Review by gamertrust

"HD Collection nowhere near perfect, but it's still a blast to revist the series."

The recent trend of rereleasing HD collections of classic video games has been a love it or hate it affair for most gamers. Some see these repackaged collections—like God of War I &2 and ICO/Shadow of the Colossus—to be unsavory attempts by publishers to make some cash on the side by releasing these games without any bells or whistles besides the HD visuals. Other gamers, like myself, find the chance to revisit these games, or to play some of the classics that we missed first go round, to be a great opportunity. As a diehard fan of the Metal Gear Solid series, I was excited to have one more chance to play through two of my favorite games of all time, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, on the Xbox 360. The fact that Peace Walker, a Metal Gear Solid game developed for the PSP, has been thrown into the collection is just gravy on top of an already fulfilling meal. The original Metal Gear games for the Nintendo are also packaged into the bundle as well. However, a fan of the series can't help but be perplexed as to why the original Metal Gear Solid was not included in the collection; its inclusion would have brought a little more cohesion and coherence to one of gaming's greatest storylines.

It would be advisable to folks who are new to the franchise and want to jump right into the bundle without buying the first game, which unfortunately can't be purchased on the Xbox 360, to at least read a summary of its plot (available on the Wikipedia article for the game). Metal Gear Solid 2 takes place two years after the first game and is concerned with a young agent's attempts to stop a group of terrorists known as the Sons of Liberty, who have taken captive of an oil rig and are holding the president and his briefcase with nuclear launch codes hostage. As the game progresses the plot spirals out of control—in true Metal Gear fashion—with double-crosses, numerous aliases, cybernetic ninjas, tributes to Kurt Russell, instances of serious meta-gaming, and Japanese pop culture references all keeping the gamer's eyes glued to the screen.

When it was released in 2001, Metal Gear Solid 2 was critically acclaimed due to its innovations with gameplay. The object of the game is stealth–If you charge into a room, firing a pistol at every guard you saw, you're dead. The moment a guard sees you, he calls in wave after wave of reinforcements, many of who carry shotguns and even grenade launchers, and the only way you can make these reinforcements stop hunting you is to hide until they're certain you've escaped. Anywhere: in a vent, in a locker, between a stack of crates and a wall. The only way to play through the majority of the game is by being unseen, unheard, and deadly, though you can choose to simply stun or tranquilize every enemy solider in the game for bragging rights.

Much of the fun derived from playing any installment in the series is devising ways to clear entire rooms filled with enemies through tricks and deceptions. One of the most amusing things to do is drop a dirty magazine on the floor and watch as a patrol trooper drops down to the floor to flip through the issue, giving you time to sneak behind him and beat him into unconsciousness—or simply blow his brains all over that little dirty magazine. That works too. You can also, if you're devious enough, saunter up to a soldier and plant some c4 on his back and then detonate it. And these are just a couple of the things you can do. Chances are that you'll often have to commit suicide by throwing yourself off the oil rig just because you want to start a level over in order to dispose enemy soldiers in more clever, creative ways. Unfortunately this leads me to my next point: limitations.

As ahead of its time as it is, there is no escaping the fact that Sons of Liberty is a ten year old game. The textures are somewhat muddled, lips don't move realistically, and you can't reload saved games any other way than dying or exiting to the title screen. There are also the unfortunate control issues; Metal Gear Solid is not kind to the Xbox controller scheme. Seemingly obvious choices—using one of the controller triggers for firing a weapon, for example—were not implemented, and thus gamers who have played the original games on the PS2 and have bought this collection for the Xbox 360 are in for a nasty surprise. It took me two hours to really get comfortable with the controls for both games. If you have a choice between getting the Xbox 360 version of the collection or the PS3 edition, get the PS3 one—it will save you a good bit of grief. This is a series that was developed for the Playstation and it shows.

Which Game Do I Play First?

Newcomers to the Metal Gear series booting up the HD collection for the first time find themselves in an interesting situation. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is actually a prequel to the first two Metal Gear Solids. The game takes place in the early 60s, starring a U.S. agent sent into dangerous territory to rescue a scientist who is being sought by Russian terrorists to help them complete a nuclear weapon known as Metal Gear. Snake Eater introduces several characters who are dead, or thought to be dead, by the time that the first Metal Gear Solid and it's two chronological sequels (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 4 : Guns of the Patriots) occur, though their actions in this game have consequences that ripple through the others.
Like most MGS fans, I played Metal Gear Solid 2 and then 3 simply because that was the order in which they were released. However, this time I elected to play the prequel first and while it made some of Metal Gear Solid 2 a bit clearer, it wasn't a world of difference. So, you can start with either game and not miss out on anything. Snake Eater might also be easier for newcomers since, after you get past the first three or four hours, it lets you play nearly any way you desire. Want to shoot up the entire jungle with a machine gun, or would you rather sneak around trees and slit enemies' throats one by one? Either way is acceptable. Just don't try to blast everything to bits when you get Sons of Liberty—you will perish quickly.

(To summarize:
The games were released in this order: Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
However, if you want to play the games chronologically, you need to play them like this: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.)

What About Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker?

In a countdown list put out by IGN entitled “The Top 25 PSP Games,” Greg Miller, an editor for the site, wrote that “Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker….might be the best Metal Gear game of all time. Period.” Well, Greg Miller is wrong. Period. Peace Walker has a nice, coherent story that's touching, but it's one of the weakest entries in the series. Many of the functions that made the other games so interesting are not present in Peace Walker. Want to drag a body into a dark corner so that another guard doesn't find it? Oh well, too bad. The bodies of enemies disappear as soon as you kill them. This game is also, unlike its predecessors, painfully easy thanks to bite-sized missions; a quality that the developers tried to disguise by making it a long game. Peace Walker is a damn good video game, but it's no substitute for the first Metal Gear Solid– the game they should have included in this bundle.

Should I Play It?

If you've never played the series, then yes. Go now; Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater are more than worth the 50 dollar price tag; the fact that you get Peace Walker (and the original 8-bit Nintendo Metal Gear games) just adds to the enjoyability factor of the bundle. The lack of the original Metal Gear Solid, however, hurts the quality of this collection.
For those of you who are revisiting the great series, be warned: you will find nothing new here. In fact, two elements have actually been removed from Snake Eater—the online multiplayer and a vampire nightmare sequence that pays homage to Castlevaina. So, before you drop fifty bones on this collection, just be aware that you're buying the same games you bought before albeit with slightly improved visuals and a fantastic frame-rate.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/03/12

Game Release: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (US, 11/08/11)

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