will allow you to develop new weapons for use or adding them to the Mess will increase the amount of food you have which will determine how your force fights. Make sure that when you are tasking each person that you check their stats as some people are better at some jobs than others, and checking this will increase your force’s efficiency. Other features in the Mother Base are Trade, where you can trade your soldiers with other people online, Outer ops which is where you send your fighting force out (whether it be your soldiers or the vehicles you have picked up on the main missions) on tasks which will increase their overall life and psyche. There are plenty of other options that emerge as you progress through the game and are all explained via a tutorial as you enter each one.
In summary then, all of these titles are still outstanding to play and you will get great enjoyment from them. Sometimes you may find the controls a little awkward but once you train yourself up, you’ll be sneaking around and snapping necks in no time at all.
MULTIPLAYER: The only multiplayer options available on the disc is through Peace Walker. As previously mentioned you can trade soldiers with other players online. You can also conduct most of the main missions with others whether they be friends or random people in co-op. Another option of the game is to fight against them by selecting Versus Ops and up to six players can fight against each other via four different game types. These are Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture Missions and Base Missions. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are self explanatory and Capture Missions are essentially a mode to retrieve items and return it to your base, also defending it for a set time. The team with the most items at the end of the round are then the winners. Base Missions is where you capture territories and defend them, and the team to capture all these territories (or whoever has the most at the end of the round) are the winners. You can assist team mates during gameplay as well by the use of CPR. When you teammate is near death, press the action button and you will revive him.
In relation to the multiplayer maps, these all range from small to large, with some very open areas and some with loads of cover which can lead to some intense and fun battles.
Multiplayer can be quite fun to play and can potentially allow you to network with other players to improve your Army, but it does seem a shame that the other titles didn’t incorporate some aspect of multiplayer, especially Metal Gear Online for Snake Eater. Otherwise Peace Walker’s multiplayer is an enjoyable experience.
LONGEVITY: Metal Gear games are renowned for their epic lengths. Each of the main games can potentially take you anywhere between 15-25 hours to complete the first time you play it and with added extras when you do finish, depending on how you play gives all of these titles a massive replay factor. Also with the addition of the two MSX titles, the game time is increased even further. You could be playing the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for the next few months and with the addition of trophies/achievements you will be playing these continuously if you are a major fan of the series.
But in total, if you want to finish each one only once you are looking at around 45-75 hours of game time and double that if you take into account the replay factor, then add more if you play the MSX titles. Basically if you are committed to fully completing this, you are definitely in for the long haul.
VERDICT: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is a retro gamers dream, and fans of the series will be racing down to the shops to obtain their copy. It is the series of games that myself and hundreds of thousands of people have bought PlayStation consoles just to play. The fact that it is also on the Xbox 360 is a brilliant thing as well, as now everyone will get to experience these masterpieces. For newcomers, don’t be deterred by the long intro’s and the fact you have to be patient when playing as with a lot of practise you can race through these games in next to no time.
Metal Gear Solid is definitely is an “easy to play” but “hard to master” type of affair and some people will probably be deterred that the graphics are from the PlayStation 2 era, but with its HD overhaul and fantastic gameplay it is fair to say that Metal Gear has stood the test of time and, just like Snake, you simply cannot keep them down. It is a shame that they didn’t add Metal Gear Solid to the collection by giving the Nintendo Gamecube version (the Twin Snakes) a HD polish, but with the original available on PlayStation Network and Metal Gear Solid 4 on the PlayStation 3 you can get your Metal Gear fix now whenever you want as long as you own a PlayStation 3 which lets face it, is the console these titles should be played on.
Writer for GodisaGeek.com, I contribute News, Previews and Reviews for the site as well as the Video Producer (Console), bringing you the latest footage for GodisaGeek.com's First Look.