Metal Gear Solid
has long been a staple on the Playstation and has gathered quite a fan base over the years. Many favourite game franchises have recently received HD remakes and gamers were delighted when Konami revealed that they would be re-releasing three favourites from the Metal Gear Solid
franchise with HD graphics. Although the remakes were originally released via the Games on Demand channel, many wanted to wait until the games got their promised retail release, which finally happened in Europe last Friday. To celebrate this fact, Konami was kind enough to provide a review copy so that we can bring you the opinions of one Newshound, PunkyLiar
, on whether the franchise’s first outing on the Xbox 360 is worth a purchase.
The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
contains remastered versions of three games; Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
make up the first Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
disc, while http://www.trueachievements.com/MGS-PEACE-WALKER-HD-xbo....htm
is the second disc. The absence of Metal Gear Solid
seems odd, and the many references to the game made in MGS2 don’t help the feeling that something is missing. In a bid to compensate for this, the Special menu accessed from MGS2 includes documents written by the characters involved in the first game, including a 129-page novella, in an attempt to provide the missing back story. I recommend reading at least the first ten page document if you have never played the first game, although it doesn’t beat playing the real thing.Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of LibertyMetal Gear Solid 2
sees players pick up the story after the events of the first game. In 2007, Metal Gear, a walking tank armed with nuclear shells, was a secret US government project, but the technological specifications of the machine have been leaked onto the black market. The hero of MGS, Solid Snake, forms an anti-Metal Gear movement called Philanthropy and he is sent out in pursuit of a tanker that is supposedly carrying a new Metal Gear prototype. Their suspicions of a trap prove to be correct though, and the tanker is sent to the bottom of the Hudson River with Solid Snake believed to be lost with it. The massive oil spill created by the sinking causes the construction of a cleanup facility called the Big Shell. Two years after the sinking, Big Shell is taken over by terrorists led by a man purporting to be Solid Snake. The US government requires the use of the FOXHOUND unit to infiltrate the cleanup facility and rescue an important hostage –the US President. Raiden is the man for the job.
The gameplay hasn’t changed at all since the game was released on the Playstation 2. MGS 2 is still very much a stealth game where players are encouraged to either sneak past their enemies or take them down using non-lethal means. Non-lethal means includes hand-to-hand combat or your trusty tranquilizer gun. Of course, players have a selection of lethal weapons too, but the ammo for these tends to be more restricted and hidden. Exploration is rewarded with alternative crawl spaces and hidden ammo or items. In true stealth fashion, players also have use of a variety of gadgets, such as motion detectors or infra-red goggles. Stamina is recovered by either lying down or eating rations that are hidden around the map. The first, shorter mission of the game serves as a gentle introduction to your arsenal, while the much longer second mission allows you to use your own judgement. There are several difficulty options to suit new and experienced players alike, but these don’t affect your ability to earn achievements.
One thing that players will initially find unusual is the camera angle. In large areas, the camera remains fixed above your head giving you an overview of the area. However, it occasionally switches to a third-person view, especially in tight areas. You also have the option of holding down RB to enter first person view, and this is the only view that allows you to have complete control over the camera. I found this irritating to begin with because there would often be enemies just out of my view and my radar at the top of my screen, and I couldn’t accurately judge their movements. Eventually I got used to it, but I soon realised that first-person view was the only view likely to give me a complete picture of any scenario.
Players will also have to get used to manually saving. There are temporary checkpoints, so dying will see you returned to the start of the last area that you entered. However, exiting the game without saving will see players returned to their last save point. There is one thing that I found sorely lacking though – the ability to automatically restart from my save point if I messed something up. I guess modern games have softened me to the comfort of rewinding my game by simply bringing up the menu and clicking on the restart option. This game takes you back to the old school method of doing things. During the first mission, you’re going back to the dashboard and reloading the game if you want to restart your save. The second mission is slightly more forgiving; players have access to nodes (computer terminals) placed in every section of the map, which can be used to return to the title screen. I lost count of the number of times that I called for the ability to simply reload my save.
The MGS 2 campaign will take players approximately ten hours to complete IF they watch all of the cutscenes. The Metal Gear Solid
franchise is known for its lengthy cutscenes, which frequently last ten minutes or more. Players do have the option to skip these, but I would recommend that players don’t do this in their first playthrough. All of the storytelling is done through the cutscenes; even though skipping these would dramatically cut down the length of a playthrough, it would be completely detrimental to the understanding of the storyline.
As well as the campaign, MGS 2 offers players several extras that will add much more playtime to your tally. Boss Survival appears once players have completed the game once, and tasks the players with tackling the bosses one after the other. Snake Tales and the VR and Alternative Missions are available from the start. The five Snake Tales are stand-alone missions set on the Big Shell where players take on the role of Solid Snake. The VR and Alternative missions are effectively training missions where players can hone their techniques. There are many of these and they range from the incredibly easy to the unbelievably hard. In total, these modes will add at least another 10 ‘official’ hours on to your gameplay total, although that will be closer to 20 if you take failures and the need to replay them into account.
