When the Metal Gear Solid series hit Playstation many years ago, I was a solely a PC gamer. In the time since, the only Metal Gears I have played through were the first two from the MSX era. See, that’s one of the (few) advantages of having a massive back catalog of games that I want to get and play through someday — chances are, these days, good ones will be HD-ified and released in very convenient collections.
And that’s where I’m at with the Metal Gear series. I suppose being released in 1998 and on the original PlayStation, not to mention the re-make on Gamecube (Twin Snakes), Konami decided to leave out Metal Gear Solid from this collection. Still, you’re getting three classics from the series. Metal Gear games have been coming out for twenty-plus years and cover a massive world created by Kojima and his crew. The games are not in chronological order, with prequels injected on more than one occasion. This set is a great example of that.
As soon as you launch the game from the XMB, within just a few, quiet seconds, you are presented the title select screen, which is divided into three equal parts. The games are ordered left to right by their position in the multi-decade storyline. First up is MGS 3: Snake Eater, first released in 2004 on the PS2, which is set in 1964. Then is 2010’s PSP-exclusive, Peace Walker, which takes place in 1974. 2001’s MGS2: Sons of Liberty takes place in modern times, 2007-2009. Generally, I like to play a series based on when the games were released, but it made sense, given the breadth of the series and the connections between the games, to tackle this one starting with Snake Eater.
In Snake Eater, you are David Hyter, codenamed Naked Snake, or just Snake. As the game explains during open cutscenes, the end of WWII split the world into East and West. The Cold War was underway, and the intense standoff of the Cuban Missile Crisis had only further raised East/West tensions. A major reason why the Crisis was ended was because the United States agreed to hand over a Soviet rocket science who had defected some years before. He was helped out of Soviet territory by the CIA, and now the US was handing him back over. To what end they weren’t sure, but moles within the KGB soon revealed that he was being forced to work on a secretive weapon. That doesn’t sit well with the US, so they’re sending in Fox unit to get him back. Snake, a former Green Beret and all around warrior, gets dropped in behind Soviet airspace. It’s up to him and his contacts, reachable only by radio, to pull off this op.
Snake Eater is turning out to be my favorite. I love the fact that it’s set in the 60s and is primarily set in the jungle. Having to literally kill snakes and steal rations for food is just badass, and being able to sneak around outdoors is great. In this HD Collection, the aiming system from MGS3: Subsistence is included, as well as the MSX versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, which you should definitely check out. You can save your game at anytime and if nothing else, grab a walkthrough and play through them in a few hours over a weekend, which is what I did. They’re good games and they’ll give you a better appreciation for this series and where it’s going.
I’m not as worried about spoilers in this review as I normally am, given the age of these games (well, except Peace Walker) and that the Metal Gear stories and characters are fairly well known. That said, suffice it to say that MGS3 included a major secondary plot involving Snake and his mentor, The Boss, who shows up again in later MGS titles.
Fast forward ten years, and Snake’s story continues in MGS: Peace Walker. The PSP exclusive takes place in 1974, following Portable Ops, and is set in Central America. Snake, thought to have been dead, re-emerges as Big Boss and has his own merc force. One of the major changes with Peace Walker was the inability to shoot while lying prone or when against a wall. Three different control schemes are offered though, so it shouldn’t be long before you get comfortable. As with the other Metal Gear games, the depth of controls is surprising. Staying covert is the name of the game though, and that requires a lot of interesting close quarters moves. Anyway, in Peace Walker, Snake and his Soldiers Without Borders group intend to stop a rising military force known as the Peace Sentinels who are growing their influence in Costa Rica. Their actions could alter the balance of the Cold War, so they must be kept in check.
The third critically acclaimed game in this set is MGS2: Sons of Liberty, although this is actually MGS2: Substance, which is similar to what MGS3: Subsistence is to MGS3: Snake Eater — in other words, it’s the definitive version, including lots of bonus missions. The main plot includes a pair of chapters that take place in modern times. The story involves Snake and Raiden, who is set to get his own game in 2012 (MGS: Rising). Plots include confirming the existence of a new Metal Gear and rescuing the US President. It’s obviously a lot deeper than that, but I’m still working my way through all of these games and there are many, many resources online that provide a lot of analysis and discussion into the MGS stories.
These are three excellent games, no doubt about it. The HD Collection does a great job of sprucing up the visuals, although don’t expect modern day quality here, at least not in the technical sense. The art direction quality is superb, both visually and aurally, but there is only so much you can do with titles that are designed for the PSP (Peace Walker) and that are seven and ten years old. Still, you can tell that these games were improved, perhaps especially with MGS3 which features a lot of jungle scenery.
To the summary…