Cynicism, fairly or not, surrounds many HD remakes. Developers take an old game, increase the resolution, add a few Achievements and watch the money roll in. But in MGS HD's case, this is a chance to play the sublime Metal Gear Solid 3 on a Microsoft console for the first time, in HD.
Not only that, but MGS 2: Sons of Liberty, MGS: Peace Walker, and the two MSX games that introduced the world to Solid Snake. Cynicism doesn't enter into it.
The star of the package is undoubtedly MGS3: Snake Eater, but why should you care about a seven year-old PlayStation 2 game? Because it's veteran designer Hideo Kojima's finest work: a masterpiece of creativity, imagination and set-piece design.
It's a game about survival. You're dumped in the jungle with only the most basic tools, and have to sneak through enemy lines, living o the land to keep your stamina up, and your wounds healed. The jungle is fi lled with animals, fruit and fungus that you have to harvest and eat to stay alive. The real stars are the boss battles - perhaps the best of all time.
The one hour scrap with The End is brutally uncompromising, but once mastered, is never forgotten. Because the visuals are so stylised, it hasn't aged at all. The HD highlights how stunning the jungle looks, and now it runs at a tidy 60fps. It's easier to play too, thanks to a third-person camera taken from the limited-release 'Subsistence' version of the game.
MGS2: Sons of Liberty isn't bad either. It doesn't look quite as pretty, and its gameplay is much more straightforward than Snake Eater's, but is well worth revisiting. The tanker chapter, in which you play as Solid Snake before he's replaced by fl oppy-haired MGS: Rising star Raiden, shows off the HD visuals nicely.
The rain-lashed ship still looks great and it's full of insane micro-detail, like ice cubes that melt in real-time and flour bags that burst and spill when you shoot them. Back then it was a technical showcase for the PS2 and, oddly, it still impresses.
GIVE PEACE A CHANCE
Lastly, Peace Walker. This is a remake of what many consider the best game on Sony's PSP. It's set immediately after Snake Eater, and sees Big Boss forming an army and attempting to quell the illegal invasion of a peaceful South American state. Regular gameplay is classic MGS, but Peace Walker adds an incredibly deep management system where you control every element of your army, from individual soldiers to the design of your base.
Any enemy you take out in the field, providing you don't kill them, can be choppered back to your base. They'll have their own stats, portrait, and even a comedy 'quote', and you can take them out in the field to upgrade their stats. It's like Pokemon, but with soldiers, and it's madly addictive. Oddly, despite being a newer game, Peace Walker is the least good-looking of the bunch. This is because the textures were originally designed for the much smaller screen resolution of the PSP.
One thing it does have over the handheld version, however, is that you're now able to play co-op - one of the game's highlights - with real people over Xbox Live.
The MSX games are more historical curios than something you'll want to sit down and play all the way through. They're a cool bonus, though, and it's interesting to see the genesis of a series that's been around since the late '80s. What's interesting is that these versions have been tweaked to fit in with the storyline of the newer games, as the original translation was famously bad.
The character portraits have been updated too; Big Boss no longer looks like Sean Connery, upon whom he was originally based. The MGS series has always been polarising. Some dislike its reliance on lengthy cut-scenes and complicated story, while others see that cinematic flair as one of its defining features.
Either way, this is your chance to replay some of the most interesting, weird, wonderful games ever made in the resolution they deserve. If it was only Snake Eater we'd probably recommend it, but with the other games thrown in, it's the best of the multitude of forthcoming 360 HD remakes, with a timeless core appeal.
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