Metal Gear Solid HD Collection|
The PS3 has become the popular destination for numerous HD remakes of last-gen classics, but none of them have really interested me until now. Metal Gear Solid is one of my all-time favorite game franchises, ranking right up there (and possibly exceeding) Splinter Cell when it comes to solo gaming, so when Metal Gear Solid HD Collection came up for review on the PS Vita I was ready for immediately deployment, especially since I didn’t have the opportunity to play or review the PS3/360 version when it released late last year.
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is a compilation of two of the best Metal Gear installment in the history of the franchise, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, along with a blast from the past; 1987’s Metal Gear and 1990’s Metal Gear 2 MSX games as well as a generous helping of VR missions that are oddly more suited for handheld gaming than the two main attractions. I’m not going to elaborate on the specifics of these games; you can read the original reviews if this is your first tour of duty with Snake. Instead, I will be focusing on this particular bundle and why you should consider it for your Vita.
Perhaps the most impressive thing I can say about this HD remastering of Metal Gear Solid is just how amazing it actually looks. While there are a few very minor texture issues and the occasional hiccup in framerate, overall I would rate the visuals in this game as far superior to those of the recently released Resistance: Burning Skies game, and that was designed exclusively for the Vita and its capabilities. The next-gen presentation is complete when you factor in Harry Gregson-William masterful score and David Hayter’s perfect voicing of Solid Snake; just one member of a fantastic ensemble voice cast.
While Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker proved that you could take this franchise to a portable system, there is no denying Metal Gear is better with dual sticks, which makes the Vita the perfect portable destination for Snake. The smooth and precise analog movement works great in the 3D world of Subsistence and even in the more awkward world of Sons of Liberty where you have far less control over the camera. The Vita also has touch abilities and the designers have made sure to include several features, some very cool, some forgettable, and most of them entirely optional.
First up, in Subsistence you have the ability to touch and drag on any of the in-game cutscenes to zoom and pan around the video while it continues to play. Sure, it’s gimmicky, but it’s also a great way to appreciate the level of detail in these remastered graphics. Once in the game you’ll find touch and slider access along each side of the screen to access and equip weapons and inventory items. Once equipped you simply tap the icon to “quick switch” your weapon. If you happen to have your combat knife equipped you can use the rear touch pad to stab and swipe at enemies. You can also use the rear pad to choke enemies and apply a bit of pressure during interrogations. Another nice feature is the ability to peek around corners. When Snake is stuck to cover you can slowly drag your finger left or right to have him inch toward the corner and look around.
Sons of Liberty doesn’t make nearly as much use of the touch features, allowing you to touch and drag to move sideways when hanging from a ledge or railing or take a quick sidestep in first-person view, or slowly rise up a few inches to peek over tall objects. There are only a few instances during the game when you are required to use these touch inputs and most of the time they are purely optional, and you can continue to play with sticks and buttons if you wish. The one touch feature I did enjoy was the new intuitive and highly accessible inventory system – so much faster than a menu or pop-up radial hub.
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is pretty much the same game you may or may not have already played if you picked up the console version last November with one notable exception. Perhaps due to more space on a Blu-ray disc or less space on a game card, console gamers got the added bonus of having Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (the fantastic 2010 PSP game) in their HD Collection, but that title is MIA on the Vita bundle. That’s not to say Vita gamers can’t still play Peace Walker. You can download the PSP version of the game, but at $30 and with no HD upgrade, I’m not sure you’d want to. You would be better off using that money to purchase a PS3 copy of the HD Collection, not only to get an HD version of Peace Walker, but also so you can make use of Cloud Saves (Transfarring) to share your gameplay between console and handheld.
Let’s face it; Metal Gear Solid is not the ideal franchise for portable gaming. Both main games feature huge complex stories and gameplay that requires dedicated focus and unwavering attention. These are the games that you’d play on your console for lengthy sessions that would go well beyond the Vita battery life. Honestly, most of my mobile gaming on the Vita, or any other portable system, is usually in 30-60 minute spurts. In Subsistence, after opening movies and non-stop radio chatter, you don't really start "playing" the game until 32 minutes in, so unless you are doing a lot of non-stop, coast-to-coast or international air travel where you find yourself trapped on a plane, it might be hard to carve out enough time to work your way through the 30-50 hours of Metal Gear gameplay and lengthy cutscenes…unless you are “transferring” with your PS3.
Whether this is your first time playing a Metal Gear Solid game or you are just looking to reenlist for a second tour of duty in this stunning HD remake, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is a great experience on the Vita that makes creative and often effective use of the touch inputs and truly puts the power of a console in the palm of your hand. I’d probably have to give a slight nod in favor of the console version, both because of Peace Walker and the fact these games are easier to play at home, but still, if you are looking for a great stealth-action experience to take with you on the road, you won’t find anything finer than Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for the PS Vita.