To some, Konami’s Metal Gear series is the apex of game design. I’m a fan, but I’m not blind to the issues that the earlier games in the Solid lineage had and have since been slowly stripped away in later games; going back to Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater requires the player to rewire their muscle memories to wipe off the last decade of gaming.
Snake controls oddly, that much is as objective as anything I’ve ever written. Not badly, because once you’re an hour or so in the whole thing glides along and it starts to click back into place, but there are definite oddities in the lack of movement, swinging cameras and an adroitness to the stubborn lack of consistence.[drop2]But that’s the way things are, and the publisher isn’t going to change the fundamentals of the game for Vita, especially after not making any concessions for the console version of this HD remastering which we reviewed back in February.
There’s little point going back over old ground in that respect, so let’s concentrate on what’s new for the portable.
First off, I’m happy to report that the visuals have remained intact. Largely. The difference here on Vita is that the frame rate isn’t stable, it flicks between super smooth sixty (as per the original and HD versions) and half of that whenever there’s stuff going on, like an enemy or two. It’s jarring and frustrating, especially given the apparent power of the machine.
There are resolution issues too – again this is a game that isn’t running at the Vita’s native resolution. The UI looks nice and sharp, mind, which helps enormously with the overall aesthetics, but the action itself can look a tiny little bit blurry.
Other Vita changes include some intelligent touch screen use (especially in the way weapons and items are selected, with intuitive stacking scrollers that react nicely to dragging motions) and the ability to transfer your save games back and forth between this and the PS3 version, with even trophies syncing across.
Sadly though, the sublime Peace Walker is completely missing, despite its twin-stick update already being locked down for the console version of this Collection. Sure, the original MSX Metal Gear titles are here, but a duo of eight-bit retro games isn’t any substitute for one of the best in the series, and there’s still no original Metal Gear Solid, either.
What you’re left with, really, is two Metal Gear Solid games that have aged somewhat poorly in terms of controls and suffered a little bit visually. It’s a cut-down collection from what the PS3 and Xbox 360 got a few months ago, and doesn’t do much to entice newcomers to the saga whilst providing little that’s new to old hats.[drop]A poor choice, then? Well, no, because – as we said in our review back in February – these two games are absolutely brilliant. They are, they still are, and no amount of moaning about resolutions or load times will change the fact that they still play perfectly well and still offer days of top class entertainment.
The Vita’s desperate for some lengthy adventure games, and although Gravity Rush fills the gap nicely there’s just something about Kojima’s brand of stealthy action that really sets the Solid series apart from everything else.
It’s so meticulous, so clinical and so precise that every single pixel seems like it’s placed by hand.
And once you’ve got over the controls and start to play the games how they’re meant to be played (nobody’s wanting you to run and gun here, remember) the quality just starts to shine through. I’m a bigger fan of Two than Three – I loved Raiden and thought his inclusion was a genius master-stroke.
Here’s the truth, then: if you like the games included in this bundle and want to play them on the move, this is perfect for you – it’s a decent port, staying faithful to the originals and between them the two games will provide a huge amount of gaming. If you don’t like the games, this will do nothing to change your mind.
Like most HD remasters, the Metal Gear Solid Collection appeals to those with pre-loaded nostalgia. It’s not perfect, no, but for Vita fans it’s great value (it’s available for around £25) and absolutely warrants your attention when it’s released over here in Europe at the end of the month.