My final comment before I move onto MGS 3 is in regard to the controls. The control system is far from intuitive for either MGS 2 or MGS 3. As an example, players have to either hold down the X button or click the left joystick to raise their weapon. Players fire by letting go of the X button. However, if this is done in third-person view, Snake will only aim the gun directly in front of him. You can’t move your gun up, down or to the side until you enter first person view. Once players have selected which of the two games they will be playing, a screen appears with a quick synopsis of the game’s plot. On this screen there is the option to view the game’s manual. Gamers who are new to Metal Gear Solid
are recommended to have a read of this manual before loading up the game. At the very least, have a look at the Basic Techniques that are accessed from the Special menu in each game, otherwise new players really will struggle to get used to the control system.Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Moving on to MGS 3, players are returned to the height of the Cold War in 1964. The opening credits even have an old-style James Bond-esque feel to them. Snake is sent to rescue a Russian scientist, Sokolov, who intends to defect to the West. Things don’t go according to plan when Snake’s mission advisor and mentor, The Boss, defects to a Soviet Union unit hoping to overthrow the current Russian leadership. As a welcome gift, she takes two miniature nuclear warhead prototypes along with her when she meets her new colleagues. Unfortunately, one of these warheads is promptly used to destroy a Russian research facility. With the blame for this destruction firmly at the doorstep of the US, Snake is sent back into Russia to rescue Sokolov, thwart the plans of the The Boss’ new unit and, ultimately, kill The Boss herself.
The first disc actually encourages players to start with this game due to the fact that it is a prequel to the entire Metal Gear Solid
story. However, there are some gameplay advancements in this game that may make going back to MGS 2 a little difficult – I’ll get to those in a minute. Some things are the same: the shorter first mission still serves as a tutorial while the second mission lets players off the reins. Non-lethal means are encouraged and exploration is rewarded. The varying difficulty levels also remain.
Some other gameplay elements are influenced by MGS 2, but they’ve been tweaked slightly. Players can now only carry a finite number of gadgets or weapons at any one time. Pressing the Start button brings up the equipment menu where players can equip different weapons and gadgets, or even swap Snake’s outfit. Stamina is still recovered by lying down or eating rations, but players are also encouraged to capture their own food from the wide selection of creatures in the woods. Also, manual saves are still here, but returning to the title screen is much easier. The option to do this is always available in the Options section of the pause menu.
The main change is the camera angle and the map. The default camera angle is always the third-person view, and players are able to use the right joystick to get a complete view of the surrounding area. The first-person view is still required to aim properly, but this is a big improvement. There’s no longer radar either. Instead, the pause menu offers the option to bring up a complete map of the current play area, with all exits and entrances clearly marked. I much preferred this to the radar in MGS 2.
The MGS 3 campaign will also take players approximately ten hours to complete when viewing all of the cutscenes. Not only are these still integral to the plot of the game, but skipping all of them will also lose you an achievement, so be warned. Now, unlike MGS 2, MGS doesn’t offer any extra game modes or missions. Instead, it offers direct ports of Metal Gear
and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
, originally released 25 years ago for the Japanese MSX. This is the first time that these games have arrived in parts of Europe, but don’t expect HD remakes of these. They still have the original graphics, but they’re well worth a play. I didn’t spend too long with either of these games as they’re technically not for me to cover in this review, so I’m afraid that i can’t give you an estimate of length for either of them.Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
This game sits in between MGS 3 and MGS 2. During the 1970s and after the events of MGS 3, Snake becomes disillusioned with the US military and sets up a band of mercenary soldiers in Colombia. The MSF (as they come to be known) are approached by a visiting lecturer from a Costa Rican university. The Cuban Missile Crisis has meant that Latin America has become a vital area for maintaining the power balance between the East and the West. As a result, Costa Rica’s army has been disbanded, but a mysterious armed force has been seen in areas of the country. The MSF is sent to investigate and attempt to maintain the peace.
Whether gamers choose to play MGS 2 or MGS 3 first is really their decision, but players must play MGS 3 before they play Peace Walker
, as there are major spoilers for the former contained in the Prologue of the latter. This game handles completely differently to the other two, and perhaps this is the reason why it has its own disc. Sure, there is a campaign just like in the other two games, but the missions don’t run together as one long storyline. Each mission, with the exception of the tutorial, ends with players being awarded a score – I’ll go into this in a little more detail further down. Once the score is awarded, players are returned to the Mother Base hub where they are presented with different options.
The Mother Base is the base for the MSF and their operations. In this game, the MSF will support you by researching and constructing weapons, upgrades and equipment. Each construction costs credits to build, so there is a strategic element to your planning. This equipment is needed for better grades in your missions, but development will stop if the team runs out of funds. Schematics and credits are awarded at the end of each successful mission, but the better the overall grade, the more rewards are unlocked. Players can allocate the members of the MSF to different departments. The more skilled members that a team contains, the higher the skill level of that team becomes. The development team can developer more complicated equipment with a higher skill level. The skill level of your team will only increase if you gather more members and they gain experience. Players can capture enemy soldiers to recruit to the MSF team.
