Three Snakes for the price of one!
Shadow of the Colossus, ICO and God of War, these are just three bona fide classics that have received HD upgrades over the last few years. The re-releases of these quality titles has not only given fans the chance to play them again in HD, it has also introduced them to a new generation of gamers across the globe.
Now, it’s the turn of three titles from the iconic Metal Gear series to be given a HD upgrade. There’s no doubting the influence Hideo Kojima’s series had on the gaming world, but do the titles included in this HD collection still play as well as they did back in the day? Read on to find out.
Game: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
Developer: Kojima Productions/Bluepoint Games
METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY
Being the oldest title in the collection, as you would probably expect, Sons of Liberty shows its age the most. Certain visual effects that would have left you stunned when playing the game on the PlayStation 2 just don’t have the same impact now. This is most apparent when you take control of Solid Snake for the first time on the tanker, with the rain lashing down from the heavens. The effect of the rain hitting the tanker or Snake looks very basic, especially when you take into account how well wet weather is replicated on the current generation of consoles.
That’s not to say the HD upgrade hasn’t been kind to Sons of Liberty, far from it in fact. Despite losing some of its visual wow factor, the re-mastered version looks both cleaner and sharper than the original. It’s a testament to the original visual design that even now the opening on the George Washington Bridge manages to excite and captivate in equal measure.
On the gameplay front, Sons of Liberty is still a joy to play, but certain elements mechanics (just like the visuals) do show their age. The fixed camera is the main culprit, becoming a slight annoyance during certain sections of the game. Not being able to move the camera around to survey your surroundings coupled with the almost constant need to switch to the first-person view doesn’t work as well as it did back in 2001. However, thankfully, the majority of the game is masterfully designed around the fixed camera, which means the annoyance never reaches a dangerous level. Still, bearing in mind the two other titles included in the collection have fully adjustable cameras, it would have been nice if Sons of Liberty in its HD guise was given that freedom too.
Fixed camera aside though, Sons of Liberty is undoubtedly a landmark title in the stealth-action genre, and the majority of the gameplay elements stand the test of time superbly. Intricately surveying your surroundings, sneaking up on a guard, holding him up and then making him shake just so you can obtain his dog tags still remains as satisfying as ever. Boss battles, whilst not being the best in the series, are enjoyable too, especially the confrontation with the agile Vamp. Then there’s that moment, the moment Hideo Kojima pulled the rug from underneath everyone’s feet and shocked the gaming world. If you’ve played the title before, you’ll know the reveal is coming, but part of you will wish for it to somehow not happen at all. Therein lies the genius of Kojima, and why Sons of Liberty (despite showing its age) remains a fantastic addition to the series, even with its convoluted plot.
METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER
Out of all the titles included in the collection, the HD upgrade has been the kindest to Snake Eater. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that it would put some so called “proper” current generation titles to shame in terms of visual style and graphical oomph. The jungle environment and character models look superb in HD, breathing a new lease of life into game that’s over seven years old. Apart from the odd close-up, even the textures look quite good, which (much like certain parts of Sons of Liberty) highlights just how good the visual design was in the first place.
Staying on par with the visual upgrade, Snake Eater plays incredibly well too. The game features all the enhancements that were included in the Subsistence re-release, which means the HD version gives you access to a fully adjustable camera. This does wonders for the gameplay, as you can survey every inch of your surroundings and proceed to stalk your prey accordingly. Just like Subsistence on the PlayStation 2, the HD edition of Snake Eater also includes the original versions Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. A nice little bonus for hardcore Metal Gear fans.
On the surface, Snake Eater might seem like a slight upgrade of Sons of Liberty, yet it is so much more than that. Stealth is still integral to the overall experience, but the setting defines how you go about your sneaky business. Whether your attempting to blend into your surroundings by using the best camouflage at your disposal, or eating the wildlife that fills the jungle to keep up your stamina, not only do these mechanics differentiate Snake Eater from its predecessor, they make it so much better. Then you have the boss battles, which are undoubtedly the best of any game in the series. In fact, the epic duel with “The End” is probably one of the best boss battles to grace any game at all. You’ll both be both physically and mentally exhausted once its over, yet you’ll want to do it all over again.
However, what makes Snake Eater arguably the best entry in the series is Hideo Kojima’s decision to focus the story on the man who would be come to known as Big Boss. Taking the series back 40 years, and focusing how Big Boss came to be the man in earlier games was nothing short of masterstroke from Kojima. As you progress through the game, you’ll begin to care for him and understand the reasons behind his actions. Snake Eater is a rollercoaster ride that culminates in an expertly handled, emotional ending. Solid Snake might take the series spotlight and praise, but by playing Snake Eater, you’ll find that Big Boss (aka Naked Snake) is more worthy of it.
METAL GEAR SOLID: PEACE WALKER
The bundle is rounded off with Peace Walker, a title that was originally released on the PSP, which made it difficult to fully enjoy due to the lack of a second analog stick on Sony’s handheld. This HD upgrade marks the game’s first release on a console, and it benefits greatly. Thanks to second analog stick on the controller, you’re now able to move the camera around with considerable ease, leaving you to enjoy the delights that Peace Walker offers. However, control wise, the game does bring it with a few restrictions. They don’t particularly hinder the overall experience, but not being able to move or shoot whilst lying down or pinned against a wall is slightly jarring, especially when you come fresh from playing the other two titles included in the collection.
Visually, the game is much improved, sporting a clean and crisp look, but as it was originally a PSP title, textures look a little blurry on the big screen and environments come across as bit bland. It’s far from terrible though, and the comic book style cutscenes still manage to hold their visual splendor. However, this HD version does make you wonder why Hideo Kojima and co didn’t originally release Peace Walker on a home console.
Still, the game is well designed for a handheld experience, that is clear to see despite the core gameplay still focusing on stealth. Missions are shorter and more compact, which is actually a plus, as it gives you a chance to get some rest and gather your thoughts before tackling the next objective. Peace Walker also expands on the recruitment mechanic seen in the other PSP title in the series, Portable Ops. As you progress through the game you are able to recruit enemies into your own private militia, who are then sent to your base. Here, you are able to assign recruits specialist tasks, which in turn earns you new weapons and upgrades. It adds an unique RPG element to Peace Walker, and believe it or not, it works extremely well. In addition to that, the game also supports online co-op, allowing to tackle the game with a friend or two. Much like the recruitment mechanic, co-op works really well, adding a layer of depth and fun to an already very good game. Unfortunately, boss battles in Peace Walker are the weakest of the series, usually just requiring you shoot a weak spot and lacking any real imagination.
Peace Walker is still manages to be a worthy addition to the Metal Gear series though, as it further expands on the story of Big Boss, focusing on the rise of Militaires Sans Frontieres. If you skipped the title when it was originally released on the PSP due to the awkward controls, then you should definitely pick up the HD collection and give this underrated entry to the series a spin.
If anything, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is a stark reminder of Hideo Kojima’s genius and the quality of each of title included in the package. Whilst the HD upgrade might highlight a small crack or two in each title, it’s a remarkable achievement that all three entries in the iconic series remain as addictive and enjoyable as when they were originally released. The package is missing the original Metal Gear Solid, but even with that in mind, whether you’re a fan or newcomer, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is an essential purchase.