9.5

Not a perfect remaster, but an excellent collection never the less. A must buy

HD collections seem to be the rage these days. While some might think it's just a cheap way for developers to re-release older titles to make a quick buck, it actually allows the gamers of the current generation to experience some of the finest games the previous generation had to offer. This is doubly true with the Ico & Shadows of the Colossus collection, but that's not what we are here to talk about… yet. One of the most requested games to see an HD transfer was Metal Gear Solid, one of the most memorable and critically acclaimed video game franchises to exist, and the granddaddy of the stealth genre.

What you get
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Let's get the obvious question out of the way: what does the MGS HD Collection offer? Well, it offers Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker. MGS1 sadly isn't included, because it would mean the game would have to be rendered in a new engine, and it would simply take too long. A fair point, but they could at least have just given a coupon or a discount or something, or just bring The Twin Snakes (Gamecube remake of MGS1) to HD… actually let's not have that. Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops isn't included, which isn't a huge loss, and neither is MGS4… obviously. All of the games here has been remastered in HD, and they also include full trophy support.
Still, that's 3 games in one package… Or is it? Explanation follows later on.

Story
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If you're new to MGS, then you're about to play some of the story heaviest games ever made. The series is infamous for having the player, watching long and cinematic cut-scenes, that both looks and feels like they were taken straight out of Hollywood. The series is famous for bringing the cinematic notion to video gaming and you only need to look at games like Call of Duty or Uncharted to see how it affected video gaming. That being said though, the MGS series are known for a great story, but let's talk a bit about that, shall we?

Metal Gear Solid 2 takes place a few years after MGS1. Solid Snake is sneaking onboard a tanker to expose a new Metal Gear model, Metal Gear Ray, a huge walking robot that can fire off nuclear warheads. Sadly the tanker is over taken by Russian Special Forces, and Snake has to find out what they want, while still exposing Metal Gear Ray. The story does feature more than that, but I'm willing not to spoil it for the newer gamers.

MGS2's story is one that does leave a somewhat rotten taste in some reviewer and gamers mouths. It's gets really confusing to follow in the latter half of the game, delving into censorship and conspiracy theories. It also introduces a new main character, Raiden (in his pre-Ninja days), who can be incredibly annoying at first. This in particular pissed of a lot of gamers, as they originally only wanted to play as Snake, not someone else.

Thankfully though, Raiden does progress through the story and he does have a surprising and complex back story. While it does get complicated and confusing, it does keep you guessing. The story also manages to feel a bit unique, if only because there still isn't any game out there that tackles the same issues that MGS2 does. If anything, I'd say the story is more relevant today, thanks to the likes of SOPA and Wikileaks. The story does have its crazy and odd moments, but it's a usual story that is better than most people probably remember, and gave it credit for.

MGS3's story is much better. It turns the clock back in 1964 and sees you play as Naked Snake, aka. Big Boss (Solid Snake's father), as he is about to infiltrate a Russian jungle to rescue a scientist, Sokolov. Sadly, while on his mission, his mentor, The Boss betrays him and his unit (FOX) and steals a nuclear missile. This create secret tensions between the US and Soviet, who demands that Naked Snake is sent back in to deal with The Boss and her new allies, or else WW3 could very well be a reality.

The story here is more personal than MGS2, and it's also a lot simpler. It has its own small weird things going on in the story, but by large it has a lot more going for it. The characters are memorable, it keeps you guessing throughout, it has you invested and emotionally attached to the characters, all leading up to one of the most emotional and best endings ever put in video gaming.

Peace Walker takes place 10 years after MGS3 and sees Big Boss starting up a new mercenary faction, called Outer Heaven. They are based in Costa Rica, a country that is left without any form of military. Snake and his group however are approached by a Russian professor, whom they quickly find out is a KGB agent. He and a young girl, Paz, want Snake and his faction to take out a new military group called the Peace Sentinels out, as they've moved into the country and started military experiments. While Snake doesn't want to get involved, the professor plays a certain tape that convinces Snake to get going.

