Note: This review doesn’t bring up the “transfarring” aspects of Metal Gear Solid HD, which requires two copies of the game. Unfortunately, a copy of the collection on PS3 was not available. 

I’ll be honest. I have no idea how I’m “supposed” to feel about Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for Vita. Reviewing HD remasters is tricky: regular game reviews critique content matter. What’s a review for a HD remaster supposed to critique? Reviewing content matter of re-releases feels redundant, and I feel that talking about the differences between the original and the remaster would make the “review” less that than a specs match-up. Talking about specs falls into the realm of objective technobabble and it’s hard to inject any “critique” in a numerical comparison.

In the past when reviewing remasters, I’ve always mentioned how the update improved over the original. But how are you supposed to review the HD remaster of a collection that isn’t really in HD?

The Vita’s OLED display, which makes most games played on it easy enough on the eyes (for the most part, I have some technical gripes there too), supports a resolution of 960×544. You don’t need to know much about resolution to know that 960×544 is shy of the 1280×720 pixel density required for the “HD” label. A recent Eurogamer tech analysis article pointed out MGS HD for Vita’s issues, highlighting that the HD collection doesn’t even run at the Vita’s native resolution, but at 720×449… and without anti-aliasing. The only parts of the game that actually do use the Vita’s native resolution are the game’s menus and UI, which are a painful reminder of the lower res that the actual content is running on.

It’s not all bad news on the resolution front, as MGS 3: Snake Eater, which originally had frame rate issues galore on the PS2, runs along smoothly at 30 FPS on the Vita, although I did notice some points when that dropped during intense cinematics.

In any case, as Eurogamer aptly pointed out, the MGS HD collection ought to be called the higher definition collection, since the resolution for both games have improved over the originals. Considering that the HD label is practically a flat-out lie, you’d think more people would be marching about with torches and calling up the Better Business Bureau on Konami, but I guess an objective gripe about a technical spec isn’t quite as controversial as the subjective interpretations of an ending of a game.

Only a few things about the titles have been changed to really make them a “Vita” release. The new UI relies on the Vita’s touch screen functions. You’re forced to select your weapons and items via touch, which is a bit of a clumsy experience when you’re in the middle of a fight. In Snake Eater, your knife is partially controlled by your touchpad—a quick tap to the touchpad equates to shanking your enemies on the battlefield. When you’re using your enemy as a body shield, sliding your finger along the touchpad allows you to execute your enemy, although this move is a little clumsy and requires you to do it multiple times before Snake actually kills anything. Finally, the most annoying and useless Vita function included in the HD collection is your ability to “zoom in” during cut scenes using the touch screen.

Scratch that... maybe the "zoom in" function might have some uses. Apparently, Kojima decided that every woman in Snake Eater should lose their clothes in the last hour of the game.

Yet another gripe I have with the collection, and I know I’m hardly the only one of this opinion, is its exclusion of the PSP entry included in the console versions of the package, Peace Walker. According to a Konami employee on the Kojima Productions Report podcast, Peace Walker was taken out of the collection for the Vita in order to “save resources”, as Peace Walker was already made available via the PlayStation Store as a PSP-downloadable title for Vita. That’s fine and dandy, except if that were really the case, then why not include a code to download Peace Walker? Hm, I suddenly have an awful urge to shout “money grab” at the top of my lungs. Maybe it’s because even without Peace Walker, the Vita version’s retail pricing sits at $39.99, on par with the console HD collection.

The one thing that doesn’t make me chuck this game at a wall in disgust or em… delete the game dramatically off my Vita is the content matter. MGS2: Sons of Liberty and MGS 3: Snake Eater are pure gold. It’s been a while since I’ve played a Metal Gear game and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed Kojima’s sense of humor and amazing eye for detail. The reason that Metal Gear entries are considered classics isn’t because of great gameplay or narrative design. Metal Gear’s mechanics, while setting standards for the action-stealth genre, were largely unwieldy and frustrating. The writing is often corny and trite, and characters aren’t exactly remembered for their dimension. No, it’s the little things that make Metal Gear absolutely standout. In what other game can you whirl your character about in a character overview menu in order to make him puke? Or defeat an aging boss by leaving your game for two weeks to “wait” for him to actually die off in the game? Yes, it’s the little details.

Snake Eater also introduces survival aspects into the Metal Gear series. Getting shot, burned, cut, or breaking bones all require you to "treat" Snake.

I suppose what I’m saying is that if you can get over the technical flaws of Metal Gear Solid HD for Vita, then it’s a great investment, if only for the fact that Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 are such great games that they make the collection almost worth its full retail price. I suppose the fact that embedded in Snake Eater are the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake sweetens the pot a bit.  However, if you’re not exactly dying to play Metal Gear Solid HD on the go, then it’s a much more worthwhile investment to put your $39.99 into the HD collection for the PS3 or Xbox 360 version.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Brings to the Vita two of the greatest games in the Metal Gear series
+ Kojima’s sense of humor
- It’s an “HD” collection. Ha.
- Where the hell is my Peace Walker?!
- Touch screen compatibility is poorly executed

7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough, just not worth the full price at launch. These scores are for games that are relatively good or even really good, but generally worth waiting for a sale or picking up as a rental when possible.

Metal Gear Solid HD Collection was originally developed by Kojima Productions and ported to the Vita by Armature Studio. Konami published the collection. It was released on June 12, 2012 for the PS Vita. A copy was generously provided by the publisher. Metal Gear Solid HD Collection was played to completion after approximately 30 hours of playtime.