For a series that preaches the virtues of silence and stealth, the Metal Gear series desperately wants to be heard. Kojima Productions has always been adamant that its games should contain some kind of jumbled ideology, even when the studio isn't sure what virtues it's actually trying to extol.
These aren't upbeat war games, then, but the big, bold and silly action movies of the 1980s are instrumental to their inception - there are hints of almost all of them from time to time, but notable reference must go to Escape from New York's eye-patched hero, Snake Plissken.
I find myself both loving and hating the series in equal measure, riddled as it is with such obvious and detracting waffle. Often confusing cerebral thought with nonsensical melodrama, Metal Gear Solid is a collection of utterly barmy games that ridiculously labour over the minute details while ignoring even the most basic of big pictures. And how come nobody else on the team has ever been brave enough to tell Hideo Kojima he's in desperate need of a half-decent script editor? Despite their myriad flaws, however, almost all of them are absolutely vital additions to the video game canon.
The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is as confusing and compounded as the series itself, skipping the pivotal 1998 PSOne classic Metal Gear Solid completely. On the disc you'll find jazzed up versions of 2004's Metal Gear Solid 3, 2010's Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and 2001's Metal Gear Solid 2 - the game's menu nicely lists them in their narrative mchronological order, too, which makes things just that little bit simpler. I, however, will tackle them in the order they were originally released:
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
The problem? Raiden.
It's not so bad when you play through it again, actually, and you've got to hand it to Kojima Productions for having the balls to pull something so audacious back in 2001 - nobody I knew had even the slightest idea Solid Snake's hotly-anticipated sequel would turn out to be a game in which he only had a passing role. But you can hardly blame the audience for hating the change of protagonist, especially after they rushed out to buy the sequel to Metal Gear Solid (and, in many cases, a brand new PlayStation 2 to play it on) only to find out the character they actually wanted to see was barely involved.
Metal Gear Solid 2 is a clever game, but it's also too smart - often coming across as pompous, condescending and unreservedly cocksure. Blinded by the success of the original game, the sequel takes its plot to an almost incestuous level to create a metanarrative about recreating the events of the first game.
There's a level of self-indulgence and pomp here that won the series as many fans as it lost, but today it's hard to tell how seriously you're supposed to take what's going on. Whereas the original had you battling against surprisingly affecting enemies like Vulcan Raven and Sniper Wolf, the second has you taking on a big fat man named Fatman (and, yes, I'm aware it's an elaborate reference to the atomic bomb) who attacks you wearing roller skates. Then, of course, there's the preposterous addition of Liquid Snake possessing Revolver Ocelot through his arm, and Metal Gear Ray - a robot that actually roars at you. What??
The version here is based on the Substance re-release of Metal Gear Solid 2, so it includes 300-odd VR Missions, a Boss Rush mode and the option to play some bonus Snake Tales and Alternate Missions. A gimmicky inclusion to skateboard around the Big Shell - originally bundled as a shill for Evolution Skateboarding, Konami's dire Tony Hawk's knock-off - has not made the cut, however.
Metal Gear Solid 2 hasn't aged well in the last decade, with textures now looking basic and washed out, but even now it's clear how Kojima Productions has an impeccable eye for detail; just look at the hazy feel rain effects on Snake's ill-fated journey through the game's opening Tanker level, for instance, or how the wind blasts through the ship's cabins (ruffling that precious bandanna) as Snake opens a door to the outside.
The real innovation to Metal Gear Solid 2's controls was its FPS control scheme, a step for the series that has been mirrored in every subsequent game, although this snap-to single-stick aiming feels lumpy and unwieldy in 2012.
It's more difficult to appreciate Metal Gear Solid 2 without having played the original, but this curious antique product will still tickle the nostalgia glands of anyone who was gaming at the turn of the millennium.