In the hub, the left window allows players to select a mission. As players progress through the storyline, side missions are unlocked for players to try alongside the main storyline. Although the storyline missions have to be played in order, the side missions can be played at any time and in any order. Once a mission is selected players choose the MSF member(s) that they wish to send in and the equipment that they’ll be using. Once a mission is complete, an ordinary MSF soldier will gain experience and credits. The overall mission rank is based on time, the number of captured soldiers, the number of kills and the number of times that players triggered an alert phase. The target is an S rank, but it will involve replaying missions with better equipment and more experienced soldiers to achieve that goal. Be prepared to sink a fair amount of hours into this goal; one playthrough of the campaign will set you back by ten hours, but with all of the additional side missions, you could easily sink much more than that into obtaining an S rank.
This is also the only game of the three that involves online multiplayer modes. The Prologue has to be completed before these become an option, but there are both co-op and competitive modes. Most of the missions can be done in co-op mode with up to three friends (or randoms) with no change in the difficulty of the mission. Unfortunately the competitive online community for this game is not very active and the only modes that I could try here were Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. Capture Missions and Base Missions are also available. To be honest though, the former two modes seem completely out of place for a game like this, and each match can descend into the sort of gameplay found in the multiplayer modes of any shooter.
One thing that must be mentioned is the different control layout. Peace Walker
has been re-mastered from a PSP game, so the control layout had to change to accommodate a second joystick. The result is that players are given a choice of three control layouts. The second layout comes the closest to matching the MGS 2 / MGS 3 layout, but the most interesting addition is the Shooter layout. This maps aim to LT and fire to RT, amongst other changes. This, in my opinion, is by far the most intuitive layout found in any of the three games. Perhaps as a result of the remapped controls, the tutorial at the start of the game is much more comprehensive than that found in the other two games. There won’t be much that you need to know by the time the tutorial has finished.
The third-person camera angle is the same as that used in MGS 3, but because of the new control layout, the first-person view has been removed completely. The option to restart a mission also enters the newer way of thinking. The pause menu always brings up the option to restart a mission or to return to the title screen. I would have loved this option in the other two games. The final real difference, and one that may upset some fans, is that the cutscenes are now motion comics as opposed to CGI scenes. These cutscenes also occasionally involve QuickTime Events without any warning. The first QTE took me by surprise; so much so that I wasn’t actually holding my controller at the time. By the time I had picked it back up, I’d missed the first prompt. You are marked on your response to these scenes too.Graphics
There’s perhaps one important thing that I haven’t touched on – have the graphics improved? Well, there’s a little extra definition, but generally there’s not a lot of difference. For instance, the first cutscene in MGS 2 involves cars rushing across a bridge. They’re still quite angular and definitely wouldn’t pass for HD graphics in today’s terms. I also met with shadowing of the text in select cutscenes, lip syncing that didn’t quite match and flickering light issues at the odd point in the game where the engine couldn’t quite work out if I was stood in the shade or in bright sunlight.Peace Walker
has fared the best out of the three, but bearing in mind that the game was a 2010 release, there was always going to be a marked improvement here. I guess that there’s only so much that you can do when porting across an older title.Achievements
This can’t be a TA review without mentioning the achievements. Bizarrely, MGS 2 and MGS 3 share an achievement list, while Peace Walker
has its own list. Theoretically, all of the MGS 3 achievements can be gained in a single playthrough if you are prepared to reload your saves in important places; there are a LOT of collectibles though. As much as I can choreograph collectibles into a playthrough, I found that there were just too many to be able to handle in a single playthrough without it becoming detrimental to my enjoyment of the game. The achievements in MGS 2 will need to be completed over five campaign playthroughs and all of the extra modes will need to be completed too. A skilled MGS player will perhaps only find the VR and Alternative missions challenging, meaning that the majority of that 1000G is fairly obtainable.Peace Walker
is another matter. Players need to complete the campaign and all of the side missions, most of which need completing at an S rank. There are also a couple of multiplayer achievements. This will be a much more challenging achievement list and will certainly be more of a timesink. I must mention the easter egg achievements in all three games though. Although most people would regard these as the dreaded missable achievements, I really enjoyed going for some of these and the extra humour only heightened my enjoyment.Closing Thoughts
With the exception of the control layout in Peace Walker
, the gameplay has not changed since the games’ original releases. There is a marked progression as you go through the three titles though, so despite the game’s insistence at starting with MGS 3, I’d perhaps recommend starting with MGS 2. These are very story-oriented titles, so be prepared to put up with the lengthy cutscenes to get full enjoyment out of the titles. The graphics haven’t fared as well unfortunately. There’s little improvement over the original graphics, meaning that these feel like simple unaltered ports at times.
This package is unbelievable value for money. Gamers effectively get three full-length retail releases put together as one retail release. Each campaign will take players approximately ten hours to complete, but with all of the additional extras as well, there is the potential to sink 100 or more hours into this game. Be prepared for this sort of time sink if you want all of the achievements though. On the point of value for money alone, I can’t recommend this game enough.
4 stars out of 5