The Metal Gear Solid franchise is full of absurdities.
Adding to the franchise’s absurd nature, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, an anthology containing three out of the five games in the series, does not have you controlling the primary protagonist Solid Snake. Well, not really.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the first game in the collection, is best remembered for it’s protagonist Raiden.
Set on ‘Big Shell’, an off-shore oil rig, you’re tasked with rescuing the President from terrorist capture. Things soon go tits up. Upon reaching the President you learn that the off-shore plant is actually an underwater super computer, democracy as we know it is a scam, and that the United States is controlled by a mysterious group of people known as the ‘Patriots’. Truly absurd.
A host of gameplay additions such as first person gunplay were also introduced, allowing players to manually aim their weapon; players could cause guards to urinate themselves by aiming particularly intimidating weapons at them, for example.
The visuals were also spectacular. Rain glistened and dappled, Raiden’s hair swished and swayed and glass smashed in minute pieces rather than great chunks. The HD remaster won’t make this game impress you like it once would, but it does clean up the visuals and remove any jagged lines.
Whilst Metal Gear Solid 2 will be remembered for it’s ridiculous plot, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater will be remembered as not only the best game in the series, but one of the greatest games of all time. You control Big Boss, a soldier so impressive he would later be cloned to create Solid Snake. This is an origin story. As Big Boss you’re sent on a sneaking mission to kill your former mentor ‘The Boss’, the woman who not only taught you every skill you know, but raised you like a son. For your country you’re tasked with bringing down the one woman who’s ever meant anything to you, a feat that would eventually go on to shape the rest of the series.
You’re dropped into a Soviet jungle during the Cold War with nothing but a knife, a pistol, some rations and some cigarettes. From there you must hunt for food to survive and camouflage yourself to the swampy surroundings. Your mission leads you to swimming through crocodile infested waters, rescuing a Russian scientist, infiltrating the Soviet fortress of Groznyj Grad, and eventually, after a particularly bombastic motorcycle escape, confronting the woman who means everything to you.
The HD version included in the remaster is also the best version, not only is it revitalised by crisp graphics and a smooth frame rate but it includes the alternative camera mode only previously available in the ultra rare Subsistence version.
The final piece of the Collection’s puzzle is Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker; originally a portable title remastered in HD. Peace Walker picks up where Snake Eater left off, as Big Boss splits away from the nation and government who betrayed him to start an army of his own, free from ideology or state. And with that the absurdities return.
Peace Walker is structured differently to the numbered titles in the series. Due to it’s portable roots, missions are short, bite sized affairs that rarely last longer than 20 minutes. Peace Walker also has optional missions in addition to those relating to the main story. Ported from a handheld, the HD remaster of Peace Walker is the biggest improvement in the Collection, yet the game is still the least visually impressive. It can be a jarring experience going from the high production values and expansive missions of the main games to Peace Walker’s snack sized equivalent.
Series protagonist Solid Snake once said, “I’m no hero. Never was, never will be”. This Collection reinforces that, dropping you in the shoes of those characters who make up so much of Solid Snake’s journey. Perhaps the only thing more absurd than Metal Gear Solid is if you haven’t played it, and thankfully there’s never been a greater opportunity.