Much like record companies in the late-’80s, game publishers have realized that they can mine their back catalogs by sprucing up a couple classics and putting them out in a single package. While some of these are obvious cash grabs, even those are often worth it for people who missed the included games the first time around. Such is the case with the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, which pairs 2001’s Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, 2004’s Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and last year’s Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. For anyone who’s already played all three games repeatedly, HD Collection isn’t worth your hard-earned ducats. Sure, seeing these games in hi-def is cool – as with the God of War: Origins Collection, Bluepoint has done an impressive job upgrading these games’ visuals – but since they just have better looking versions of the original graphics, not new HD graphics, it’s hard to justify the double-dip.
However if you’ve missed any of these games, even just one, or you really want to play any of them again, this is totally worth it. All three hold up well, in large part because they were ahead of their time when they first came out. Of the three, the most dated is Liberty, because it employs an archaic fixed camera. Admittedly, anyone who hates these kinds of controls won’t be convinced otherwise by playing this game, in which Solid Snake’s routine recon mission goes awry, and his replacement, Raiden, has to clean up the resulting mess years later. Those who don’t mind or are willing to put in the time to get used to the controls will quickly understand why this is still one of the more inventive stealth action games ever made. Not only does it have a diverse cast of characters and scenarios, but it has an equally varied set of weapons, tools, and actions you can use to complete your mission.
Faring better, the prequel Snake Eater has Solid Snake’s poppa, Big Boss, on a mission to a Russian jungle during the Cold War. While this prequel wasn’t as gripping, either narratively or mechanically, as Liberty, it did add some interesting camouflage and eating mechanics to the already impressive sneaking action. What’s important about the version included here is that it’s the one from Subsistence, which added the far more intuitive player-controlled cameras (though masochists - we mean purists - can still opt for the fixed camera approach if they want).
The game that’s dated the least, naturally, Peace Walker once again casts you as Big Boss, who’s on a mission to lead a band of mercs into the Costa Rican jungles to take out another group of mercenaries. Which is easier to do here than it was on the PSP thanks to the PS3’s and 360’s dual thumbsticks. This game also boasts the most contemporary controls and camera set-ups, as well as such modern conveniences as optional auto-targeting and aim assistance. While this prequel is still a sneaky good time, it’s actually the least enjoyable of the three games. Not only does it have the least interesting story, but it’s also unnecessarily frustrating, since a lack of reasonable checkpoints requires you to completely restart a mission you’ve failed, while enemies are inconsistently resistant to bullets and tranquilizer darts.
Besides the three games, Konami has also included some of the extras from the special editions of Liberty and Eater. From the former’s Substance edition comes “Snake Tales,” a series of missions for Solid Snake, while the latter’s Subsistence version gives us the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2. That said, this is hardly complete, as some extras from those special editions are annoyingly MIA. Eater, for instance, is missing the competitive online modes included in the Subsistence edition, an omission aggravated by the fact that those same kinds of modes are also missing from Peace Walker. Most egregiously (unless you’re a member of PETVA: People for the Ethical Treatment of Virtual Animals), Eater doesn’t have the hilarious “Snake vs Monkey” minigame in which Snake uses stun grenades and a stun gun to rescue the monkeys from the Ape Escape games.
Even without these modes, and Liberty’s less-than-intuitive controls, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is still a great value, even if you only plan to play one of the three games. That it has three you might want to play, plus a bunch of fun extras, just cements this as the best multi-game compilation since 2007’s Orange Box.