Sunday, January 15, 2012
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection Impressions
Hideo Kojima is a genius. I could just type that one sentence and go back to playing MGS3, which is firmly believe is one of the greatest single player games of all time, and without question the greatest stealth game ever made. Replaying MGS2 and MGS3, and seeing how well they have held up, how much time and care was put into their development, and how ahead of their time they were, so much so that other games still havent surpassed them, just reaffirms my belief that Kojima is an artist, a mastermind of game design who has no equal.
The games are quirky and idiosyncratic, the story is the convoluted dream of a delusional madman, the cutscenes are insanely long, and Snakes voice is, as another writer put it, an almost parodic croak. For these and many other reasons, the games almost defy comparison to anything else, even direct relatives like Splinter Cell and Thief. When it comes to actual gameplay, to use that much maligned word, the last few hours of MGS2 are the highpoint of modern videogames. The fourth wall isnt just broken, you are defenestrated through it. It may be safe to say the Metal Gear Solid 2 is the first, and possibly last and only, truly postmodern videogame.
But like any great work of art, these games are divisive - people react strongly to them, both positively and negatively. Many people thought that MGS2 was a fraud, a betrayal of the fans of MGS1, the creation of a man who had lost touch with what gamers want and possibly reality itself as well. I strongly disagree. What many people wanted in MGS2 was essentially a remake of MGS1. But you cant remake something has already been made perfectly, as any artist, musician, or writer will tell you. Why didnt The Beatles make something like Sgt Peppers ever again? Because they already made Sgt Peppers. They had to move on, and make The White Album. MGS2 is far from perfect, but it certainly raised videogaming to a new level of aesthetic achievement.
MGS3 is a different beast, where a fair amount of the technical gadgetry that defines the series has been thrown out on favor of a more spartan, pure stealth experience. I think it is of significant importance to note that, in this modern age of shooting something digitally being the equivalent of touching something in reality, its possible to play through the entire game of Metal Gear Solid 3 without killing anyone - including the bosses. Its a masterstroke of game design, and while it is of course possible to blast your way through the game as well, doing so doesnt make it any easier, and in fact may make it more difficult.
I havent played Peace Walker yet, but Im greatly anticipating what many people are calling the MGS game with the most replay value. What is Peace Walker? Its Metal Gear Solid 5, which was originally released on the PSP and considered by far the best game on that system. They took the original game assets and converted them to HD, adding new textures and bringing the game visually up to par, while adding dual analog support with a free camera which was obviously not possible on the PSP. The entire campaign is playable in coop, and apparently this becomes a necessity as some of the later bosses are so difficult that trying to defeat them by yourself is nearly impossible. Set in the same 1960s era setting as MGS3, Peace Walker has strategy-RPG elements, an online VS-mode with an active community, and supports transfer of your game saves between the PSP and PS3 versions of the game.
Consider this: Konami thought so much of Peace Walker, that in Japan it was released as its own retail game while they put MGS1, MGS2, and MGS3 as a separate release. In the Western hemisphere, we got MGS2 and 3 on one disc, and Peace Walker on its own disc with its own 1000G of achievements, all in one box that you can buy for $37 on Amazon. Probably one of the best deals you will ever find in gaming. Suffice to say, if you do buy it, you wont have to look far to find someone to play online with.