Xbox 360
4.5 stars
List Price
29.99
Amazon
19.99 (33%)
3rd Party
16.99
In Stock. Buy Now»
Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
5 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
4 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
4.5 Stars
Replay Factor
5 Stars

Metal Gear Solid HD Collection

Street Date:
November 8th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date:1
December 30th, 2011
Game Release Year:
2011
Platform:
Xbox 360
Publisher:
Konami
Developer:
Kojima Productions, Bluepoint Games, Genki, Aspect
ESRB Rating:
M (Mature)

Introduction

Slowly but surely, any reason to hang onto your old PS2 has been disappearing. For PS3 owners, HD collections have seen “God of War” and “God of War 2” ported to the console as well as the PSP offerings, with greatly enhanced graphics. For me a few games still had me clutching my treasured fat-model PS2, and now thanks to these glorious, value priced collections, PS2 and remaining games have been passed on. “The Metal Gear HD Collection” is one such release, gathering not only “Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance” (aka “Sons of Liberty) and “Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsitenence” (aka “Snake Eater”) but a key piece in the saga’s story, told on the handhold PSP, “Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker.” All three games arrive on the Xbox 360 with enhanced HD graphics and a few tricks up their sleeve.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

For all intents and purposes “MGS 2” and “MGS 3” handle just as one remembers; if you haven’t had the pleasure of playing either, that grave injustice can be remedied, although be prepared to get your butt handed to you by a control system that is functional but far from stellar. A stealth driven game, both “MGS 2” and “MGS 3” map weapon controls to the X-button, making aiming a bit of a challenge, initially. As with any game though, time and practice prevails and even if you see the “Continue” screen in all it’s hilariously voiced incarnations, you’ll get the hang of it…or become a professor of stealth. Other than that, both games control like your standard third-person shooter, with the option to look around in a first person view an option.

To be honest, the bread and butter of any “Metal Gear” game isn’t so much the game play, which is great, but not perfect; no, fans keep coming for the overarching story that for many is a make or break element. The first two games in this collection are heavy on the cutscenes whether they are fully rendered in-game or simple conversations through the ubiquitous CODEC system. You’ll spend a lot of time watching, initially in both games before longer stretches of action take over, but be forewarned, living up to their reputations as cinematic and works of art, you will sit and do nothing, sometimes upwards of 20 minutes at a time in the finales of both.

Thankfully, the stories are emotionally gripping and gratifying, with “MGS 3” delivering one of the greatest stories in modern gaming; if you’re invested in the characters at all, I would be shocked to find anyone being able to make it through that game’s finale with out the most minor shedding of tears. “MGS 2” is no slouch itself, but the so-called “bait-and-switch” of having players control the less interesting Raiden is still a sore point. Personally, I think the Raiden character had a great character arc, which set him up for great things in later installments. It’s worth noting to newcomers, that “MGS 3” is a prequel, chronicling the pre-Big Boss days of Solid Snake ‘s (the series’ hero) mentor and eventually nemesis. There is one game missing from the series in this collection and that’s the original “Metal Gear Solid,” however the game has a detailed back-story section which fills in important details and in “MGS 2” there are some major callbacks to the original “MGS.” If you read the back-story, you shouldn’t be lost at all.

That brings us to “Peacewalker,” the odd-man out in this collection. On the surface one would think a PSP game wouldn’t stand a chance competing against two of the PS2’s biggest titles, but one would be sorely, sorely wrong. While “Peacewalker” will never visually pass for “MGS 2” or “MGS 3” and the grand scale of the in-game action is toned down, the sheer level of complexity and introduction of a semi-open-world style to game play makes it the shining spot of the collection. Set post “MGS 3” and pre—“Metal Gear,” “Peacewalker” fills in some important back-story regarding Big Boss (the hero) and his eventual formation of Outer Heaven. It features a full voice cast with David Hayter returning as Big Boss” and while it can’t produce in-game cutscenes, the developers took the novel approach of hiring an artists to fully illustrate panels for a motion comic style presentation that is initially jarring, but tells a great story.

Not content to merely follow in it’s big brothers’ footsteps, “Peacewalker” adds an open-world element to the series, allowing players to not only replay the game’s missions for better rankings, but to help build up their own mercenary empire, which is managed through “Peacewalker’s” in-between mission portions. In “Peacewalker” the mission is still your primary goal, but players can recruit in-game enemies to their own mercenary squad, rescue POWS as well as bring in a few special comrades including series creator Hideo Kojima himself. Keeping your mercenary empire staffed and advancing is vital to in-game success as your “employees” are responsible for researching new weapons and gadgets for Big Boss to use. To top things off, dozens of bonus missions help you fine-tune your skills as well as further expand your empire.

