Review: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (Sony PlayStation Vita)

Metal Gear Solid HD Collection PS Vita
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Kojima Productions, Bluepoint Games, Armature Studio, Aspect Co.
Genre: Action
Release Date: 06/12/2012

Metal Gear Solid has been a staple of the console gaming industry since it first debuted on the PS One. Before that, the Metal Gear series was known for a few releases on the MSX2 system, one of which was ported to the NES, albeit in heavily modified form. The Vita collection stretches back and snatches up Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake from that era, then moves forward to the PS2 era, jumping right to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, with some of the extras from the expanded editions released later. While almost identical to its PS3 release, the Vita version is missing Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, which was included with the PS3 version, and while this is a PSP title, you can get it off the PSN store and play it on the Vita. For the most part, the games have made the move over to the Vita pretty well, with a few visual hiccups, and being able to move your games back and forth over a cloud service or directly to your PS3 wirelessly so you can pick up there is a neat touch. Even so, is it worth picking up on the Vita? Even if the system wasn’t starved for games as it is right now, my answer would still be a yes, especially to fans of the series.

For those not familiar with the game series, the game’s initial menu actually appears to list the games out of order, and if you’re going by release order, you’d be correct. Chronologically, however, they’re listed properly. Metal Gear Solid 3 actually takes place well before the events in Metal Gear Solid 2. So if you want to play them in order, beat Metal Gear Solid 3, then Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, then play Metal Gear Solid 2. Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 are actually accessible through Metal Gear Solid 3‘s main menu, and Metal Gear Solid 2 comes with Snakes Tales, an alternate take on Snake going onto the Big Shell instead of Raiden. While Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker not being in the collection isn’t a big loss story-wise, I would recommend at least playing Metal Gear Solid at some point, as Metal Gear Solid 2 doesn’t do a very good job of bringing you up to speed if you haven’t at least read a synopsis of the PS One game. Although I have to admit, after playing Metal Gear 2, Metal Gear Solid feels almost like a beat for beat remake of Metal Gear 2 with some small changes. Story wise, the games are pretty good, but there are quite a few cut-scenes for these being action games, at least on the PS2 upgrades anyway. Out of the four games in the collection, Metal Gear Solid 2 really does make the jump into the ridiculous towards the end of it, but it does have, pardon the pun, some really solid game play behind it that still make it worthwhile. If you’re tired of Raiden, you can always fire up Snake Tales, which is still, for me anyway, an exercise in the nearly impossible without that wonderful radar you have in the main game. Thankfully, Metal Gear Solid 3‘s story is a bit more down to earth in how it handles things.

Visually, the games have always tried to push the boundaries of what a system was capable of and deliver a cinematic experience along the way. While you can see that there were obviously limitations with the PS2 era of how many polygons a character model could have, with sharp angles on quite a few characters, for the most part, you won’t notice it quite as much, thanks to a nice texture revamp on just about everything else, at least as far as the PS2 era games go. The older titles, well, they were designed for the 8-bit era and still look like it. I did notice a few glitches here and there visually, like an unexplained bit of texture that made it look like a support line was hanging across the room where it shouldn’t have been. Nothing earth shattering at all, though, and overall, both PS2 games look just as good on the Vita as they do on the PS3, and of course, slightly better than the originals.

Since Metal Gear Solid first hit the PlayStation, Kojima has tried to make the games into cinematic experiences, and that includes sound. With some excellent voice actors, good audio surround and effects, the bar is still set pretty high with these games. Now, Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 will obviously be a little bit more lax in the voice acting area. In fact, my only complaint would be Raiden and his girlfriend in Metal Gear Solid 2. He’s not bad, but he is uneven, and you go from wanting to throttle him to caring about what’s going on to wishing he’d stop whining already. Part of that is the dialogue he’s given, I’m sure, but the voice actor can get to you here. The character was far less annoying in Metal Gear Solid 4, but again, far less on screen time is spent with Raiden in that one as well. Aside from sound effects and voice acting, the music for the games is stellar, with some great themes that can stick with you well after the game is over and done.

I admit I was a little worried about how the game would control without the other two shoulder buttons, but as far as that goes, I shouldn’t have worried. The touch screen solutions to both inventory selections, interrogations and peeking around corners are a nice touch, and the buttons actually do everything you tell them to, besides the touch screen functions. Everything responds the way it should, which is the way it was before, so having that carry over isn’t a surprise, but it’s nice to see. It did take me a bit to adjust to what does what on the Vita, and I thought that it might have been way off from the PS3 version, but transferring my save over and trying it there, I found they were pretty much identical beyond the touch screen. I have been playing a lot of MMO’s and third person shooters lately, so taking a step back and actually sneaking around took me a little bit to get used to. Gameplay wise, these end up playing exactly like their big brother counterparts on the PS3, and from experience with Subsistence and Substance, just like the expanded editions on the PS2, only prettier. For those unfamiliar with the games, I’ll go a little more in depth.

The games have always been designed around sneaking being the big thing. Yes, you can take people out with guns and knock them out to get supplies, but even being an action title, you don’t want to take enemies head on, as they will overrun and kill you, just continuing to send more and more after you if you’ve triggered an alert. In the first Metal Gear Solid, if you popped through to another area, the alert stayed, but you didn’t have anyone follow you, and that would clear out. That’s not the case here, so getting seen can put you into a world of hurt. In both of these games, the objective is to basically sneak around guys to get to a boss fight, with each boss fight requiring very different tactics to get around. Most of the time you have objectives to complete while you’re sneaking around between boss fights. In Sons of Liberty, not much has changed from the first Metal Gear Solid title. You’ve got a first person camera in this version, which helps, but it’s the same basic mechanics as you move through the areas. Snake Eater added quite a few mechanics. Snake Eater added camouflage that actually makes a difference when you’re hiding in a bush or along a tree, so that the right camouflage can make you nearly invisible to enemies. They also added in a stamina system, where you have to eat food and heal injuries to keep you in top form, which involves some basic first aid and catching animals to eat.