The story is more personal this time as well, though it's best played if you've finish MGS3. The story is once again simple and though it does have some odd elements and ideas, it all works really well. For the fans, it shows how Big Boss is changing and how he's coping with everything that has happened till now, though you really need to play many of the previous games to understand that fully. The only problem is the villains, which aren't as memorable this time around, nor are they that special to begin with. That said though, it is a great and simple story.

10

Gameplay
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Gameplay vise, each game plays out differently from each other. What they all share in common is, that they are all stealth games and the goal is to sneak through without getting spotted. Though there are some encounters that can't be avoided at all.
What's funny about the MGS series is, that each installment has somehow managed to create a huge influence on the many games that followed.

Metal Gear Solid 2
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MGS2 is the most simplest of the whole package. It plays, in many ways, like the original MGS, which is to say that it plays really well. The game brought some new things onto the gaming scene, such as first person aiming, which made it all the more easily to shoot specific parts of the environments… and people as well. The game also lets you peak around corners, and it can even be used as a cover system… yup, guess where that ended up. As for sneaking around, the game lets you hide in lockers, which is sorely needed when you're spotted. The AI here is still great, though not perfect. I ran into one or two instances where they were completely oblivious to my position, even if I stood in front of them. Though that little miss-step aside, they will search each area carefully, though they won't search in lockers or look in vents and under tables, unless they know you're in there. Hanging almost always works though, being somewhat of a blind spot to the enemies, if you're outside that is.

Controls works well… for the most part. Almost every button on the controller is being used, but it never becomes complicated. And if you're wondering just how to do things, you can always call up your buddies on the codec, or you'll be given a small manual on the item screen. That being said though, some buttons are sensitive. You can hold up enemies to get dog tags and items, which is actually a very entertaining thing to do, but you'd be a fool to try that with a machine gun. While it is possible, the fire button is very, very sensitive, so it's incredibly easy to fire off. The Xbox 360 controller doesn't have the same sensibility as the PS3 controller, so the controls are supposed to be different on that version… but I haven't played it, so there's no point in describing it. That being said though, it is a minor offensive in a game that otherwise controls really well.

Of course, there are moments in the game when you are forced to fight both during alert faces and boss fights, and they work pretty well. Sure you could probably have wished for a dodge system every now and then, but it works almost flawlessly. Even without that though, the game can be a bit too easy, once you know your way around. I ended up being able to pretty much own everyone without even using my rations. And the Soliton Radar also makes things a bit too easy. Basically it shows you the enemy locations and their field of vision. A helpful tool, but the areas are so small that it's perhaps of too much help.

The MGS2 HD port is huge. The main game should last you around 12-13 hours, though it can be beaten in muss less if you skip all the cut-scenes. There is a good incentive to replay the game however, as you can collect dog tags from every enemy. Do this and you can unlock special items that let you mess around with the game. You also open up for Boss Survival, where you have to fight every boss encounter in the game, in one go, and compete for high scores. But that's not all, the game also includes 500 VR missions, that tests your skills in aiming, sneaking, and various other things. These missions start out easy, but can become quite difficult as you get further into the game, almost frustratingly so. How long it'll take for you to complete them depends on how good you usually are, but it took me around 90 hours to complete them all.

Last but not least, MGS2 also includes Snake Tales. Essentially small stories involving Snake and some rather random exploits on the Big Shell. The stories here range from strange to batsh!t crazy, but they never really amount to anything special. They also lack cut-scenes, favoring text instead. The Tales are also a bit too difficult at times. One of the tales gives you a very unclear idea on what you are supposed to do, and your just going through the same environments as in the campaign. Really disappointing.

MGS2 plays pretty much like some players might expect. The gameplay isn't complicated, but it's so full of movements, that you feel like you can almost do everything. It still holds up today, though people who recently played Peace Walker & MGS4 might have to get used to not being able to crouch walk.


