Not the most solid of snakes
Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection on Vita presents an interesting dilemma for me as a reviewer. While it includes perhaps my favorite game of all time in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, it also neglects to include the original Metal Gear Solid or Peace Walker. Sure, the former wasn’t offered in the console editions of this collection—and, as the Splinter Cell Trilogy HD collection showed, we don’t necessarily want to see blocky, dated graphics in HD. But Peace Walker’s visuals are only two years old, and it was included in the console HD Collection…and specifically designed for a portable system in the PSP! I can only guess that Konami’s trying to protect its portable marketshare by cutting it from this package, but it’s still a puzzling, inexcusable move on their part.
The other disappointment comes with control changes intended to make the experience more Vita-specific. While most actions unfold essentially the same as in the console versions, there’s one major change you’ll feel immediately: Rather than using the shoulder buttons to select from your inventory, you’ll touch the icons in the bottom right and bottom left corners of the screen and scroll through your options that way. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really add anything to the experience—and almost detracts from it. I trust that I can keep my fingers on the L and R buttons and hold them down to navigate my items and arsenal of weaponry—I don’t trust the Vita to seamlessly track my fingers as I rush to grab a sniper rifle or rations. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if the game offered you the option of traditional shoulder-button controls, but for reasons I can’t fathom, it does not.
But as much as some design choices might frustrate me, the fact remains that these are still two absolutely solid stealth-action epics. And it’s actually the older release—the 11-year-old Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty—that may well showcase the upgraded visuals the most. Plus, since we’ve now had 10-plus years to ruminate on the plot twist that got fans fuming back in 2001—I won’t actually reveal it here, since this collection’s a great way for new fans to get into the series—we can now look at Sons of Liberty from a more detached perspective and just enjoy the ride. It’s far from the best MGS entry, but it’s not quite the clusterf*** it’s been made out to be, either.
If MGS2 impresses with its visuals, then Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater definitely provides the meatier, more satisfying experience. I’ll just say that it’s one of my favorite games of the last 10 years, if not the last 25, and that it remains the standout here—Snake Eater alone would be worth the collection’s $40 price. I’ve often felt that this ’60s flashback shows how creative Kojima could truly get if he weren’t so married to Metal Gear; unlike the rest of the entries where he feels the need to tie up every loose end, here he’s free to create a wacked-out world unto itself and really nails that swingin’ ’60s spy motif—and nowhere is that better illustrated than in “Snake Eater,” the game’s iconic Bond-esque theme that perfectly fits the time period. Or, rather, fits what we children of the ’80s and ’90s imagine it to be.
The one letdown is that HD Collection cuts some content from the original Subsistence package: namely, Metal Gear Online and the Snake vs. Monkey minigame—the former due to lack of infrastructure, the latter likely due to legal issues due to the Ape Escape crossover. Snake Eater still offers the MSX incarnations of the first two Metal Gear entries free of charge, though, so there’s still plenty of additional stealth-action available.
Konami definitely has a checkered history with HD releases over the past year, and MGS: HD Collection continues that trend. It’s not an absolute disaster like Silent Hill: HD Collection, but while it certainly succeeds from a technical standpoint, one can’t help but focus on what’s missing—instead of what’s actually there.
SUMMARY: The content MGS: HD Collection offers is some of the finest of the last decade. But it’s also frustrating that this collection could have—and should have—offered so much more.
- THE GOOD: Two seminal PS2 classics in one portable package.
- THE BAD: The original Metal Gear Solid and Peace Walker are MIA…and the latter’s omission is inexcusable.
- THE UGLY: A certain crotch-grabbing scene. You know what I’m talking about.
Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection is available for Xbox 360, PS3, and PS Vita. Primary version reviewed was for PS Vita.