The management system is much deeper than it initially appears to be and the game gradually rolls out new features; a player can easily make it through “Peacewalker’s” main story without doing much with their empire, but it makes it a little easier and far more fun, especially replaying missions and doing side-missions, thanks to a control scheme that’s much more in line with a modern third-person shooter and winds up being the best I’ve experienced in a “Metal Gear” game, even if little things like crawling while prone had to be removed. My only real complaint is the game itself can be too simplistic with enemy patterns much easier to recognize due to the smaller mid-mission areas; the challenge really comes from being 100% stealthy and effectively taking down the bosses, which are all various forms of mechs. I’d be a liar if I didn’t say having a mano-a-mano showdown with an actual human NPC didn’t leave me disappointed.

Ultimately, “Peacewalker” is a tremendous entry into the series and tells a great story; while I wouldn’t have shelled out the full $50 price tag for it alone, had I known it was as good as it was, I’d have been satisfied with it alone for $30. If the single player experience wasn’t enough, multiplayer makes its way along for the ride, with the option of playing the game in a co-op fashion is accompanied by a decently put together competitive mode. It’s no substitute for a solid FPS, but it’s a fun enough diversion on top of an already loaded game. As a whole, the “Metal Gear Solid HD Collection” is one of 2011’s best titles, which speaks volumes for the quality of the series itself, with the oldest game in this collection being a decade old. Xbox 360 fans might not have it as great as PS3 fans who can experience the entire “Metal Gear” mythos on their system, but what we do get, is the best entry in the series and a damn good story arc across the three games.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

No one should expect any of these games (especially Peacewalker) to challenge this generation’s top-tier titles for the crown of “best looking game,” but much to my own astonishment, all three titles are still stunning, holding their own respective grounds and putting a lot of this generation’s second-tier and below faire to shame.

The most shocking is “Peacewalker” which despite being the “worst” looking of the bunch, continues to baffle me as being a title that debuted on a handheld system. It has the roughest textures, with character models having the slightest rough edges and the overall textures being fairly generic and ultimately repetitive in specific areas. Smoke and fire effects are definitely the biggest strain on the engine and the constant reminder this was a “smaller” game compared to MGS 2 and MGS 3. There’s also a fair bit of a framerate drop during the bigger mech fights that towards the end of the game may cause some cheap damage to the player. The remainder of the game runs smoothly though and is still eye pleasing.

“MGS 2” and “MGS 3” are both a step-up, with smooth textures and a consistent, muted color palette. “MGS 3’s” jungle areas retain their claustrophobic nature and have a few surprises for players including light and shadow effects that didn’t look nearly as good on the PS2. Both titles run smoothly and the enhanced widescreen presentation of “MGS 3’s” cinematics continues to blur the line between game and film. The bottom line, is all three titles are definite upgrades in the visual department and the great translation will help more jaded players focus on the story and game play rather than “old” graphics.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The sound design across all three games is still impressive, with the first two entries sporting aggressive, Hollywood action film scores, due in no small part to composer Harry Gregson-Williams’ tutelage under Hans Zimmer and his work on some late 90s Michael Bay spectacles. The voice work is unchanged with David Hayter’s icy line delivery the unifying factor across all three games, although the supporting cast are no slouches and most fans might say Cam Clarke and Patrick Zimmerman give Hayter a run for his money in “MGS 2.”

Effects as with the rest of the sound design are crisp and distortion free, although they do lack the weight and impact of more modern entries and in particular the jungle environment of “MGS 3” isn’t nearly as immersive as per say, “Bioshock 2’s” metallic lined underworlds. “Peacewalker” is actually the most impressive of the lot if only for it’s handheld origins, proving to hold equal footing with it’s console predecessors.

Replay Factor

As they were upon initial release, the MGS games sport a high level of replay value, if only for trying to make it through the story avoiding all but the required conflicts; as always, VR training can eat up a lot of time too before you realize it. In “Peacewalker” the replay value is through the roof, with the game’s semi-sandbox game play, numerous side-missions, and multiplayer experience that includes both competitive and co-op modes. This installment alone will push your game time into the high double digits. Once you’ve completed the main three games, the saga’s origins can be revisited through original emulated copies of “Metal Gear” and “Metal Gear 2” on the “MGS 2” and “MGS 3” disc. While definitely many steps back in game play, both have engaging stories (many of which you’ve heard fragments of in the later installments) and are still quite challenging to this day.

Final Thoughts

Despite the initially awkward controls for “MGS 2” and “MGS 3,” the “Metal Gear Solid HD Collection” is a mind blowing value of entertainment that serves as a testament to the quality of game design of generations past. While not as graphically competitive as top tier games of this generation, it still puts a good portion of this generation to shame. To top it all off, the games are still intense and gripping from a narrative standpoint and at the end of the day $50 for what actually equals out to five games, is a deal too foolish to pass by.

Tech Specs:

  • DVD

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 720p
  • 1080i
  • 1080p

Audio Formats

  • Dolby Digital 5.1

Multiplayer Mode(s)

  • Online Co-op
  • Online Versus

Motion Controls

  • No

Supplements

  • BONUS GAME: Metal Gear
  • BONUS GAME: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

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List Price
29.99
Amazon
19.99 (33%)
3rd Party
16.99
In Stock. Buy Now»