Very few games have been able to successfully call themselves stealth titles. Sure most releases these days such as Batman: Arkham City and Deus Ex: Human Revolution have stealth elements in them but none could honestly be called a true stealth game. In fact, apart from the Thief series, the genre has been dominated by the Metal Gear series.and there is a reason for that; superb gameplay, intuitive controls, a fascinating (if slightly convoluted) storyline and graphics are usually the pioneers of their time. And if you need proof of that, then look no further than this release which is three fabulous games from the franchise's 25 year history. The three games are Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty from 2001, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater from 2004 and 2010's handheld time vortex Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.
The graphics are a little dated in all three titles but that is to be expected considering one is a rehash of a PSP title and the other two are 10 years old on average. Each version is the special edition of each game so you get bonuses like hundreds of extra missions in the case of MGS2 and complete copies of the two original Metal Gear games from the MSX in the case of MGS3. In addition each game has been upscaled so that it won't look like a pixelated mess on your HD TV and in MGS: Peace Walker, the game has an added function called "transfarring" which allows you to transfer saves from the original PSP copy of the game (an absolute gift for many fans due to the hand-cramping nature of the PSP!)
MGS2 sees you play through two campaigns as two secret agents; one the all round, gravel-gargling badass known as Solid Snake, the other is androgynous fanboy hate figure Raiden. The first campaign sees Solid Snake infiltrate a military-operated ship due to rumours of a brand new Metal Gear (a type of man-operated, nuke launching giant robot) prototype on board. The second sees Raiden infiltrate a nuclear clean-up facility where terrorists have kidnapped the President. The storyline of each campaign quickly becomes so convoluted and hard to follow that it makes Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy look like a child's creative writing essay. Gameplay is largely based around sneaking past enemies or taking them out from a fixed-camera viewpoint with access to multiple weapons, gadgets and other tools that aid in keeping your presence a secret. Being caught will result in your radar going offline and enemies arriving in squads to try and kill you. Although this is by far the shortest of the three games, it has aged well and it still a joy to play with breathtaking action set pieces and a diverse range of villains ranging from an obese bomber on rollerblades to an actual vampire.
In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (soon to be stripped of its award for "Worst name for a Metal Gear game in history" by Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance) you play as the original Snake (who Solid Snake was cloned from) as he sneaks into Cold War era Russia through environments as broad as jungle, caves, mountains and a particularly poignant field of daisies (players of the original game will know what I mean). The camera has now evolved into a free roaming third person viewpoint and the game features a much heavier emphasis on stealth and survival featuring such additions as a camouflage index which shows how well the enemy can see you in your current environment, and the ability to capture and kill live animals which you can them consume to keep your stamina up; failing to do so results in clumsier movement, reduced aiming ability and health being lost at a more rapid rate. Judging the game by modern standards, the graphics still hold up and the gameplay is unique and well integrated. I also feel that particular attention should be paid to the soundtrack which is composed by revered Hollywood composer Harry Gregson-Williams (who also composed the soundtrack to MGS2) and perfectly captures the tension and the severity of the actions that Snake is performing.
Peace Walker is an altogether different experience and although the core gameplay is retained, the way it is laid out changes dramatically. Considered to be a sequel to MGS3, Snake (now known as Big Boss) is now running one of the first Private Military Corporations and is tasked to defend a small country that is prevented from having its own army due to unfair international legislation. As MGS: PW was originally a handheld title, it deviates from the formula followed closely by the previous two games into more of a level select type affair. It also includes light RPG elements as you recruit more soldiers and assign them to fields such as R&D or Sickbay. Completing missions results in points that can then be used to research new weapons or recruit new members that are assigned to departments which raises their levels. This new take on the old chestnut is incredibly addictive with gameplay potential lasting hundreds of hours.
Containing three individual chapters in perhaps the greatest videogame franchise of all time, this package is absolutely unmissable. People interested in Metal Gear should get this game. People who have cleared each campaign multiple times should get this game. In fact I can't think of many people who shouldn't get this game. Do it. Now
9.5 out of 10
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