Say what you will about Metal Gear and its genius, scattershot creator Hideo Kojima, but nothing else flits so effortlessly between nude cartwheels, prescient yet excruciating 30-minute cutscenes and exhilarating, real-time, blade combat (alongside the most charismatic videogame hero ever) - and that's just in a two-hour stretch of MGS2. Don't even get us started on the La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo, or MGS3's one-hour boss battle, or tracking an invisible Tsuchinoko, or the pleasure of Peace Walker's Fulton Recovery System.
For all its madness, eccentricity, overwrought cutscenes and awkward, poorly explained controls, MGS is unarguably the most inventive, philosophical and infuriatingly indulgent game series of all time. It's a stirring antidote to the current raft of gritty, predictable war shooters, and a series that defiantly - clumsily - tries to say something about the nature of society, technology, human existence, genetics and politics. All at once. Hardly an accusation you could level at Modern Warfare 3.
The question is whether an HD collection of ten year-old PS2 games and technically-inhibited PSP spin-offs can cut it on 360. It treads a fine line - potentially too familiar for existing fans, but too arcane to sway newcomers used to a slicker diet of shooters with Jack-and-Jill tutorials and place-bomb-here objectives.
METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY
Snake's PS2 debut, Sons of Liberty, is the collection's oldest game (bar the 2D MSX ports). Unsurprisingly, it's aged the worst thanks to the low resolution of its assets (dictated by PS2's 4Mb texture memory), but there's still much to admire.
The nostalgia is powerful, evoking fond memories of pouring over the nine-minute E3 2000 trailer; marveling at the first-person aiming and thinking how incredible the effects looked. (The rain! The tanker! The mullet!) And then there was the big switch: after shipping a 20-minute demo (bundled with PS2 mech-battler Zone of the Enders) that starred Solid Snake, the final game forced you to play as Raiden, the blond FOXHOUND pretty boy, for the remaining ten hours. It was an audacious move that fooled the entire industry - one that would never survive a modern-day focus group.
MGS2 is a game of iconic moments - using the directional mic to sniff out Ames' pacemaker with Ocelot just metres away; Raiden's battle with an army of 80-foot robots; just about anything involving Dead Cell. Its script is an endearing, absurd mess, its plot a conspiratorial labyrinth. More importantly, it explores lofty concepts about the pervasive control of information (musing on the growth of the net), the impact of identity and, meta-fashion, the nature of postmodern game design.
Now the bad news: the blurry environment and character details are painfully noticeable in cutscenes, and the mechanics that enthralled ten years ago have been numbed by imitation, or evolution, today. That said, it all has little impact unless you're expecting to move while crouching, and in all other ways MGS2's clean, geometric visual style actually sits nicely in HD. Generally, MGS2's legacy - and infectious insanity - is intact.