The Return of the Snakes: Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection Retro Review (Part I)
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Editor’s Note: Because this is the first appearance of the Metal Gear Solid series on the Xbox console, and because this is the first appearance of Peacewalker on any console other than a handheld, we decided to split the review into two parts. This review covers MGS 2 and 3. Blair’s review of Peacewalker will be featured tomorrow. ~W75
Since I was a young kid, the Metal Gear Solid series has been on my list of favourite games. I played them all from top to bottom, from Easy to the devilish European Extreme, picking up any and everything I could. So you can imagine my excitement at the announcement of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. At first jumping for joy, I waited patiently day by day until finally it sneaked and slithered right into my hands. Is it as great as it was years ago? Let’s find out!
The HD Collection contains two titles from the tactical espionage action series, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. MGS2 is set in the late 2000s – a new version of Metal Gear is rumoured to be in development and Solid Snake must sneak onboard an oil tanker to gain proof. But as Moltke the Elder said: “No plan survives contact with the enemy,” and the ship ends up sinking from an explosion, with Snake supposedly on it. Two years later, The Big Shell (a station designed to clean up the oil spill after the ship went down) is taken hostage by terrorists with a ransom demand of $30 billion. So now the fictional special operations team Foxhound’s newest member, Raiden, must stealth his way inside and stop them. However, not everything is as it seems…
In Snake Eater, the year is 1964 and the Cold War is on the verge of turning blazing hot. A Russian scientist named Sokolov is being forced to build a new nuclear super weapon against his will. With his conscience hounding him every step of the way, he looks for asylum in the West. It’s up to Naked Snake, who later earns the title of Big Boss, to quietly infiltrate Sokolov’s research facility and get him out. However, he’s betrayed by a defecting agent, which leads to mission failure. A week later, he’s back in the jungles of Russia, attempting to clear America’s name by eliminating the traitor and destroying the super weapon, all the while discovering the true meaning of loyalty and what it takes to be a soldier.
Each game’s story is expansive, full of twists and revelations, and even tugs at your heartstrings once in a while. At some moments, you’ll even swear you were watching a movie instead of playing a game. It’s all the fun and depth of MGS, but rebuilt for modern consoles.
The content in both titles is directly carried over from the originals, with the obvious exception of visuals. This includes the story, voice actors, gameplay and even extra content. MGS2 is the Substance version, including all of the Virtual Reality and Alternate Missions, the Snake Tales, and even the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake games originally released on the MSX2 computer system. MGS3 is the final Subsistence cut, featuring the fully rotatable 3D camera and the Demo Theatre which allows players to watch the entire game in cutscenes. Add in Achievement/Trophy support and you have one of the best MGS experiences possible. The only thing missing is MGS3’s online multiplayer and Snake vs. Monkey missions. While already bursting with content, these two modes would have made the collection truly complete.
Both games still play exactly as they did years ago, with an emphasis on stealth rather than action. Players must sneak or shoot their way through various locations to complete certain objectives (such as stealing a uniform, finding a weapon or other item, or killing a boss) and progress the story. There are many, many ways for players to complete these tasks as well. Should you decide to play it quiet, actions at your disposal include laying undercover and waiting for guards to pass, knocking on walls to distract them or hiding in the iconic cardboard box. Of course, shooting your way through is also an option, should you deem it necessary (for the pacifists, there is even a tranquilizer gun).
From a control perspective, everything is more or less exactly where it was in earlier versions. Only certain controls are changed for the Xbox 360 version, since its controller doesn’t support pressure sensitive buttons, but the redesigned controls are still easily accessible. The shooter aspects of the MGS series have always been on the difficult, and borderline clunky side, but I personally found this to make gameplay a bit better as it puts more emphasis on the stealth aspect of gameplay, only fighting when absolutely necessary, which is what the series focuses on.
The question on most minds is probably: how does it look in HD? The answer: stunning. Textures have been smoothed with absolutely no pop, all grain has been removed, and the frame rate is fast, smooth and never slows down. Animations are fluid, be it simply walking or complex hand-to-hand combat. In most cases, the two games look more like a true next-gen title, rather than a polished previous generation remake. These are some instances in MGS2, however, that take away from the graphical quality. The title’s use of slow motion is often unclear or foggy. While the frame rate never drops, everything seems to leave behind a trail of sorts, giving things a muddy look in an otherwise glorious visual journey.
As previously mentioned, all audio work has been carried over from the original titles. None of the voice actors have been replaced, meaning you’ll get to hear the exceptional work of actors such as David Hayter (Solid Snake, Naked Snake/Big Boss), Jennifer Hale (Emma Emmerich) and Josh Keaton (Young Ocelot). Returning are all the great sound effects that make the MGS series, namely the familiar exclamation of a soldier discovering your location. Thankfully, the amazing soundtrack from both titles is also untouched, with the jazzy “Snake Eater” title song and the chill-invoking Metal Gear Solid theme. What makes the MGS theme so awesome is that it can be placed into any style and fit perfectly, be it upbeat with fast percussion underneath for action scenes, or slower with a darker tone and light accompaniment for emotional moments. Each second of the HD Collection is a wonder to listen to, with absolutely no mistakes, out-of-place sounds, or accidental silences.
The Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection is a blast from the past, and has made the transition to this generation exceptionally well. With deep stealth espionage gameplay, a beautifully written soundtrack, emotional and twist-filled stories, and shiny new visuals, this collection is an absolute must-have for both hardcore MGS fans and players new to the series alike. Strap on your sneaking suit, load up your silenced pistols and get ready to battle against… Metal Gear!!
Final Score: 4.75 / 5
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