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Seeing as there doesn't seem to be a right place to start with this collection, we'll begin with Metal Gear Solid 2. Originally released on the Playstation 2 in 2001, Metal Gear Solid 2 was one of the largest, and best selling games of the year upon its release. A high budget action thriller that attempted to rival Hollywood blockbusters in terms of scope and story, Metal Gear Solid 2 followed the stories of spy-come-mercenary Solid Snake, and the androdgynoous Raiden, as they attempt to overthrow a terrorist plot, led by a group of four men known as Dead Cell. With a long, and deep conspiracy plot behind the action, all we can really say here is that Dead Cell are concerned with getting their hands on a Metal Gear - a giant, robotic, bipedal tank that can win entire wars on its own - and it's up to you to stop them. Needless to say, in a game that's meant to be an espionage thriller, nothing is as it seems, with plot twists aplenty on offer.
Far from the run and gun action of most games, the Metal Gear Solid games play out much more slowly. Rather than running in all guns blazing, you need to stay in the shadows, and get in, and out, undetected. You are playing as a spy, after all. What sets Metal Gear Solid apart, though, is how many nice little touches there are to help keep things interesting. If it's raining outside, and you walk inside, you'll leave wet footprints behind, which will tip the guards off to your location. If you alert a guard, the music changes, and a giant exclamation mark appears above their head, giving you plenty of time to leg it. Run into a nearby room, and you've got plenty of choices - either crawl under a table, and hope they don't notice you, pull out a cardboard box disguise, and hide underneath it (and hope there's meant to be a cardboard box in the room), or pull out your tranquiliser, and knock the guard out - although even then, you need to be careful where you shoot him. Get his foot, and it'll take a while to take effect - but hit his head, or chest, and he'll be out like a light.
What's always disturbing in this is quite how many things the guards notice. If anything's even slightly out of place, they'll at least take a look around, even if they do give up fairly easily. If you've been hiding under your box outside in the rain, and then move indoors, the guards will wonder what a wet box is doing indoors. Luckily, the numerous difficulty levels let you choose between trying to sneak past elite guards, or people who really should have dropped out of guard school, that you can all but wander right in front of without being spotted, making the game that little bit more accessible to play.
Sadly, though, in terms of accessibility, Metal Gear Solid 2 really shows its age. With an impenetrable control scheme, and a brief tutorial that inexplicably takes place after the first three hour long mission, you'll feel like a real spy out there, as you're definitely on your own. We could have probably figures things out ourselves, though, if the control scheme were a bit easier to handle. Even the act of tranquilising a guard is around ten times harder than it should be. If you want to shoot the guard with your dart, first you'll want to go into first person view, by holding the right bumper - then you'll want to pull your gun up, by clicking the left analogue stick. Now all that's left to do is to aim at the guard, by moving the left analogue stick, and press X to shoot. But be careful you don't miss. As Snake puts his gun down after every shot, should you miss the guard, you'll have to start pretty much from scratch - and now with an angry guard chasing you down.
Ideally, what would have made the biggest difference to Metal Gear Solid 2, then, rather than spruced up HD visuals, is a better tutorial, and a decent control scheme. While it does take around five hours to properly start getting into it, stick with it, and you'll be rewarded for your patience with a brilliantly over the top storyline in a game that really starts to grow on you the more you stick with. That's if you can get your head around the controls.
Metal Gear Solid 3, on the other hand, is much more accessible from the offset. With a slightly cheesier, James Bond feel, set in the midst of the cold war, the game that's subtitled Snake Eater sees poor old Snake being dropped off deep in a Russian jungle, and left to fend for himself, as he attempts to infiltrate a military base to rescue a soviet spy, who's being forced to work on a nuclear-equipped biped tank, or Metal Gear, known as Shagohod. As you may imagine, the mission gets kind of scuppered when a renegade outfit know as the Cobra Unit intercept Snake, and steal the scientist for their own purposes, firing a nuclear weapon in the process. Eager to avoid a full blown nuclear war, it's up to you, as Snake, to find the Cobra unit (each member of which has their own special power), and bring them to justice, in order to prove the United States' innocence.
With the same crazy (but interesting) storyline, and emphasis on stealth, Snake's trip to the jungle brings with it a fair few changes. Here, stealth is arguably even more important, but you need to worry about basic survival too. Stranded in the middle of the jungle, you'll need to scavenge, harvest, or catch food to eat - and only by experimenting can you find what foliage is good for you. Meanwhile, any injuries you sustain will need to be treated, as you have to clean, disinfect, and stitch any wounds shut, along with burning rubbish leeches off your body, kind of like a mini Trauma Center.
On the stealth side of things, things are different here too. Now, you can change the camouflage and facepaint you use at any time, and are given a rating depending on how well hidden you are, from 0 - 100%. This being set in the middle of a Soviet jungle, you'll need to keep your eyes open too, as landmines are scattered all around, and treading on one can bring with it dire consequences.
Bringing up the rear is Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, set in 1974 in Central America, that plays out pretty similarly to the other two. The big change here is the addition of a co-op mode, but, sadly, with no split-screen option, it never really lives up to its potential.
Rounding out the package are Metal Gear 1 and 2, both of which were originally released on the MSX2 and both of which are top-down, 2D stealth games that really help you see where the inspiration for a lot of Metal Gear came from. While they've understandably aged a lot now, these are both actually pretty fun to play, and a nice little extra to complete an impressive package.
With three full games for less than the price of one, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is well worth a look. While it's somewhat sad that it's missing the first Metal Gear Solid game, there's plenty here to provide a great look at why the Metal Gear series has gained such a huge fan base. Just bear in mind it's probably best not to start with Metal Gear Solid 2, as it's easily the most awkward of the bunch - we'd probably advise starting with 3.
- Plenty of games for your money.
- Big stories, lots of twists and turns, but plenty of cheese.
- Lots of nice touches that'll make you smile.
- Metal Gear Solid 2's controls.
- Lack of split screen co-op in Peace Walker.
- Where's Metal Gear Solid 1?