Review: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (PSV)
Title: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
Format: PlayStation Network Download (3374 MB) / Game Card
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Developer: Kojima Productions
Price: $34.99 (PSN) / $39.99 (Game Card)
ESRB Rating: M
Unless you’ve been living under a cardboard box for the last 2 decades (see what I did there?), you are more than familiar with the Metal Gear franchise. The eccentric mastermind behind the series, Hideo Kojima, is very well respected in the gaming industry for his intricate stories, innovative gameplay, and ability to release blockbuster title after blockbuster title. Rather than individually reviewing each of the four games that are a part of this collection, I felt that it would be more beneficial to rate the overall experience in relation to the Vita format. We all know that Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater are both A+ titles that have been reviewed hundreds of times over, but how do these games translate to portability? Are we gaining anything from the exclusive Vita features? This port comes with its share of pros and cons, but fans of the series will be pleasantly surprised and those of you who are new to Metal Gear can expect another must-have title for your Vita library.
Allow me to begin by listing the 4 full games that are a part of this collection. They are:
- Metal Gear
- Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
The first two titles on the list are actually MSX games that date back to the early 1990’s. The MSX was an early computer developed by Sony in 1982. When the Metal Gear craze was at its peak for me, sometime between the releases of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, I remember scouring the internet for hours, looking for actual working roms that would emulate these early titles. I just couldn’t get enough Metal Gear and I hoped that playing through the games that started it all would fill holes in my backstory and add a relatable element to the moments during which these games are referenced in the more popular Metal Gear titles that we all know and love. That being said, they are extremely dated and may only appeal to Metal Gear fans. For me, looking at the first ever Codec screen and trying to play an ambitious espionage game on a system with less capability than the NES became captivating very quickly. I could not help but smile when I saw that Snake managed to smuggle only his cigarettes onto the infiltration site.
The games themselves play very smoothly and work extremely well in handheld form as the top-down view will make you feel like you’re playing something meant for a Gameboy. The frame skips and bad grammar that I remember from the roms are gone, there is a beautifully crafted data save/load feature, and the games provide the perfect content for those 10-minute gaming sessions. Another thing that you may have noticed from the list above is that the first Metal Gear Solid game, released on the PS1, has not been included. It is unfortunate that one of the best games of all time had to be left out because of spatial limitations on the Vita game card. I almost wished that the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection was released as a digital download only with an increased file size to allow for the inclusion of that classic.
While playing both of the PS2 games that are a part of this collection, I immediately noticed that the directional buttons were functionless and that playing with the Vita’s small sticks was a bit of a challenge. On the DualShock, pushing the left analog stick only halfway to the full extent of its range caused Snake, Raiden, or Big Boss to walk very slowly across whatever terrain they found themselves on. This same feature is available to us on the Vita, but it is much harder to perform because of the tiny stick distance we are dealing with. The negative effects are lessened with practice, but the accessibility definitely takes a hit.
The pressure sensitive buttons of the DualShock 2 and 3 are another valuable asset that this version is missing. I found that I had become used to holding down the square button to take aim and if I had changed my mind about the shot, I was able to slowly release the square button, stowing the gun and saving the ammo. The Vita’s buttons are not capable of imitating this feat. To decide against taking a shot after aiming, the player must bring his/her left thumb over to the bottom right corner of the screen, tap to unequip, and probably fumble around in the process without ever letting go of square. Again, not a very big deal but a change worth noting.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater both involve pushing your character up against walls to peek around corners. This is another area of the games during which the small sticks can work against the player. The problems must have been noticed during development as touch features have been added to more efficiently execute the process. I can swipe left or swipe right to lean in each respective direction. The menu system has also been done perfectly utilizing the touch screen. Equipped items show up in the bottom left and weapons in the bottom right as always. The player can long press either side, opening the full item or weapon menu, and drag his/her finger to the desired selection. Quickly tapping either side works as the quick change, equipping/unequipping the most recently used item or weapon.
Overall, the games represent their console counterparts almost to the tee with just a few control limitations. The creative boss fights, original gameplay, and tense anticipation of being caught are all captured and the Metal Gear feeling is fluently translated for mobility. The story elements, plot twists, and even the unbelievably long cutscenes have all made their way into the Metal Gear Sold HD Collection, truly showcasing what wonderful blasts from the past that the Vita can make available to us.
As is the case with any Metal Gear game, the visuals for Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 pushed the PS2’s graphical limits. At the time, they represented some of the most outstanding visuals we had ever seen in video gaming and they are redone on the Vita will all the advantages of high definition. The Vita’s capability to display beautiful, vivacious color is a tremendous upgrade from any picture brought to us by AV cables. Players can expect this game to more closely resemble its PS3 digital counterpart and significantly surpass any PS2 experience. From what I could tell, the textures are not scaled down, the backgrounds do not lack any sort of detail, and the cutscenes are complete and accurate. The renderings of the character faces when in the Codec are as sharp and surprising as they’ve ever been with any little imperfection smoothed out by HD. Because this game is not trying to replicate any PS3 caliber visuals, nothing is lost in translation.
Even though this is not a game based around rhythm or any sort of game mechanic related to sound, I do feel that a gamer can benefit from playing with headphones on. You will become so immersed in Snake’s world that an unexpected horn blast and exclamation point can actually scare you. Listening in on the dialogue of other characters gives you a real eavesdropping feeling while hearing the sounds that you’re character himself is making may cause you to play just a bit more patiently and apprehensively. The sound quality that we are used to is all there, even without the headphones, but they do provide a more complete feeling.
This game features no online/multiplayer capacity in the traditional sense, but I did feel that it would be a good section in which to highlight the coming to life of Hideo Kojima’s dream of transfarring. At E3 2011, Kojima spoke about his insatiable desire to stop a game on a console and then pick it up from the same point on a handheld. That technology is finally available and it works so surprisingly well between the Vita and PS3 versions of this game. You can either share saves over the cloud or directly connect a PS3 and Vita over WiFi.
The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection offers Vita owners four full games and an abundance of VR missions. Two of these games offer great fun, perfect bite-sized gaming, and some nostalgic insight into the origins of the Metal Gear saga. The other two are both AAA titles that are arguably the best of their generation. The VR missions are an added bonus for those of us who can’t get enough Metal Gear. I am not one for re-releases or over-milking of the money cow, but this game is just chock full of so much great content and having these titles in the palm of our hand represents a gaming benchmark. People who love the franchise owe it to themselves to have these games on the go while the newcomers can catch up on what they’ve been missing out on. In terms of playing previous gen games on the Vita, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is the pinnacle experience and will not be topped in the foreseeable future.