Metal Gear Solid HD Collection Review
Sony PlayStation 3Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360
It is difficult to do justice to any one Metal Gear Solid game in a review that necessitates such broad brush strokes in order to cover the wealth of content on offer here. I had so much to say about what is included in this release that a single review didn’t seem appropriate . . . so why have one review when you can have four! Here I will tell you everything you need to know about the HD Collection as a whole from what is included in the package to specific features. I will provide the verdicts and scores for the three main games in the collection with links to the full in depth reviews for each one. Then I will give you some details of two additional Metal Gear games included as part of this release that started the series off and even a section covering the suggested order of playing through all the games. Finally, I will evaluate the content on offer with my final thoughts on the collection.
WHAT IS INCLUDED
The HD Collection includes Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001), Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2005) and a conversion of the PSP game Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010). However, it is better to think of the Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater games in this collection as their special edition Substance and Subsistence releases with a few missing features. For example, the 5 Snake Tales, 350 VR Missions and 150 Alternate Missions that were added in Substance are included in this HD Collection, while Konami’s Evolution Skateboarding inspired mode did not make it into this release.
Some of the additional content from Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence is not included but it is understandable why Metal Gear Online is no longer present since Konami stopped supporting it back in 2007. More importantly however, this version of Metal Gear Solid 3 includes the new user controlled 3rd person perspective camera and conversions of the MSX2 games Metal Gear (1987) and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990). Unfortunately, the addictive Snake Vs Monkey mode didn’t make it into the collection, supposedly because of Ape Escape licensing issues bringing it to Microsoft’s Xbox 360.
Metal Gear Solid released on the original Playstation is conspicuous by its absence and makes understanding the intricacies of the overarching story and game universe even harder to comprehend, particularly for newcomers to the series playing Metal Gear Solid 2 for the first time. However, you can read three documents of increasing length and detail covering the Previous Story from the Special menu of MGS2.
I have been playing the North American Playstation 3 version of the HD Collection which arranges the games chronologically according to the year they were set and not their release date order. This means that Metal Gear Solid 3 is listed first because it’s Virtuous Mission and Operation Snake Eater take place in 1964. A decade later sees the Peace Walker Incident set in 1974 which is the conversion of the PSP game. Finally, there is Metal Gear Solid 2 which has the Tanker mission taking place in 2007 followed by the Big Shell Incident two years later in 2009. When selecting each game there is also a brief synopsis on the left of the screen but if you haven’t played these games before I would strongly advise you not to read this information because some of it contains plot details that you would almost certainly want to discover for yourself.
In most HD collections you need to completely exit and restart if you want to switch between games but for Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater you can return to the game select menu without having to exit the HD Collection entirely which is a welcome feature. On the Playstation 2 these games featured a menu control scheme which used to be popular in Japan but less so in the United States and Europe where the Circle button selects an option or advances to the next screen while the X button navigates back to the previous screen. For the HD Collection this has been changed to the less confusing and now standard X to select or advance and Circle to go back to the previous screen.
Each game has an excellent interactive on screen instruction manual where you can flip between the pages with the L1/R1 buttons, zoom in or out by repeatedly tapping the Triangle or Square buttons and use the left analogue stick to move around the page. This isn’t the sort of feature I would ordinarily consider talking about but with the trend being to move away from paper based game manuals developers and publishers should take note of how Konami (or Bluepoint Games who handled these HD conversions) implemented this excellent feature. The MSX2 games Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake can be found from within the Snake Eater game menu and for this reason the instruction manuals for both of these games are incorporated into the Metal Gear Solid 3 manual.
The Playstation 3 version of Peace Walker uses the ‘transfarring’ system which enables the player to move their save file between the HD Collection and their PSP version of the game. This allows players to retain any progress they make no matter how they choose to play it. The instruction manual for both Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater indicates that the forthcoming Metal Gear Solid Collection release for Sony’s Playstation Vita will also be compatible with this HD Collection and will allow the same feature to be used. While this is obviously not possible on the Xbox 360 version there are a number of exclusive avatar items that can be unlocked by playing the games.
The HD Collection has full trophy and achievement support and these provide strong incentives to uncover many of the secrets in the games as well as just playing through the main storylines. Completing MGS2 without entering alert mode and not killing anybody in MGS3 are bound to be prized gold trophies for the patient and pacifist players alike. Further repeat play incentives are added with Dog Tag collecting in MGS2 where the player would need to complete the game at least once on each difficulty level. While MGS3 does not have Dog Tags there are trophies for collecting every type of bird, snake, frog, fish, mushroom, fruit and medicinal plant in the game as well as shooting each of the 64 Kerotans. These are fiendishly hidden little green creatures that make an unusual sound when you shoot them – there is one located in each of the 64 areas of the game. Please note that whenever you save in Snake Eater it will record your progress as it was when you entered that area so once you shoot a Kerotan exit to another area before saving.
