Metal Gear Solid is a funny old series, isn't it? It has moments of exquisitely tense and thrilling gameplay... and then bookends those moments with increasingly lengthy, increasingly absurd, increasingly exposition-filled cutscenes.
Both sides of the coin are on full display in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, and how much you should care depends on how much of a fan you are. If you're casually curious about the series, then I have a few things to tell you about before you dip your toe.
If you're a diehard MGS lover, then you probably actually quite like the stealth gameplay and the convoluted plots. Either way, you can rest assured that this collection has been made with the sort of care that these games deserve.
So what do we have here? Well, what we do not have is the first Metal Gear Solid. It remains, in my opinion, the best of the series, so it's a shame - and a puzzling shame, at that - to not have it included here. However, you do get the PlayStation 2's Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, along with the PSP's Peace Walker. Let's break it down...
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was famous back in the day for misleading players about the prominence of Solid Snake, everyone's favourite Kurt Russell lookalike.
It's also where the truly crazy plot elements the series is famous for came into play: you have a whiny main character who's constantly berated by his girlfriend via intercom while trying to rescue hostages; a villain from the previous game returns possessed by the arm of Snake's evil twin; and the amount of double-and-triple crossing gets rather hard to follow.
Put that aside - or indeed, try to enjoy it and follow along - and you've also got some stealth action that is simultaneously dated and fun. Games like this have come a long way since the early 2000s, and it shows in the awkward controls. But once you get to grips with it, there's a lot of fun to be had here. I may rail against the silly plot, but can still be a sucker for it at times.
More importantly: the polished nature of the game, combined with the HD scrub-up, means it holds up surprisingly well. There are many, many moment throughout where you're painfully aware of the game's age, but it's also not hard to get immersed. This is how the game looks in your rose-tinted memory.
All of this applies to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater as well - with the added bonus that it's arguably the stronger entry in the series. Although it's still a slow burner, with its fair share of boring cutscenes and expository meanderings, it's also comparatively tighter and more focused. The camouflage system, the lush jungle setting, and many of the marquee battles combine to make for a very enjoyable game.
And finally, we have Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, the odd one out of the bunch. Acting as a direct sequel to MGS3, it was originally released for the PSP, and it shows.
The graphics naturally don't hold up as well as the other two games, and the game is lacking in some of the series' traditional pomp and memorable boss battles. At first, it can feel sub-par.
But stick with it, and you'll find that what it lacks in some traditional MGS elements, it makes up with streamlined gameplay, a heap of bite-sized missions, and - most importantly - an almost Monster Hunter-like collection system. Throughout the game, you must kidnap and recruit enemy soldiers to your own cause. These soldiers, once on your side, can be assigned to various departments such as R&D or even into skirmishes. It provides a cool counterpart to the stealth offerings, and makes for an oddly compelling package.
And there you have it: three Metal Gear Solid games for your HD console, updated with care, and still with all the elements of the series you may love or despise. The lack of the original MGS is, once again, really stupid. But otherwise, if you're a fan of these games, you shouldn't hesitate in grabbing these versions if you're looking to play them again. It's harder to know if newcomers will appreciate all the foibles on display here, but this collection is as good a place as any to get yourself acquainted should you feel the need.
Platform: Xbox 360/PS3