The critically acclaimed Metal Gear Solid series has become a constantly evolving franchise, adding new mechanics to its pioneer stealth action gameplay and then adapting them to suit a number of different formats. Here in the recently released Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, gamers are given the opportunity to see a cross section of that progress with two successive titles from the previous generation of consoles and that of a more recent handheld release. Only this time, it’s all been given a high-definition (HD) makeover.
The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is the first Metal Gear Solid release on the Xbox 360, a somewhat shocking fact considering the console’s age. And this is more than likely the internal justification for Konami’s decision to release the package now, as having not yet been officially announced Metal Gear Solid 5 but just skip out on the current-generation. Three Metal Gear Solid titles are included, and with the package’s budget price there’s plenty of content for your money, but one might wonder why the publisher chose not to go whole hog and include the fantastic Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes as part of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection presentation. Having said that, as a shocking – yet entirely pleasing – addition, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater HD Edition includes both the original MSX Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake ROMs as part of the package, resulting in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection effectively offering five Metal Gear videogames across two DVDs on Xbox 360, and one Blu-ray on PlayStation 3.
The disc containing Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD Edition and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater places the two titles on the frontend in reverse order. Quite why Konami have chosen to do this is not clear – though one might assume it’s due to the series chronology – especially considering that most gamers would wish to experience the videogames in the order which they were developed and released.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD Edition features the familiar pre-set camera angles of the first Metal Gear Solid videogame, using mostly top-down angles. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was effectively a new Metal Gear Solid experience built for a new generation of consoles, and so the leaps in technicality it offers over it’s predecessor are more concerned with scope and visual design: the same enemy rules, location detection and stealth abilities are in place, with a few new additions to keep things feeling fresh. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was a step-up on the familiar formula, and a welcome one at that, but it was Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater that arguably offered a true next-generation experience for PlayStation 2 gamers.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater added new manoeuvres, health activities and of course, the titular snake eating to the formula, expanding on the basic principles and creating an original experience. However, for all the acclamation that can be made of the innovation featured in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, there’s arguably less reason for the player to use any of it. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was an easier videogame, made for audience that wanted action experiences, not challenging ones. While Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater HD Collection is technically the best videogame included in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, experienced Metal Gear Solid gamers would most surely argue that’s it’s the weakest in terms of playability.
While the similarity in gameplay design is evident in both Metal Gear Solid: 2 Sons of Liberty HD Edition and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, The basis for Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker HD Edition is significantly different. The fact that the videogame was originally designed for a handheld system is evident throughout; not just in the fact that the visual quality bears all the hallmarks of a PlayStation Portable (PSP) product dusted off and given a HD coat of paint, but also in the structure of its missions. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker HD Edition features a level system, with missions selected from a menu as opposed to simply offering one long, continuous campaign.
After the ridiculously long and boring training section (which thankfully can be skipped), players jump straight into an intro animation that is just as lengthy and convoluted as you would expect from a Metal Gear Solid videogame. The art style is very welcoming, more similar to the commendable collection of Metal Gear Solid comic books than the in-game graphics, and the juxtaposition is an elegant device to portray drama in what could have otherwise been very static plot delivery.
Of course, the fundamental experience of Metal Gear Solid’s breed of stealth action remains intact – this isn’t another Metal Gear Ac!d after all – but it does seem somewhat diluted. Players are still able to sneak, hang off ledges, take hostages and more, but certain tactical elements have been removed, either by force or simply by readdressing the animation sequences. What’s more, the enemy intelligence is woeful. Basic troops will often coming out of cover to run directly in your line of fire, then simply stand out in the open for vital moments before firing. They are essentially dummies for you to take out at your leisure, on the one hand allowing you to experiment with your equipment and abilities but on the other not really providing you with any incentive to do so: any skilled gamer will be able to walk through the first half of the game as loud as they like without facing too much of a challenge.
On that previously mentioned level structure, the player is given the Mother Base to act as a menu based hub, from which they can create weapons and collect intelligence, assign tasks to their team members, trade online and set up the next game, whether it be on- or offline, part of the campaign or a side mission. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker HD Edition has a wealth of gameplay options, and given that its levels are made of several very small areas combined into a mission, it’s perfect for bite-sized bursts of play: a statement that cannot be made about many Metal Gear Solid videogame titles.
As the first Metal Gear Solid release on the Xbox 360 console, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is bound to perform well at retail. It’s a collection of software with a reputation that precedes it, and it’s more than likely that Metal Gear Solid HD Collection will have a longer shelf life than most titles simply due to the title of the retail product. That each of the videogame experiences included does offer a worthwhile gameplay experience is merely the icing on the cake for many gamers, and that it all comes at a budget price is that sweet cherry topping.