The Playstation 3 version of the HD Collection has a full complement of trophies for each of the three main games while the Xbox 360 version’s achievements are counted as 2 x 1000 point games. This means that MGS2 and MGS3 are merged and therefore some of the achievements are missing, while Peace Walker is identical between platforms. This isn’t a major issue however because missing achievements such as collecting every type of frog for example would still need to be done for the King of the Jungle achievement which involves collecting all the plant and animal life mentioned earlier.
METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY (HD)
VERDICT: 9 out of 10 – READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE
“Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty enjoys a Metacritic average score of 96% which is one of the highest for the Playstation 2. Over a decade later it still deserves most of the praise heaped upon it yet it certainly is showing its age in terms of the modern conventions of user friendly accessible controls, some aspects of the acting and graphical detail. The plot while being confusing by design could be described as thought provoking, ambitiously escapist or completely bonkers depending on your viewpoint. Just like a season of 24 it is best just to go along with the story - strap yourself in when boarding the willing suspension of disbelief rollercoaster and enjoy the wild ride. The series always seems do a remarkable job of making you feel like you are in a actual place and that events are linked to the real world so when the believability of the story goes off the rails it is more jarring as a result. The gameplay is still excellent once you are comfortable with the controls but when it does click with you Sons of Liberty will become the tactical espionage stealth action game you expected. The addition of 500 VR Missions / Alternate Missions, 5 Snake Tales and Boss Survival Mode greatly increases the value of the content on offer here and earns it a respectable 9 out of 10. “
METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER (HD)
VERDICT: 10 out of 10 - READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE
“Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was one of the best games released for the previous generation of consoles and it not only survives the transition to HD brilliantly, it reinforces the belief for me that this is nothing short of a masterpiece. Hideo Kojima succeeded in realising his vision of a truly interactive cinematic experience, with a complex intelligent and compulsive story, staggering attention to detail and superb gameplay which all combines to make a game that is much more than the sum of its parts and perhaps even transcends the gaming medium itself. This is a game you owe it to yourself to experience, to immerse yourself in its world and to savour every moment of it while it lasts. Games of this quality are very rare and they deserve your complete undivided attention when they do come along. The best games stay with you long after you complete them and Snake Eater remains one of the finest examples of this for me...”
METAL GEAR SOLID: PEACE WALKER (HD)
VERDICT: 9 out of 10 – READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE
“Peace Walker might have originally been released on a handheld device but it is definitely not a small game. I have sunk more than 30 hours into it already and still have a large amount of content left to plough through. Some people have clocked over 100 or even 200 hours playing the game. It is packed with an incredible wealth of single player and multiplayer content and I almost feel guilty for initially thinking this was going to be the poor relation in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection family because I couldn’t have been more wrong. From a visual standpoint this probably isn’t the game you imagined playing on your Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 but it is a triumph of gameplay over graphics. What it lacks due to the limitations of the PSP is more than made up for with its immersive, interconnected gameplay and features. It manages to be a genuinely rewarding chapter in the Metal Gear Solid series while retaining that Hideo Kojima magic that fans appreciate so much and offering something unique of its own in the process. “
METAL GEAR AND METAL GEAR 2: SOLID SNAKE
The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection also includes two of the earliest games in the series converted from the Japanese MSX2 versions. Metal Gear was originally released in 1987 and was followed by Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in 1990. These were later converted for the Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence release which is why they are included in this HD Collection. The games should not be confused with the NES versions, the first of which was a port of Metal Gear but with changes that Hideo Kojima didn’t like or have anything to do with, while Snake’s Revenge was just a game inspired by the first Metal Gear that was never considered a sequel.
In Metal Gear you played Solid Snake on his very first mission to rescue fellow Special Force Foxhound member Grey Fox. He had gone missing after being sent to investigate rumours of a terrifying new weapon of mass destruction in a military State established by a legendary mercenary. In the second game you again played Solid Snake but this time you had to infiltrate the fictional country of Zanzibar Land to rescue a captured scientist and avert a nuclear catastrophe.
