More than 26 years ago, the original Metal Gear game released on MSX2 8-bit computers, enabling games of the later 80s to play the beginning of what would be an enormous franchise of stealth-action games. The MSX wasn’t really a gaming platform. It was an 8-bit PC computer that ran the DOS Operating System. But, still, this led to a sequel, and then Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation, a game many gamers claim to be the start of one of the greatest franchises of all time. It then continued on the PS2 with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
There is much more Metal Gear history to be told, but here is where we will stop for today. With Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3, Konami and Kojima Productions pushed the PS2 as well as the Stealth genre with deep storytelling and a storyline to keep the player interested, from beginning to end. These two adventures are available in the palm of your hand, thanks to the PlayStation Vita version of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.
The first thing I would like to mention is the one downside to this collection. As you may know, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection also released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. In those releases, it included Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, along with 2 and 3. Because of space limitations, only 2 and 3 were released for the PlayStation Vita (though you can download the PSP version of Peace Walker onto the Vita from the PlayStation Store). Still, with four games (the Subsistence version of MGS3 is included, which has Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 included), this collection is well worth the price of having two of the greatest stealth games of all time in the palm of your hand.
The plot of this series is a very complex one. Chronologically, Metal Gear Solid 3 comes first, and then Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2. All of these were prequels to the original Metal Gear Solid, and then 2 takes places afterwards. If that didn’t sound complex enough, trying to understand the entire franchise’s plot will satisfy that need. The storyline is difficult to describe all at once. But the main plot of each title is that you are a one-man army set on infiltrating enemy territory and keeping terrorists from having nuclear capabilities of striking against the world. They are also set around “Metal Gear” which is a code-name for a nuclear-equipped mobile tank.
In Metal Gear Solid 2, you follow the footsteps of Solid Snake and Raiden as they infiltrate the “Big Shell” toxic waste plant to keep a terrorist group from killing the U.S. President and threaten the world with a nuclear war. In Metal Gear Solid 3, you are Naked Snake (Later to be a well-known series character), tasked with infiltrating a Russian base to rescue a scientist, stop production on a nuclear-equipped tank, and confronting a U.S. traitor whom is a close contact with Snake.
As far as gameplay is concerned, the two games differ a little. The main point is that you are traveling through areas and must remain unnoticed. There will be guards in each section and you must stay out of their line of sight. Being caught will result in an alert being sounded and reinforcement troops arriving. Collecting items and weapons, infiltrating locations, and discovering more of what’s going on is a vital piece of what makes Metal Gear Solid what it is.
Progressing varies between Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3. Metal Gear Solid has an overhead view, mostly showing the perspective from a bird’s-eye view. You can run around areas and get by guards either by sneaking past them, or cornering them to knock them out, or by taking them out with weapons. You can Auto-Aim with an equipped weapon, or enter into First-Person View to manually aim towards them. Metal Gear Solid 3 differs in the fact that it has a more “3rd Person Shooter” perspective, placing the camera directly behind the character.
The big thing that makes Metal Gear Solid 3’s gameplay stand out is the inclusion of camouflage and survival elements. In Metal Gear Solid 3, you have stamina that deteriorates over time, and you have to replenish it by eating food. You don’t have food with you all the time, so you are forced to hunt and eat animals that you encounter throughout the game. This can include snakes, frogs, fish, or even alligators. You must find food and either stun it or kill it to collect it and use it as an energy refresher.
The survival aspect is a little different. When you get hit in most games, you just use a Ration or Medical Pack to replenish HP. That works in most games, but not Metal Gear Solid 3. If you sustain injury, you have several different methods of healing. If you have a burn, you have to use ointment and a bandage to heal it, or it will never be healed. If you have a broken bone, you have to use the proper materials to solve it. It’s all about using the right materials (when you have the materials) to properly heal your injury.
Lastly is the camouflage. You gain different uniforms throughout the game and, by using different uniforms; you can blend in with your surroundings to bypass guards easier. This can be from color-coded uniforms to official uniforms that make you look like an enemy soldier.
The games control fairly easily on the Vita. Movement is controlled by the Left Analog Stick and the camera can be moved with the Right Analog Stick. The face buttons are used to interact. X will let you crouch or move into a crawling stance. Square lets you fire your equipped weapon. Triangle enables you to interact with objects, such as computers. Lastly, Circle allows you to punch and kick enemies. L and R are used for the first-person perspective. Select brings up the radio, which is used to call your contacts or to save the game.
The touch screen and back touch pads are used for a few things in this game. The Rear Touch Panel is used for very little, but doing the pull-up mini-game when you’re hanging from a ledge. The front touch screen is used for your inventory. You can press and hold the touch screen to bring up your Weapon or Item inventories and choose what you wish to equip. Other than that, the touch screen is left alone for the majority of the game(s).
Visually, the games look fantastic. Although the Vita’s OLED isn’t an “HD” display, the games look beautiful. Somewhere between the quality of the originals and that of the HD versions for PS3 and Xbox 360, they look great on the Vita’s smaller screen. The sound is decent quality as well. It is quiet in some sections, but overall, these games were ported to the Vita very well.
All in all, this is a must-have for any Vita owner who is also a Metal Gear fan. With four games included, this collection has hours upon hours upon hours of game time, not including replaying the games for unlock-able items. If you buy this and play everything, you will be busy for a long time. The exclusion of Peace Walker is disheartening, but the collection is still an excellent deal for your money.