Metal Gear Solid 3
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MGS3 starts off well by ditching the radar system all together. The game also ditches the military complex (for most of the game) in favor of a new jungle environment. While you still have to sneak your way through the game, a huge focus has also been placed survival. As you make your way through the jungle, you have to capture various plants and animals to keep up your stamina bar. If you don't have a lot of stamina, Snake's aim will get more unstable, his stomach will growl, alerting other enemies of your position. You can also get terribly wounded, resulting in you having to dig out bullets, and cure yourself of poison among other things. It gives the player a few things to look out for, though it's by no means a bad thing. As for sneaking, you also have to use camouflage. Blending in with the environment is very important in the game, because it determines how easy you are to discover by the enemies. It works well, and it does make certain parts tenser.
When it comes to combat though, you do have a few new moves. You can take people as hostages and actually hold out a gun for once, an effective way to fight back. You can also shoot people while you're hanging as well. The Boss fights this time are more memorable. You have battles against a guy who can shoot bees, a guy who plays with fire, a guy who can be invisible, but the best one is against a 100 year old sniper. That battle is very tense, stretching over 3 larges areas, with endless possibilities to hide for both of you.

Speaking of that, the controls are much better. There are still sensitive moves, but they are less sensitive than before, which means you really have to push down the fire button a lot, for the machine guns, for instance. The controls still aren't complicated, despite every button being used. The game itself is based on the Subsistence version, which comes packed with a 3D camera, though the original camera settings are available as well.

The game also has a few fun secrets to explore. I won't give them away, but let's just say that you will get punished if you don't play the game for days. That being said though, the game doesn't have as much replay value as some of the other games. The game itself takes 15-20 hours to complete, but dual mode (boss survival) mode is missing, which is odd considering it was in MGS2. Unsurprisingly, the Snake Vs. Monkey mode is also missing. This is due to copyright issues, given that it's based of the Ape Escape series, and Ape Escape is a series that's owned by Sony. Sadly, Metal Gear Online is also missing. Sure this might not matter much, given Peace Walker (later on), but there are people out there who cares about this.Surprisingly though, you can play Metal Gear & Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. Both of these games are good, though they can be very frustrating, and are very outdated by today's standards.

Peace Walker
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Peace Walker was created for the PSP, which led to some changes. The whole game is split up into several levels, around 25 in total. This is beneficial to portable play, but on consoles is just weird. It also does away with most of the survival aspect, since the areas isn't as open as in MGS3. It does retain the whole army concept from Portable Ops.

That game had you recruiting new soldiers by knocking them out and dragging them to a truck. This is made much easier here by the Fulton Recovery System. The system isn't realistic, because it still works indoors, but it's highly effective. You use your new recruits to expand your mother base (Outer Heaven), and develop new weapons and items. You can also send out your men to complete missions elsewhere, and gain new items and what not. This part actually works pretty well, and it's very rewarding to see your base grow.
The only thing that could have used a bit more time was the creation of your own Metal Gear. It's fine, but you can't use it to much, and you don't get to fully control it, like with Rex in MGS4. Surprisingly, the game has quick-time events. Their fine, and if you mess them up the game only skip a few seconds back so you can try again, but they are too far in-between each other.

The controls are similar to MGS3, though you can't crawl, or move along side walls, or move bodies. This actually doesn't make the game hard, as it's very easy to take out enemies, or just freeze them in place. It could be tough to aim in the PSP version, due to the lack of a second analog stick. Something that's been rectified here and it now makes the whole game a lot better.
The ironic thing is that even though it was made for a smaller platform, the game is the biggest MGS game yet. The main game takes around 20-25 hours to complete, and you can count an additional 10 if you want to go after the secret chapter. The game also has 128 extra ops, basically missions with specific objectives, based on areas from the main campaign. This also includes some missions based on Capcom's Monster Hunter games. The requirements for opening these missions however are unclear, and it just seems like they randomly open up as you complete random missions. In fact, that's also a problem that plagues the secret chapter as well. The requirements to open it and continue in it, is a bit unclear.

Finally, the game also has online play, which works fine, but isn't as fun or as fluid as MGO in MGS3 & 4.