These truly are old school games by today’s standards but they established many of the gameplay concepts that the series is known for. Hideo Kojima practically invented the stealth action genre with Metal Gear where the player was encouraged to stay undetected and if a guard spotted you an alert would sound. One exclamation mark would indicate that Solid Snake would have to escape to an adjacent screen while two exclamation marks meant that he needed to move to a completely new area or kill a certain number of enemies before the condition reset to normal. By Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake the alert system had been upgraded to the established Alert, Evasion, Caution and Normal modes the series is known for today.
Snake would also need to procure various weapons, equipment and items that would help him during the course of the games. These ranged from rations to restore health, suppressors to make handguns and submachine guns fire silently, security cards to gain access to restricted areas, a camouflage mat to hide under to evade detection and binoculars to see adjacent screens. Other equipment included mine detectors, cardboard boxes, night vision and infra red goggles. In the second game a 3 x 3 grid at the top right of the screen showed the location of Solid Snake as a red dot in the middle square and enemies would appear as moving white dots. The central square was the current screen and surrounding squares represented adjacent areas.
In the first game rescuing prisoners raised Solid Snake’s class (rank) which in turn would increase his health bar and carrying capacity while in the second game this happened automatically after defeating bosses. Snake communicated with the commander of Foxhound ‘Big Boss’ by using a transceiver while in the second game Roy Campbell was his main contact though as with more recent games in the series he could always talk to other people to gain more information on different radio frequencies.
Without a doubt these games are from a different era and they are quite challenging to play but they are well worth taking a look at because the Metal Gear Solid games wouldn’t exist today without them. They contain the beginnings of the familiar gameplay fans have come to know and love as well as characters and plot twists that all contributed towards solidifying the MGS formula and its complex universe. Understanding events in these two games will enhance your understanding and appreciation of the three main games in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.
ORDER OF PLAY
Some people would recommend playing MGS2 first, followed by MGS3 and then Peace Walker as the best order because that is the sequence they were released in and it gives the player the opportunity to see how the control scheme has evolved over the years. This is also the order they appear on the front of the box but the game select screen arranges the three main titles by the year their missions were set in i.e. Snake Eater (1964), Peace Walker (1974) and Sons of Liberty (2007-09). From a storytelling perspective I think this is the best order because no prior knowledge is required for the first two games. Metal Gear Solid 2 will still be confusing to some extent because it is so by design and because the Playstation’s Metal Gear Solid game is not included in the collection (though you can read about it in MGS2 as I said earlier in the review).
The most important thing to keep in mind regarding the order of playing through these games is that you should definitely complete Snake Eater before starting Peace Walker. You could quite easily play MGS3 followed by MGS2 but if you like the story in Snake Eater I think you will enjoy following it up with Peace Walker. There is one other thing you should be aware of, playing through MGS3 and Peace Walker will inevitably give you information that will spoil the main plot twist of the 1987 Metal Gear game. This could be a compromise worth taking if you don’t plan on completing the older MSX2 games and I doubt most people would even contemplate playing them first.
HD COLLECTION VERDICT
Few developers have ever become household names in the way Hideo Kojima has and this reflects just how important and influential his games have been. This is a landmark series and the HD Collection includes some of the finest stealth action games ever made with unrivalled attention to detail. The influence of these games cannot be understated in terms of pushing the available hardware to its limits or redefining how cinematic and immersive the gaming experience can be. But it is also an important record showing how the gameplay, graphics, sound and controls have evolved over the years. The five games in this collection were made between 1987 and 2010 for three different gaming platforms. I don’t consider this just another HD Collection; it is a virtual museum of important stealth action games spanning 23 years.
The release contains the two games that started the series on the Japanese MSX2 and these conversions are only available in this collection and the original Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence release. Thanks to this HD Collection the Playstation 2 versions of Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater have been brought to next generation consoles looking better than they ever have before. The inclusion of the 500 VR / Alternate Missions from the special edition Substance release provides enough additional gameplay to be treated as a separate game in its own right. Finally, a game designed for a handheld device can be enjoyed by a much wider audience on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 where it will have a chance to be discovered by more players and gain the praise it deserves. It is unfortunate that Metal Gear Solid isn’t included but I have decided to review this release based on what is present rather than what is not.
I remember when Half-Life 2: The Orange Box was released and it was considered to be unmatched in offering incredible value for money, not just in terms of quantity but quality of content as well. I am happy to report that it now has a run for its money in the form of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. This release contains such a vast amount of quality content that it increases the value of its individual games to produce a package worthy of a perfect score. Through trophy and achievement support it also provides incentives to discover the many secrets these games have to find as well as incredible replay value adding further to the longevity of the collection as a whole.