The Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection for PS3 and Xbox 360 is one of the best HD remasters we’ve seen in recent years (read our review here), boasting impressively sharp graphics and smooth 60 frames per second gameplay. Kojima Productions took the decision to port two-thirds of the Collection to PS Vita, despite the handheld’s native resolution being sub-HD. The game that’s been left out of the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection for Vita is Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker – a PSP title that’s available to play on PS Vita if you purchase it separately from the PlayStation Store. Unfortunately the original PSP version suffers from an abysmal frame rate and has low resolution textures, so it’s disappointing that this great game wasn’t optimised for the PS Vita and included in the package.
What is included in the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection for PS Vita are the two PlayStation 2 classics Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, as well as the first two Metal Gear games which originally appeared on the MSX2. These two titles are included as a bonus with Metal Gear Solid 3 (MGS3), while a number of VR missions and extra challenges are included with Metal Gear Solid 2 (MGS2). These extras serve as a great diversion once you’ve completed the main campaign and are sure to prove thoroughly entertaining to hardcore Metal Gear fans.
The PS Vita version of the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection isn’t as technically accomplished as the console variant. For starters the frame rate is only about half of what it is on PS3 and Xbox 360 and there are plenty of jaggies in MGS2 that I don’t remember seeing in the PS3 version. The graphics still look nice and sharp on the Vita’s OLED screen, but unfortunately both games run at a resolution that is lower than what the handheld is capable of (i.e. 960×544 pixels).
Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection on PS Vita employs touch screen controls for selecting items and weapons, and this feature works surprisingly well. It’s quick and intuitive to touch the on-screen icon for items or weapons and then scroll with your finger to the desired piece of equipment, while switching between previously equipped items or weapons is as simple as touching the corresponding icon once. The touch screen is also used for other actions such as zooming in during cut-scenes, changing the zoom of your scoped weapons, or peeking around corners. Some of the functions of the back touch panel include using it to stand on tiptoes in both games, and to interrogate enemies or perform a knife jab in MGS3.
Besides the well-implemented touch controls, another feature of the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection on Vita that stood out for me was the audio. Many games on the handheld sound a bit muffled when you’re not using headphones, but thankfully this is not the case with the games in this compilation. The sound is crisp and sufficiently loud to enjoy all the brilliant music and sound effects in each game without having to plug in headphones.
Another awesome feature for players who own both the PS3 and PS Vita versions of the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection is something Kojima Productions calls ‘Transfarring’. This allows you to share save data between the two versions using either WiFi or the Cloud, meaning that you can continue from where you left off regardless of whether you were playing the Collection on PS3 or Vita.
I’ve mentioned some of the noteworthy features of the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection for PS Vita, but what about the actual games on offer in this compilation? Both MGS2 and MGS3 take around ten hours to complete, and boast plot-heavy campaigns with dozens of lengthy cut-scenes to introduce the heroes and villains of each game and elaborate on their core storylines. MGS2 is set in the modern day and takes place on a tanker and an offshore clean-up facility that’s been seized by terrorists, while MGS3 is set during the 1960’s period of the Cold War and takes place principally in a Soviet jungle setting.
Both games emphasise stealth in order to survive against a highly coordinated group of soldiers, but MGS3 adds additional elements like camouflage, healing your wounds and foraging for food to the equation. MGS2 is like an expanded version of the original Metal Gear Solid since most of the game is set indoors and you’ll need to find cardkeys in order to open up new areas. Some of the boss battles you partake in feel similar to those in Metal Gear Solid, and many of the weapons and items also feel very familiar. The camera is fixed in MGS2 so it can feel quite dated at times. MGS3, on the other hand, features a manual camera system, outdoor environments, and many new items and weapons that help to set the game apart from its predecessors. MGS3 also features more Codec contacts and longer, more interesting conversations with your support crew than MGS2 does. These informative, often humourous radio chats are a hallmark of the series and are at their most entertaining during certain sections of MGS3.
Another advantage MGS3 has over MGS2 is that the latter game can get quite preachy on occasion, whereas MGS3 is set up more like a James Bond thriller without all the moralising that detracts from MGS2’s storyline at times.
The PS Vita doesn’t have many narrative-focused titles in its line-up at the moment so the existence of the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection on the handheld is very welcome indeed. MGS2 and MGS3 are some of the most memorable PlayStation 2 games around, so being able to play these classics in the palm of your hand is a remarkable experience. The Vita version of the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection may not be able to compete with the PS3 variant on a technical level, but being able to experience it on the go without any game-breaking compromises is a real treat. If you want to play some of the PlayStation 2’s most celebrated titles in portable format then be sure to take the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection for a spin on your PS Vita.