Metal Gear Solid is one of the most iconic stealth/action games in the genre to date. The franchise has won a plethora of prestigious awards and is acknowledged by some gamers to be one of the best game series of all time. As it was made popular on the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, there's no surprise that the franchise has cloned its hit titles Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal gear Solid 3 for the PlayStation Vita; fans can get their tactical fix whether in the forests of Russia or on the living room couch.
While the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection on PS3 contained three titles, sadly the Vita edition only contains two. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was apparently cut from the mix in an effort to help ensure that the other two titles were completed on time and were properly ported over to Vita.
Looking at the included titles chronologically, the story begins with Metal Gear Solid 3 (MGS3), set in Russia and primarily starring the iconic characters Naked Snake and his mentor, The Boss. The story is intensified with complex relationships and events that shape the future for titles like Metal Gear Solid 2 and PS3's Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots later in the timeline.
Since its original release on the PlayStation 2 in 2004, MGS3 has received enormous amounts of praise. Even by today’s standards, it has everything needed to administer an emotional and fulfilling story to the player without skimping on the quality of game play. It is truly one of the PlayStation ‘greats’.
After the events of MGS3, Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid comes Metal Gear Solid 2 (MGS2). As Snake and Otacon, Snake’s primary point of contact, attempt to stop the mobile nuclear launch device Metal Gear, the story behind Metal Gear’s purpose unfolds and disaster strikes.
Later in the events of MGS2 players will take control of Raiden on his first mission involving a hostage rescue from the terrorist groups Sons of Liberty and Dead Cell. In his mission, Raiden must face some over the top boss fights such as Fatman, an obese, psychopathic member of dead cell who specialises in bomb placement and removal. Oh, and he travels around on rollerblades. That gives you an idea of the style of storytelling in these titles.
While it might not be uncommon for cut scenes in either game to last for 30 minutes at a time, the stories these titles tell do not disappoint. Deep dialogue and unpredictable events kept us on the edge of our seats, and for some it'll provide an experience not easily forgotten. The by-product of these long cut scenes is that it makes for a less than ‘portable’ gaming experience. It is unlikely to be a game you pick up and play for only a few minutes at a time unless you are planning to do some VR (Virtual Reality) missions.
Often confusing at first, the complexity of these titles is one of Hideo Kojima’s signature traits of the series, and also provides a large amount of replay value for all Metal Gear titles. It's a series that is greatly improved the more titles that are completed; while some might view this as a downside, anyone who just plays a single title in the series is unlikely to understand enough to truly appreciate the deep story behind the complex character developments and timelines.
Similar to previous Vita titles such as Mortal Kombat and Rayman Origins, the graphics for these two titles appear to be on par with the console counterparts, with the exception of anti-aliasing issues in a couple of brief sections of MGS2. Even though some textures are still dated and the character and object models aren’t exactly up to the level of current gen games, the action is smooth, cut scenes look great and noticeable improvements exist from the original PS2 version.
There do appear to be significant lip syncing issues. It appears that while the audio is English, the graphical lip syncing has remained in Japanese, making somewhat awkward transitions in dialogue at times. Any fan of the franchise will know this is nothing new to the series.
One of the biggest surprises from this port is the quality of the audio, most specifically with MGS3. The jungle atmosphere comes to life through Vita’s tiny stereo speakers and mimics a slight feel of surround sound, while the breathtaking soundtrack by Harry Gregson-Williams in both games is clear and extremely fitting. It's definitely one of those situations where the music has the ability to immerse you in the world of Snake and truly add to the setting of the game.
The Vita edition of MGS:HD also offers a new twist on the old classic controls. For example, the inventory is controlled using the front touch screen while certain actions such as peeking around corners or performing CQC (Close Quarters Combat) actions are executed with the rear touchpad. While the inventory system is extremely easy and responsive to use, the advanced CQC actions using the rear touch pad can take a bit of getting used to, and often result in frantic swiping in order to get Snake to disable a guard. While not in the true Metal Gear Solid style, a tutorial would have been welcome for these advanced controls. It should also be noted that touch controls cannot be disabled.
Both MGS2 and MGS3 are recreations of their extended editions, subtitled Substance and Subsistence respectively. This means each contains bonus modes such as Snake Tales, Boss Rush and more VR missions: a full completion of either of these titles will take a significant amount of time for even the most veteran of soldiers. This collection also includes full copies of the original MSX2 titles, Metal Gear — not to be confused with the PlayStation game Metal Gear Solid — and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.
Owners of the PlayStation 3 copy of MGS:HD also have a nifty option; each title offers the ability to sync and share game saves across the PlayStation 3 version of MGS:HD and that of the Vita. You can either select to upload and link the game save to cloud storage specifically for these games, or you can transfer over Wi-Fi.
It’s worth mentioning that if the game save was on the PS3 before the transfer feature was added or if you created your game save while signed out of the PlayStation Network, you will be still able to transfer the game save back and forth: however, you will not be able to unlock trophies with that game save. Both the PS3 and Vita editions of the games do contain separate trophies lists, so as you unlock each trophy, you can sync your save to unlock the same trophy on the other platform. Who doesn't like double trophies?
While the lack of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is extremely disappointing, if you own a Vita and somehow managed to miss all of the previous releases of these two titles, now is a better time than ever to come out of your cardboard box and experience these two award winning games whether at home or on the go. Both contain enough thrilling action sequences, dynamic boss fights and heart pounding stealth action to appeal to fans of almost any genre of games.