Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection
HD Collections are all the rage at the moment. From God of War to Devil May Cry publishers have been rounding up their most beloved series’ from previous-generation consoles, giving them a new lick of paint and booting them out into the strange new worlds of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
It’s difficult to think of a series more deserving of conversion to high-definition than Metal Gear Solid and as the idea of HD Collections began to take off in 2011, it didn’t take long for Konami to jump aboard the bandwagon. Together with series director Hideo Kojima, Konami announced that Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection would be released in November in America and Japan and February in Europe.
MGS: HD comprises three of the most popular titles in the franchise, with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker receiving the high-definition treatment (the original Metal Gear Solid isn’t included). Each title has been “re-mastered in high-definition” by Bluepoint Games who also handled the God of War and Ico/Shadow of the Colossus conversions.
Naturally when a bundle like MGS: HD is released the question on every gamers’ lips is; “Is it worth the money?”. If you’re a Metal Gear Solid fan the chances are you already own MGS2 and MGS3 and if you own a PSP you’ll know you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t also own Peace Walker. Gamers are naturally wary when it comes to re-releases of classic games and when a previous-generation game is labelled “high definition”, it’s difficult not to feel somewhat sceptical.
Thankfully the “HD” label on the front of the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection box is fully justified. Each of the games looks gorgeous in their own right whether you’re running through the offshore “Big Shell” in MGS2 or the snake-infested Tselinoyarsk jungle in MGS3. All three titles run at a smooth 60 frames per second and playing MGS3 like this for the first time is an amazing experience, really bringing the world around you to life.
Care and attention has been paid by Bluepoint to every scene and character to ensure the original vision has received the best possible presentation. The occasional low-quality texture or mismatched lip-synch will catch your eye, particularly in the case of Peace Walker which has been converted from the handheld format, but there is nothing to genuinely detract from three titles which are very easy on the eye. The graphics aren’t on a par with modern-day efforts but each game is beautiful to witness and explore.
The stories remain as thought-provoking as they ever did, with MGS2 in particular posing some frighteningly-relevant questions on digital censorship albeit in a sometimes disjointed manner. The updated visuals compliment the subsequent narratives nicely and the voice acting has not been touched, ensuring it remains as impressive and emotive as ever. Harry Gregson-Williams’ superb scores prevail and continue to elicit a range of emotional responses from the gamer. With the updated graphics these Metal Gear Solid games feel more like interactive movies than ever before.
That isn’t to say that the actual “game” has suffered at the expense of visuals, far from it in fact. MGS3 benefits hugely from the 360° camera first introduced in its 2006 follow-up release Subsistence and despite some very minor slowdown later on, Kojima’s best game to date remains just that. MGS2 by contrast still retains its fixed camera angles but given the number of narrow corridors and indoor scenes that direction seems to work better. Peace Walker plays just as well as it does on the PSP and makes the transition from handheld to console well. Peace Walker certainly feels like the freshest game of the three but suffers from a control system that differs significantly from MGS2 and MGS3. This doesn’t pose too much of a problem but it can be irritating having to get used to a completely new control scheme when switching from one title to another.
One of the most interesting aspects to Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection is the Trophy support. Each game in the collection comes with around 50 trophies to collect, ranging from basic affairs like meeting characters in cutscenes to near-impossible tasks such as collecting every single dogtag or Kerotan frog. Konami expect you to work for your Platinum trophy but clearly want you to have fun in the process (“Sexting” and “Snake Beater” are two Trophies available in MGS2), mirroring the direction Hideo Kojima has taken over the years.
Konami and Bluepoint Games have done a superb job of remastering what was already a good-looking series. The updated graphics compliment the gameplay and story of each title superbly. The occasional issues with out of sync speech and the difficult controls in Peace Walker are minor blemishes on what is a very accomplished upgrade of three much-loved videogames.
Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection is more than a convincing argument to upgrade from your old PlayStation 2 copies. It’s an essential title in the library of anyone interested in narrative-lead gaming.