At long last, Solid Snake and company return, in a collection that brings together the cream of the crop, all together in one outing that aims to show gamers where convoluted plots and cinematic gameplay originated from.
But can the super-spy sneak in a victory for nostalgic gamers, or does this collection fall short of the acclaim that it originally garnered several years ago, tarnishing a beloved franchise? Read on to find out.
Set across three separate games, MGS 2: Sons of Liberty, MGS3: Snake Eater and the PSP original, MGS: Peace Walker, with the original MGS that started a whole new arms race in cinematic gameplay being strangely absent, something that could have easily been rectified by including the superb Gamecube title, MGS: Twin Snakes.
Instead, newcomers might find themselves confused at first, as the first game available, Sons of Liberty, mixes in vague references to the original, with complex existential questions and ridiculously long-winded codex discussions, in a plot that loses it towards the end.
Snake Eater rectifies this however, by presenting a more cohesive storyline that acts as a great jumping on point for newcomers, while Peace Walker presents a simplified, yet gripping tale that is expressed through bold graphic novel cut-scenes and excellent voice-acting.
That’s another thing that the three games have in common, as no matter how ludicrous the storyline becomes, you can bet that the expert audio acting from the cast at least delivers their lines professionally and in a believable manner.
They’ve all received some form of HD treatment as well, bringing the three games into the widescreen era, as well as a few HD touch-ups and supposed visual improvements.
Stealth is the name of the game here in the MGS series, and while each of the three tales presents a unique form of gameplay, they’re all connected with similar themes and ideas. This is seen much so with MGS 2 and 3, which has players navigate through sprawling areas that are all connected, while also avoiding enemies, collecting supplies and weapons, or using stealth skills in order to survive what should be lethal encounters with opposing forces and bosses.
Prepare for a lot of backtracking however, as objectives will have you constantly moving back and forth, while encountering all manner of obstacles along the way. Snake Eater manages to stand out from the pack the most, as it combines tried and trusted stealth mechanics with some interesting survival options, making for a game with an astounding level of realism built into it.
Peace Walker deviates from this formula slightly, most likely due to the limited capabilities of the PSP at the time, and presents similar scenarios in tighter arenas, that feature more antagonists, making for a more action packed game.
The best bit about Peace Walker however, is that it includes online co-op multiplayer, making it stand out, as it truly was designed with this functionality in mind, especially with the mission-based structure that keeps the action tight and focused, while the core mini-mission and recruitment angle provides a solid background for the NES games that followed chronologically.
Speaking of NES originals, players can also find them hidden away, thanks to the enhanced, substance and subsistence versions of the two MGS games, that have been ported over. There are plenty of bonus features and missions available, so if you’re a fan of added value, this might just be Nirvana for you.
Veteran fans of MGS will find themselves at home with the control scheme here, as nothing has been changed. It can be overwhelming at first, considering the array of moves available, while each game also sports variations on the basic control scheme.
Newcomers might find their thumbs in a tangle with the archaic style though, especially when compared to games that feature more fluid and responsive controls, and it would have actually been to the advantage of the HD collection to actually include proper, reworked control schemes, as unfamiliar handling of characters can lead to stiff and awkward gameplay, especially when it comes to first-person aiming, and the underwhelming CQ-Combat in MGS3.
Peace Walker at least plays out more smoothly this time around, thanks to the second analogue stick that makes the preset setups more intuitive, while the option to “transfarr” files between the PSP and PS3 versions will no doubt appeal to fans, and it’s clear that Peace Walker got most of the spit and polish in the collection when cleaning rags were handed out.
Visually, MGS has aged normally, with textures looking dated and some animations being rather stiff and robotic. Still, it’s the manner in which these visuals are presented that still stand out, with Hideo Kojima expertly crafting them into a suspenseful tale of black ops, supernatural foes, complex theories and plot threads which weave themselves throughout the franchise history.
Plus the Snake Eater theme song sounds as fabulous as ever, a major plus for the venerable franchise.
It can feel quite archaic from time to time, and could have done with a more modern-day option for smoother controls, but then again, these characters have a lot of actions available to them.
Older fans will feel right at home with the control scheme, while newcomers might need to practice a bit before they can fully control Snake and co. But when it comes to stealth and gameplay with consequences, you’d be hard pressed to find another game that did it better than Metal Gear Solid.
Design and Presentation: 7/10
While the visuals have aged considerably, it’s not as if Konami allowed them to do so, as it’s cleat that some effort was put into updating them, as the widescreen presentation suits the franchise quite well.
Of course, crappy visuals, even when upscaled to HD, are still going to look crappy, but just with more pixels, if y’know what we mean. At least the games still play out smoothly and easily.
Even if you finish all three of the lengthy campaigns, there is still a ton of gameplay left, with Easter eggs to hunt out, virtual missions to partake in and monsters to hunt down, while some nostalgic surprise inclusions will bring the series back to it’s roots.
It’s just a shame that Twin Snakes never made it into the collection, as this would have set a benchmark for upcoming HD collections.
Much like it’s Cold War influences, Metal Gear Solid is a game of a different era, when titles were just beginning to understand how having a cinematic flair could benefit them, while experimentation with different genres was encouraged, not frowned upon.
It may be archaic around the edges, and sometimes become unbelievably wrapped up in its own epic tale, forgetting that players are there to experience a game, not watch a movie, but it’s still a fine example of what stealth games aspired to, back in its day.[Reviewed on PS3]
Last Updated: March 8, 2012