They’ve added trophy support to the game, and as a bonus, most of the features from the expanded versions of the games, which means Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 from Metal Gear Solid 3 Subsistence, like I’ve already mentioned, and the VR and Alternate Missions from Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance as well as Snake Tales, which is an alternate take on the Big Shell portion of the game, where you play as Snake instead of Raiden. So, other than going for all the trophies, there are some nice options to keep you playing apart from the story modes of both games. You also have the different camouflage options to collect, as well as Dog Tags, which can be pretty interesting to collect, as you have to take out quite a few guards quietly to complete the collection. There are plenty of Easter eggs to the other Metal Gear titles, as well as old Konami games. I recommend trying to input the old Konami code. It doesn’t do anything game wise, but it is pretty funny.

I think the price for this collection, even excising Peace Walker, still makes this a really good buy. You’re getting two full action games, a bunch of the extras that came with the expanded editions, and the ability to play Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, which isn’t readily available unless you already have Subsistence or the PS3 version of the collection. Being able to move and link your saves up to the PS3 is a beautiful thing, and despite my best efforts to break it, this works fantastically. The games function pretty much as the originals did, with the few tweaks made for the Vita, which were welcomed, so the easier settings make things pretty decent to get through, and the harder settings, well, can get pretty hard. You also have to beat the game once to unlock the hardest difficulty on both titles. I still think Snake Tales is unusually hard, but I do rely on the radar quite a bit, and it’s bonus stuff, so I can live with that, especially since it was supposed to be insanely difficult. Aside from adding in some touch screen controls and upping the textures, there isn’t anything really new here, unless you’ve never played these games before. I mean, the games themselves offer up a unique blend of action and story-telling mixed with some sneaking and questions about war and so on, but it’s ground they’ve tread over a dozen times now, between the original games, the expanded editions, PSP only titles and the HD re-releases. Being the same games we remember isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, though, as these are still quality titles.

It’s very easy to get lost in these games once you’re into the sneaking portions and are making your way to your first boss fight, but I think the cut-scenes in Sons of Liberty can drag on and are too out there towards the end to really make you want to keep you playing. I would need a break, and often. Snake Eater, on the other hand, is a much tighter experience, gets back to what we expect from a Metal Gear title, and is a blast to play all the way through, cut-scenes and all. The VR Missions and other extras are also a nice distraction that kept me all sorts of involved.

With not many titles for the Vita out right now, even with the added PSP titles off the PSN, this will look like a bright shining beacon in a sea of needed games, and it is. It’s priced well, the games are… solid (there’s that damned pun again) and polished, and they play really well on the Vita, which is a good thing. If you do have the PS3 version, or even the PS2 versions, you might consider giving this a pass. Personally, I’ve got the PS2 versions, picked up the PS3 HD collection, and now this version as well. I do admit I have a soft spot for the series, but will admit it has some faults to it. I honestly think any Vita collection could benefit from having this set in it.

I did have a few bugs and minor annoyances. Once you’re in the main games, you can’t just go out to the main title menu again. You actually have to quit the game itself, then restart it if, say, you’re tired of playing Raiden and want to run around in the VR missions as Snake, or want to jump over to Metal Gear Solid 3 from Metal Gear Solid 2. Tomb Raider‘s collection for the PS3 had the same problem with it, where once you were in, you had to restart the whole game to get back out to a menu, which is a tad frustrating. There were a few graphic glitches, mainly texturing where there shouldn’t have been anything at all, but it was in just a few minor points, and I doubt most people will even notice. My only other issue was with the Transfarring (no, I’m not misspelling that, it’s how it appears in the game) system. No I didn’t break it, but if you let your Vita go to sleep when you’ve got cloud sharing set up, the Vita disconnects from the PSN, which means that you’re not saving to the cloud anymore, just to your Vita, which isn’t a big deal… until you have to restart the game again, because that’s the only real way to get to where the Transfarring settings are in the main menu. Other than that, I have to say this version of the two PS2 games is probably my favorite. I like it on the PS3, but being able to play them anywhere is a huge bonus for me, and one of the reasons I bought a PSP, or in the case of this game, a Vita in the first place. Honestly, the two games hold up a bit better on the Vita’s screen over my big screen TV and the PS3. Now if only the PSN version of Peace Walker was a bit cheaper I’d be even happier.

The Scores
Story: Great
Graphics: Great
Sound: Amazing
Control and Gameplay: Classic
Replayability: Great
Balance: Classic
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Amazing
Appeal Factor: Classic
Miscellaneous: Very Good

Short Attention Span Summary
With so few actual Vita titles currently out for the system, this should be hard to pass up. As a nice HD collection of two of the better games from the PS2 era, it’s even harder to pass up. If you’re a Metal Gear Solid fan and have a Vita, you should already own this. The ports to the Vita are handled extremely well, the touch screen controls don’t feel added on or like an afterthought, and help make up for the lack of the second shoulder buttons, and visually I think the PS2 HD versions look better on the Vita than they do on the PS3. I’ve actually enjoyed playing these more on my Vita than I did playing the HD collections on my TV on the PS3.


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