Overall
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So, does the games still hold up? Well, Peace Walker holds up the best. Though it's nowhere near as complicated, it's done one that plays the best. It's easy to grasp (though that's not to say the others aren't), and it's the most fluid. MGS3 has the most features, and it works really well, but if it lacks the crouch walking, which can take some time to get adjusted too. I'd still say MGS3 is the best of the package though, because unlike Peace Walker, it's a lot more memorable than most of the MGS games and it's less complicated than MGS2. But overall, the games still hold up very well, and can even be used as a history lesson on the evolution of stealth games. Resident Evil 4, Gears of War, so many games today have taken inspiration from MGS, that the series stands tall as a huge inspiration.

10

Graphics
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The graphics are remastered to in 1080p, and it looks great, though again it differes from the games. MGS2 looks fine, but it has a lot of textures that just looks very odd today. Despite the animation being done in motion capture, they don't perform or look as smooth or as realistic as you might remember. The game runs really smooth, and most of the previous frame rate issues have been fixed as well. Nidpickers though can find a few things to nag on about. There's a scene where some sea lices are missing, and there's supposedly also a scene where there's a missing rope or something. It's not a deal breaker, and they don't detract from the overall experience or graphics, but if you're a hardcore MGS fan, you will notice this.

As for the graphics themselves, the characters looks pretty good, and their facial expressions looks pretty good, for a PS2 game that is. The environments are also well designed, though the corridors of the Big Shell can begin to look alike. The lip-syncing however is worse than you might remember.

MGS3 benefits the most, and also has the most issues. First off, the game not only runs really smooth, but the entire frame rate issues from the original PS2 version has been fixed. This is very good, as the frame tended to take a dip, even during the cut-scenes. However, as you get to the final part of the game, it does tend to play a bit slower than it's supposed too, for some odd reason. Unlike the parts in MGS2, this is noticeable.

As for the game itself, it's so good that it could be mistaken for a game that's made today. Okay, it doesn't hold a candle to games like Rage or Uncharted 3, but it's very beautiful. The jungle looks alive and vivid; the character animation is much more fluid. The character designs are great, and the animations are really, really good. The lip-syncing here is still as bad as in MGS2, though at times it's even worse.

Peace Walker runs very fluid, but it's easily the worst looking game of the series… though it does look good still. For a PSP game, it's beautiful, the characters looks great, and the game handle a thousand things without the frame rate being affected. The areas look a bit too open though, and it doesn't feel as lively as MGS3. The majority of the cut-scenes are drawn by Ashley wood, and they actually look pretty good, and give the game a stylistic feeling. Unfortunately, these cut-scenes aren't really remastered well. The text looks fine, but the drawing looks a bit blurry at times.

9.0

Sound
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Metal Gear Solid 2 was one of the first games that hired a Hollywood composer to compose the original soundtrack. Most of the music here, and in MGS3, is composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, and his work (among others) results in one of the most iconic and memorable soundtracks in video gaming history. The music is also excellent in Peace Walker. The sound design is also great, with some realistic ambience (especially in MGS3).
The voice acting is a bit mixed. In MGS2, it's fine, but it's not exactly something that's bound to earn awards. In MGS3, it sounds a bit stiff and lifeless, and the dialogue isn't as strong as previously, but it's improved an awful lot in Peace walker. David Hayter voices Snake, and his voice acting results in one of the most iconic and memorable characters in history.

9.5

Overall
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It's a shame that MGS1 isn't included in this package, because if it did, you'd almost have every MGs game ever made. But what's included here, is more than acceptable. For the price of less than a full game, you get 5 games, all of them full with replay value and content. It's not remastered as perfectly as some might have hoped, but this still stands as one of the top examples of how an HD Collection should be. If you never played MGS before, then this package shouldn't be missed. It's easier to recommend this for the PS3 owners, as they are able to buy MGS1 off PSN, while the Xbox owners aren't. But what's here, is still excellent, and well worth the many hours of cut-scenes and complicated stories, that it takes to experience everything.

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