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Metal Gear Solid HD Collection review: The definitive handheld MGS

Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater look sharper than ever...

And now for portable platforms' greatest trick - cramming last-gen blockbusters onto palm-sized hardware. The 3DS gave Snake Eater a solid go in a fuzzier, jaggier port - but now it's time for Snake to come home.


Rather than a game nipped and tucked to suit the modest power of 3DS, this is the fully-fledged HD collection that made its way to consoles in February, minus PSP hit Peace Walker (it's already compatible, so there's no reason for Sony including it besides a sudden explosion of generosity). It's the definitive handheld Metal Gear experience, not only console-perfect, but thanks to the Vita's OLED screen, dual thumbsticks and touch features, even better.

Two Metacritic-conquering games lay before you. Your choices are 2001's postmodern story of kidnapped Presidents, terrorist-triggered environmental disasters and naked cartwheeling agents in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, or 2005's Cold War-era prequel Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, a back-to-basics survival story. Both games are as brilliant as they are incomprehensible.


Discarding continuity, Snake Eater should be your first shot - time's been kinder. At first, though, it feels distinctly old-fashioned, revolving around limited moves and stilted interactions within linear jungles and concrete facilities. Those expecting something closer to Splinter Cell pre-Conviction would do well to forget Ubisoft's stealth-'em-up series - barring a bit of sneaking they're not even in the same genre. The farther you go, the newer it feels, but you'll have to push past some rather outdated design on the way.

Take movement, for instance. You can't crouch-walk, which is surely lesson 101 in secret agent school. Snake's not Sam Fisher, permanently hunched, like a spec-ops Gollum; he can either run, walk, or creep along the ground in first-person, difficult with fully modelled waist-high grass blades (attractive as they are).


It's the same with combat; enemies don't flop convincingly to the floor after Snake's close-quarters-combat arsenal of chops, kicks and knife-to-the-throat hold-ups (use them to extract info from guards who mostly have just one quote which they'll endlessly repeat) but fall with exactly the same animation each time. Or hunting frogs, fish, crocodiles, birds and snakes, which upon death transform into bobbing cans of meat. Even the jungle, beautiful as it looks, feels poorly designed, an organic setting reduced to artificial layouts of passages and corridors flanked by walls of earth and separated by frequent loads times.

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