Metal Gear Solid HD Collection Review
Metal Gear Solid is an iconic franchise in video game history. There is no better candidate for a high-definition collection, where both veteran followers and younger audiences can revel in a glossier depiction of three amazing entries in the critically acclaimed series. Some may complain that Konami didn’t take the opportunity to overhaul the admittedly outdated controls in MGS2 and MGS3, but hey, those who want authentic depictions should be happy.
Graphically, there are three titles to consider, and in my eyes, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater came out looking the best; the enhanced detail and fantastic frame rate makes for a stunning visual presentation and in fact, perhaps one of the best HD overhauls of the generation. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty benefited as well, but on a smaller scale, I believe, while Peace Walker graduates from the handheld realm and revels in the shiny veneer of console high-def.
The sound hasn’t changed much, but we still get those amazing, sweeping orchestral soundtracks that have always been a critical part of the MGS experience. The voice acting gets better with each successive installment in my opinion, and the sound effects also go through various stages of clarity and fine-tuning. All of that is part of the progression of the franchise, though; I’m not sure how much of what I’m hearing is a result of this revisiting. Let’s just say the audio has always been excellent.
Let’s try to approach this from a chronological viewpoint; it’s easier for me and makes more sense for the reader/consumer. So we start with MGS2, which incited a ton of conversation and argument when it originally launched on the PS2 back in late 2001. It was only one of many amazing titles that year, but some skeptics called out Kojima’s latest for being too confusing and for having extremely lengthy cut-scenes. Strangely, it’s also my least favorite of the series, although I don’t have a problem with the story.
Here, my feelings don’t change much, because MGS2 already looked incredible back in the day, and this high-def upgrade helps, but doesn’t entirely change the experience. Everything remains beautifully smooth from a gameplay standpoint and I have no doubt that huge fans of the game will be satisfied. The game just hasn’t changed much; of course they’re gonna love it. Don’t change classics, right? But then there’s MGS3, which is still my favorite…Konami must’ve known, because this one looks downright awesome. Kojima would be proud.
For some reason, seeing Snake Eater in high-definition was a heady experience for me. It’s the added sharpness of the detail that does it; the environments were bigger and more diverse in MGS3 (as compared to its predecessor), so maybe that’s why a high-def overhaul is so damn stunning. The game doesn’t let the cut-scenes dominate, either, and it features more inspired gameplay. As you would expect, all of that is still here, and all of it is still mesmerizing.
Now, believe it or not, the portable entry actually has the most stuff crammed into it. Even though it was designed for the PSP, this generation has seen an explosion of content and Peace Walker was no exception. Plus, Blueprint took the time to adapt the handheld controls to the PS3, which was a great idea. They’ve even thrown in true online play – as opposed to the more limited AdHoc option – and that’s a gigantic bonus, because perhaps surprisingly, this game is oodles of fun with friends. Add brilliant HD and this is easily the best version.
Finally, if you’ve been playing Peace Walker on the PSP but would like to upgrade to the PS3 with this Collection, you’re not out of luck. Or, if you have both versions and you’d like to continue your adventure on the go, the interchangeable save file feature is glorious. You just have to make a few allowances for the fact that we’re looking at a PSP game, so the high-definition gloss doesn’t have quite the same effect. It’s a little tough to describe; you sorta have to see it to understand.
Now, nothing is without its flaws (unfortunately). In this case, I think developer Blueprint Games missed an opportunity to at least provide the option of upgraded controls. Up until MGS4, I always said the controls in MGS were needlessly complex and awkward, and always took too much adaptation on the part of the player. I maintain that the games are pinnacles of interactive entertainment, despite that adaptation, but updated control schemes could’ve been offered. Oh, and some of the bonus features from MGS2 and MGS3 aren’t here, either, which is kinda disappointing.
But aside from that, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is exactly what the die-hard fans crave. It’s everything they’ve known and loved in a prettier package, with almost zero fiddling with mechanics and style. No, every last title is MGS to the core, with all the fantastic storytelling, memorable characters, and intense, singular boss fights that have always been staples of the franchise. I still say this was a missed opportunity to present new fans with an upgraded control option, and I’ve never been sold on MGS2, but those are minor complaints.
All in all, and as you might’ve expected, we have to recommend that you add this to your library. Rapidly.
The Good: Spirit and style of the series remains intact. Peace Walker’s true online multiplayer and MGS3’s visual upgrade are highlights. Plenty of content. All the great elements (audio, boss fights, story, etc.) are even better.
The Bad: Could’ve tried upgraded controls for MGS2 and MGS3. Bonus goodies from original iterations aren’t included.
The Ugly: “You’ve gotta be kidding. This is MGS. No ugly. Anywhere.”
12/5/2011 Ben Dutka