Metal Gear Solid: HD CollectionPosted: January 3, 2012 | |
While it has been out for slightly over a month, I’ve only just now had the chance to get around to playing the re-release of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and Peace Walker in Konami’s Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection. And, obviously, it’s awesome. It’s a tough thing to review if only because, well, MGS2, 3 and PW are all old news. Sure, they may be some of the finest video games ever made, but we’ve played them. Aside from improved graphics (most notably in 3 and Peace Walker, less so in 2), you’re looking at the exact same games as before (except PW has moved from your PSP and now you can get trophies/achievements for choking guys out). But there are a few things to note for the nerds in the room: you’re playing the expanded editions of each. That’s right, Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance and Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. That means that in addition to getting two of the greatest video games ever made, you’re also getting a slew of bonus missions, training, and extra content (minus the Skating mini-game for 2 and Snake vs. Monkey in 3). On the other hand, while they have been dramatically improved, the graphics of MGS2 and 3 still show their age.
Before proceeding, however, something needs to be said: Metal Gear Solid 2 is the superior game. It’s tough to say and it’s, I dare say, a wildly unpopular opinion. I’ll run through the two biggest complaints:
1) The story is batshit insane (minor spoilers ahead).
Metal Gear Solid 2 has an insane storyline which seems to involve removing letters from the alphabet, incest, and destroying a financial center, a la Fight Club. Along the way you discover that not only are you a former child soldier and a soldier now with no real training aside from VR training because you’ve repressed your time as a child soldier being raised and taught by none other than
John Cygan Canderous Ordo Dash Rendar Solidus Snake, Liquid Snake and Solid Snake’s third, perfect brother, but that the entire mission is another training, VR-esque mission. Also, The Patriots control everything.
Hideo Kojima played a really mean trick in 2001. Following, again one of the greatest games ever made (MGS1), we were given fully 3D, slightly-human looking Solid Snake. The first two-three hours of MGS2 are awesome because you’re once again playing the living legend himself. The same badassery and box-wearing shenanigans are back, and it is actually sweet. Then everything goes south and you find yourself in part 2, AKA The Plant chapter. Campbell begins by addressing the player as Snake, and for half a second you’re thinking that somehow, Solid Snake and the Campbell are back together for an awesome mission. Nope. Some wuss responds and within ten minutes you see Raiden in all his douchebaggery. Whether it involves slipping on pigeon crap, getting felt up by an old man (only for him to exclaim “You’re a man?”) or getting urinated on by a guard, you are a running joke for the rest of the game. You don’t even find redemption in the final fight. Regardless of what Raiden has become, his beginnings are pretty sad.
Addressing number one, yes, it is a little nuts but like with any story, if you allow yourself to be pulled in, it becomes believable. And, well, let’s not forget that we’re playing a video game in the first place: it’s not real, anyhow, and striving for realism in what is clearly an unrealistic medium seems kind of silly, no?
Number two is the harder part. Raiden is ultimately a wuss and is a lousy character. He’s whiney and dumb and weak and constantly confused but, in the end, he really is the player. MGS2 touches on this to some extent, but look at it this way: the average video gamer has no actual combat experience. I’ve played tons of war games but I’ve never been to war. I’ve launched nukes and mortars and cannons and fired guns, but not outside of a video game. Like Raiden, we have no combat experience. When we first meet Snake in MGS2 (or even in 1, or even going back to Metal Gear), he has more combat experience than us, period. He is an expert at what he does and his level of ability is far beyond ours. Raiden, though, is relatively unshaped and unmolded. He has a wealth of combat experience, but all of it (save his child warfare stuff) is purely virtual. So when we’re launched into the game as him, we’re going in with that same background of VR training, but nothing real — and even our experience as Raiden is virtual (and while Raiden’s experience is somewhat real, the fact remains that it is all a test by The Patriots, anyway, meant to mimic Shadow Moses). His experience eventually has him ranting at his girlfriend and at the Colonel, saying that “we bleed, we die” and that one needs “something higher” than just the mission to fight for (but what that is, he doesn’t know).
What we’re fighting for is, at the start at least, the game. We’re fighting because we’re told by the Colonel, by Konami, by Kojima, to fight. That is our role and our mission. And maybe we turn at some point and start fighting because we want to, not because that’s the mission but to figure out what is going on and try to set things right. In MGS1, Otacon asks Snake “what am I fighting for? What are you fighting for?” Snake enigmatically explains, “if we make it through this, I’ll tell you”. He fights to fight. He fights to survive, he fights to set things right. At the end of MGS1 (and repeated by Snake to Raiden halfway through MGS2), Gray Fox famously says to Snake:
We’re not tools of the government or anyone else. Fighting was the only thing I was good at, but at least I always fought for what I believed in.
Towards the end of MGS2, we’re expected to decide what to continue fighting for. We can continue the mission, continue playing Kojima’s game as it were, or we can break out and instead fight for the game. While Raiden is our avatar in MGS2 and he ultimately decides to fight for what he believes in, thus forcing us to fight for what Raiden believes in, we can still make the same choice. We can care, or we can beat the game. Of course, as Raiden too finds out, either choice forces you to the same end, though you take a different path. In the end, we gain our VR experience playing as Raiden, while Raiden, insofar as video game characters can have “real” experiences, gains the experience of the Plant chapter as VR mission, as well as beginning to face his inner demons as a child soldier.
This, I think, is the brilliance of MGS2 and of Raiden. There are very few video game characters I hate more than Raiden of the MGS2 era. When the game first came out, I heard people claim that we were supposed to like this unlikable character but I think that’s wrong. Raiden is this bland, by-the-book, no real experience sort of character. We’re expecting a Snake, and we get this wuss. We’re expected to hate him because we all like to think that we’re as tough and as badass as Solid Snake, especially if we have beaten MGS1 a dozen times a dozen different ways. But we’re not, and through MGS2, we’re expected to come to terms with that and even if we don’t ever come to like Raiden, we come to at least understand and not totally hate him.
I will admit that nostalgia does play a small role in my love for that game. My cousin and I rented it the day it came out. I had school the next day but there was a chance, admittedly a small chance but a chance, of an overnight snowstorm. We started it late in the day and eventually cloistered ourselves in a room in the basement. I remember our original playtime came to thirteen hours because we made ridiculous rules such as no restarting through suicide after getting caught and so on. It took what felt like forever. 5 AM or so rolled around and my cousin had to go to work. We were near the end, ready to fight some Metal Gear RAYS. He took off, and I beat the game. I looked outside for the first time in hours and the snow was up several feet. Here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, even a light dusting of snow stops everything. School was cancelled, I went to sleep. It was one of the best video game playthroughs in my life.
All that said, MGS3 is an absolutely amazing game and I respect the fact that most people would rate it above MGS2 simply because of how excellent a game it is and is worth a critical reading same as MGS2. Peace Walker looks and plays better here on the console than it ever could on the ill-fated PSP as well. It easily had a much thorough overhaul than MGS2 or 3, and while I don’t think it’s as good as either, it is an excellent game.
Pick up MGS: HD Collection if you’ve never played the games or if you have a few hundred hours to kill (assuming you play through more than once). It’s definitely worth it.