Review: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection Offers Nostalgia in High Definition
At a Glance
I wonder what would happen if Thomas Wolfe, the novelist who originally uttered that one "can't go home again," found himself in a GameStop circa 2011. I have no trouble grasping the underlying intention of his oft-used idiom -- that what's happened in the past should be left there, as it only lives on through our memories and lingering regrets -- but I've just wrapped up my fourth re-skinned video game re-release in as many months. And just like every other title I've recently re-discovered under deadline, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection has transported me right back to where I was when I first played each of its up-rezzed entrants upon their original releases.
Video games are funny like that -- even years after their sell-by dates, they have a very distinct way of sticking with you long after the final cut-scene concludes and the credits roll. Sure, we never forget our first love, but we also never forget that panicked feeling of flight that struck our gut like a reticulated python when we first fought The End. But unlike Taylor Jennings in my fifth grade English class (Editor's note: I'll never forget you), video games are ever-present constants in our lives, easily accessible and ripe for re-examination at a moment's notice, assuming you have the proper hardware at the ready.
Fond remembrance aside, I won't even attempt to recount the Metal Gear Solid saga's twisty, turvy, melodramatic, and occasionally overwrought plot in this review -- suffice to say "clones, war, nukes, soldiers" and leave it at that -- but each game's most iconic instances look outstanding in high definition. From Naked Snake's first harrowing Halo jump to battlefield brat Raiden's final sword-slinging showdown with Solidus, the games look great, and run at a consistent frame-rate throughout. As is a symptom of all HD ports, however, there's certainly a disparity between character models and environmental textures (PSP port Peace Walker in particular can look pretty muddy), but it's rarely enough to detract from the experience. (Hideo Kojima's dialogue does that all on its own, yuk yuk yuk.)
While Snake Eater and Sons of Liberty (based on the Subsistence and Substance re-releases, respectively) are still stellar stealth experiences, shooter-centric middle child Peace Walker may be the standout game of the bunch. I still have the torn tendons from my 30-or-so hours with the PSP original, and not only is this upscaled iteration easier to maneuver, it may have the best control scheme of all three. Boasting a Big Boss that can crouch-walk and blast baddies with the right shoulder button, Peace Walker is a stellar match for an HD-gen controller that also serves to contrast the somewhat clunky controls of the Collection's other, older games. That's not to say that they're bad or broken, but they do show their age in the wake of the strides made by Guns of the Patriots and last year's Peace Walker.
Speaking of Peace Walker, I found the cross-platform Transfarring service to work like a charm, and had no trouble toggling my save-game back and forth from PSP to PS3. The PS3 port also boasts co-op and versus multiplayer across PSN, but, as far as I can tell, there's no way for those packing PSPs to play with console gamers.
Melodramatic monologues and clunky controls aside, there isn't a whole lot else I can say about the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection outside of this: if you loved these three gruff, gravel-voiced games on their original releases, or missed them the first time around, they're certainly worth adding (or re-adding, or, if you're like me, re-re-adding) to your library. War has changed, sure, but everything that makes the Metal Gear Solid saga such good, goofy fun is as consistent as it ever was.