Metal Gear Solid HD Collection Vita Review
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Sep 14, 2012 14:27
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Written by: Alex
Vita HD Collection:
To any gamer the name Hideo Kojima paints an immediate image of high polish gameplay and bizarre winding story. Marking the zenith of his creative talents is the Metal Gear Solid series.
Each game in the series delivers a mix of stealth combat and cinematic action unlike any game preceding them, and they remains unchallenged in the genre. Konami’s release of the "Metal Gear Solid HD Collection" therefore comes as no surprise, especially with the recent trend to cash in on people's nostalgia. But will the Vita HD Collection measure to the home console versions, or will it lose something in translation?
Lengthy, verbose and cinematic, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 remain some of the best-known (but least understood) stories in gaming. The best I can offer here is a fleeting overview of their complexity; a small fraction of the tapestry Kojima has created over the franchise’s history.
MGS2 follows Snake, and Raiden, as they fight an elite mercenary group known as FoxHound
through a vast industrial plant (basically an oilrig). Boss fights, sneaking and an incomprehensible story about secret societies make up the backbone of the game’s appeal.
For me however it is the strange fourth wall breaking elements that see really make the second game stand out. While in-game characters commonly talk about the controls in a very overt fashion throughout the series, MGS2 takes it to a new level as Raiden’s constructed psychology begins to break down as his training become undone. While for some MGS2 is regarded as the weakest of the series (partly due to not casting Snake in a staring role), it none the less builds many characters of the ‘modern’ MGS timeline's lore.
MGS3 takes things back to the 60’s, and sets up the franchises back-story, taking place even before even the original 8-bit Metal Gear games. Despite using the same engine as 2 it's outdoor Jungle setting for much better. This prequel title establishes the origins of the huge mobile-nuke-platforms (the ‘Metal Gears’) and provides back-story to a few notable characters, including Solid Snake’s genetic source Snake (AKA Big Boss). With some truly outstanding boss fights (including one where the character will die of old age if left alone long enough) and equipment in keeping with the era, MGS3 introduced some interesting twists to the formula of previous MGS titles.
But each game’s over plot fades in comparison to the style with which they are presented. Long fully voiced radio conversations and cut-scenes that go on for hours (literally) create an investment that gives more meaning to the onscreen action than is usually expected in a game.
In terms of control MGS 2 and 3 are very similar, but the backdrop of their different environments and time periods manage to greatly alter how they function. Both games retain their awkward and slightly outdated mechanics; even the implementation of the Vita’s touch screen did little to alleviate my desire for an extra thumb as I played. The complication of input is built on by fixed camera angles, ‘tank’ controls and a first person view that seems to activate at the game’s discretion, which can be distracting when trying to follow enemy movements.
MGS2 is certainly the simpler of the two games in its implementation of control. Seeing Raiden running around the huge industrial complex there is little subtlety in technique to the hiding. Ducking between cover points and using high tech equipment to track anyone in the area, it is almost possible to focus on the mini-map and turn the whole thing into a slow-paced, technically complex, game of Pac-Man.
MGS3 with its jungle setting on the other hand has Snake using far less advanced monitoring equipment and a variety of camouflage to aid in his infiltration. Radar and basic motion trackers play a part in this, but the older tech drains battery and has far more limited functionality than in 2. This makes line of sight and planning every move far more important, all of which takes time to master thanks to the control and camera issues. On top of this the story of MGS3 takes place over a far more extended period of time than 2, requiring Snake heal and survive off what he finds in the environment (such as snakes) to keep his health and stamina up.
Make no mistake that both these games were made in the PS2 era. Their new HD textures go some way to making up for this, but their 32-bit roots are clear. That isn’t to say they look bad, the MGS games have always pushed the platforms they grace to their limits, but high-resolution textures are not enough to bridge the gap between the present crop and last generation.
That said I was often surprised by the amount of detail in the world, and the Vita small screen size creates a crispness not present on the home console HD collection purely by virtue of scale. Though I could never ignore either game’s more notable failings in visual fidelity, I am shocked at how well they have stood the tests of time.
As I previously said, the smaller screen covers some of the graphical shortcomings of the collection’s performance when placed along side the home console version. It portability is also allows it to be played on the go, a massive bonus for some players. But despite these positives, not every change is for the better.
The handheld’s form factor has requires some clear allowances made to the control scheme. Though some of these function well (replacing buttons with onscreen touch elements) they take away from the authenticity of the experience. Equally while I appreciate being able to take your games with you anywhere is an advantage, the MGS series is perhaps the epitome of an experience that should be watched on a home cinema system with time to spare, not between train stops. Incredibly long cut scenes will often demand pauses as you reach a destination (luckily the Vita’s standby function is fantastic), which significantly damages the flow of the story. It is no exaggeration to say that as you begin MGS3 there is a 30 min intro with no gameplay, and that is just a taster of the rest of the game’s pace. As a port its perfect, but is not a natural fit for the platform.
All of which makes the final concession for the Vita version all the more notable, the omission of MGS: Peace Walker from the 360 and PS3 HD collections. This PSP title was highly regarded by developer Hideo Kojima, who thought of it almost as MGS5, and a chronological sequel to MGS3. The reason for the absence is clear, space. While the 360 version could spread across two DVDs, and the PS3 had all the capacity of Bluray at its disposal, the Vita, with its expensive solid state memory, did not allow enough (affordable) space for all three video/voice heavy games.
This is a real shame as Peace Walker is probably the most overlooked of the franchise and is also designed for play on the go, with shorter missions designed for piecemeal gaming. I can’t help but feel that Peace Walker would have been a better fit than MGS2 for the Vita collection because of its portable design philosophy, and its strong narrative ties to MGS3.
Make no mistake the "Metal Gear Solid HD Collection" brings together two classic titles in a single package. They look better than ever, control well and remain some of the most intriguing and iconic stories in gaming. They have dated, and if you have played both before their value is dependent on your own nostalgia, but for younger gamers they are a fine addition to their Vita library.
However the real question is if the Vita version is worth getting over the PS3 or 360 versions, and here the answer is a resounding ‘No’. A smaller price tag may make up for some of the limitations, but ultimately sat at home with the spare time to fully enjoy the story remains the best way to experience Metal Gear Solid.
+ Fantastic voice acting
+ Visual touch up of the classics
Long cut-scenes not a good fit for handheld
- No Peace Walker
- Different controls rob some authenticity