Metal Gear Solid HD Collection Review (Xbox360)

HD Collections are becoming commonplace in the current games industry. Halo, Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider and most notably The Ico & Shadow of Colossus Collection are just a few of the series that have made the transition from the previous generation. Metal Gear Solid HD Collection may just be the most impressive package yet, showcasing 3 phenomenal games from the PS2 and PSP in HD and together for the first time. The series that redefined the stealth genre has earned heaps of critical praise over the years, but with Metal Gear Solid 2 now over 10 years old, are these missions worth returning to in 2012?

In short, most definitely. This is the most featured packed collection of games since Valve's Orange Box, each of the 3 titles here being the definitive versions. MGS2 and 3 appear in their Substance and Subsistence editions, packing hundreds of VR missions, bonus features and the original two MSX2 Metal Gear games for good measure. The latest entry in the series, 2010's Peace Walker makes its first appearance on home consoles too, with controls updated to use both analog sticks and the additional shoulder buttons extremely well. All 3 games were essential already, but do they stand up to current gaming standards?

Capturing and eating local creatures is an essential part of the mission in Snake Eater

Once you boot the game up, it's obvious which order Kojima, the brains behind the madness that is Metal Gear, wants you to play through the titles here. Chronologically Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the first game in the series, where the main character isn't even the Solid Snake featured in the title. In fact you only play as the actual Snake for about an hour in MGS2, the rest of the time playing as either Raiden or his 'Father' Big Boss (Snake was cloned from Big Boss, hence the uncanny resemblance). Both Peace Walker and Snake Eater capture the 60's era perfectly, while MGS2 brings the action to 2009, making for 3 very different experiences and which you prefer will largely depend on your play style.

Metal Gear Solid 3 is a game about survival, the delicacy mentioned in the title being as integral to the game as sneaking abilities turn out to be. To maintain Snake's (Big Boss's codename is also Snake) stamina you must capture animals and other flora and fauna to eat. Injuries from bullets, burns and broken bones effect what you can do at any point as well, so you must cure each injury through the use of bandages, antiseptic and the like. It gives the game a great sense of the era, before the technology seen in other Metal Gear titles was available. This also means that there is no Radar in Snake Eater, stealth depending on the use of Camouflage and various pieces of equipment. It gives the jungle setting even more impact, as you must become one with the environment to effectively complete your mission.

He may look like Solid Snake but the hero of MGS3 and Peace Walker is in fact Big Boss

Without going into specific plot points, which MGS fans will know could take thousands of words to convey, Peace Walker follows 10 years on from the dramatic events of Snake Eater. The biggest change to the formula is that while the game has a continuous narrative, it is split up into separate 'missions' each of which restricting you to a small part of the map. You plan which weapons and items to take with you on each mission replacing the backpack seen in Snake Eater. As mentioned before, the controls have been given a revamp to even more accurately replicate those seen in Metal Gear Solid 4. On PSP the obvious problems with the lack of a right stick make this a much superior way to experience the game. These differences make Peace Walker feel very different to either of the other games here, something like shooting being mapped to R1 instead of Square is more of a change than you would think. Peace Walker was great on PSP, but it's fantastic on PS3.

But with a trio of games in a package like this there has to be a favourite in there. As a huge fan of the series, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is my pick for the best, the pure madness on display in just about every one of the game's cutscenes making me marvel at just how Kojima ever thought up such a crazy world. For those who have played the PS1 Metal Gear Solid, this is as familiar as the series has been since, an intentional choice as seen in one of the game's more shocking plot twists. The enclosed setting is completely different to the expansive jungle setting of the other two games in the collection, the Big Shell setting in particular being a set of interconnected 'levels' giving parts of Sons of Liberty a unique flavour.

Cutscenes in Peace Walker are presented in a moving graphic novel style

You see the character of Snake from a third person perspective for the first time too, which not only comes as a huge shock to the system, but allows for some interesting character development alongside the Kojima craziness. It may take multiple playthroughs to actually understand what some characters are talking about, but once you break the surface and see MGS2 as the immersive experience that it is, it's one of the most intriguing narratives ever seen in games. With the game now 10 years old, and having played through countless times over the years I always find myself in awe of Sons of Liberty, the mark of a true classic.

Metal Gear Solid is not for everyone, and those people who tried to enjoy the series and never could won't find much has changed here. The HD upgrade is exactly that, an upgrade, and doesn't fundamentally change anything about any of the 3 games. That said, with titles that were this good to begin with, this isn't a problem for everyone else. In fact, as a huge MGS fan the most notable change was that the button to select things on menus had changed from O to X. It shows just how much of an effect the series has had on me over the last 10 years that I sort of missed this slightly obtuse, and attention seeking need to buck videogame norms that was the cherry on top of a hugely inventive and original set of games. This is more than just an HD Collection, this is no less than 3 of the best games ever made, not just for their respective platforms, but in the history of games. Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is an essential purchase, and more content worth experiencing than just about any other game released in the past year.

Top Game Moment: Colonel Campbell telling the player to "turn the console off, you've been playing too long" near the end of MGS2.

Platform Played: PlayStation 3