Format: Xbox 360 (tested), PS3
Developer: Kojima Productions
Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series has managed to indelibly mark the very centre of videogame culture, not just with its success as a commercial entity, which is vast, but with its creation and population of an entirely different, entirely new genre of play. Tactical Espionage Action. Nothing feels like a Metal Gear title, nothing weaves an epic and meandering tale with quite such confidence, or dares to take risks with such aplomb.
Featuring Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and the original, 8-bit Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, the HD collection is an intriguing, if incomplete archive. It offers a polished and primed introduction to the series for any latecomers, and a nostalgic trip back to where it all started for aficionados and fans.
All of the games follow roughly similar patterns. You play a member of an elite counter terrorist organisation, tasked with infiltrating a base and completing a difficult and dangerous mission. Things go wrong, the plot twists and you need to use every ounce of your stealthy skill to make it out alive.
The original gameplay mechanics remain entirely intact, including the cumbersome controls, stationary camera angles and strange ways of interacting with the world around you. MGS 2 and 3 are just starting to show their age, and will feel a little unwieldy at first to anyone who’s forgotten the intricacies and nuances of moving Snake and Rayden around.
The extra polish that’s been added to the games is some of the finest we’ve seen though. Snake Eater in particular could stand up to a lot of current gen titles, with its palette of jungle greens more vibrant and alive than ever. The silvers and greys of MGS 2 are still stark and ominous, and compliment its tale of a futuristic military industrial complex perfectly.
The real gem of the collection though, is Peace Walker. Available for the first time on a home console, this upscaled PSP title is a perfect mix of modernism and Kojima’s classic template. The comic book cut scenes are a joy in high definition, and the more accessible gameplay makes it a nice gateway into the series. It’s also worth noting the full inclusion of the online component which feels even better integrated on a home rather than portable console.
Of course, the barriers that some find blocking them from enjoying MGS are still in place. The cavernous, dialogue heavy cut scenes are still there, alongside the moralising and in depth discussions about the nature of war and warriors. The Metal Gear series is utterly unique, blending lectures on the ethics of combat with bizarre moments of levity and awkward character interaction without even batting an eyelid.
And that’s really the point. There’s nothing like Metal Gear. All of its quirks and idiosyncrasies, all of its lengthy exposition and spectacularly tense sneaking, blend together to create an experience that you won’t find anywhere else. Whilst the absence of the original Metal Gear Solid is a shame, this is still a collection worthy of praise, and a timely reminder of how adventurous mainstream videogames can be.