Hands-on / Metal Gear Solid 3 HD vs Metal Gear Solid 3D

You’re a fanboy for something, admit it. It doesn’t have to be a game, it could be a band, sports team, or even a girlfriend whose so incredibly out of your league that you’re afraid to say anything against her in case she dumps your lazy butt (that comes under the terms ‘fanboy’ and ‘personal experience’ in my book). There’s no shame in it, it’s like loving a pet and defending it when it pees in the neighbour’s garden. We’ve all got that something we just can’t go against.

For me, it’s Metal Gear Solid. It’s been that way since 1998 and now, 13 years after I first snuck through Shadow Moses Island, I find my franchise faith tested for the first time. In the blind fit of joy most of us are having over the upcoming Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on PS3 and 360, it hasn’t really clicked that Konami are in fact also remaking arguably the collection’s best game, MGS3: Snake Eater, again for 3DS with Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D.

I’m a fanboy, I’ll do anything for Metal Gear Solid. Anything. Except, maybe buying the same remake twice in one year. Maybe that’s a bit too far. It’s too far, isn’t it? Is it too far? How do I know if it’s too far?!

There are a lot of people yawning right now, I’m sure, but as the series itself constantly reminds us, there’s only room for one Snake, so do we need two Snake Eaters? Having had the chance to go hands-on with both of these updates at the Eurogamer Expo this week, I thought it was about time someone dished out some answers on if two updates is too far.

From the off, you’d think that the HD version has the upper hand; not only is it coming to a system you probably already own, but it’s going to look nicer than its 3DS counterpart and include the stellar Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty along with it.

And all of that is true, as the game looks every bit as gorgeous as it did back when it launched in 2004. The lush opening jungle that plays host to the opening mission is just as alive with color and wildlife as it was back then. There’s no doubt that this is one of the best HD conversions yet and something that’s simply begging to be played on your system.

And – despite carrying the Snake Eater subtitle – you’ll be pleased to learn that this is in fact the Subsistence edition of Naked Snake’s outing, allowing you full control over the camera. The improvements to game stop there though (unless you count trophies/achievements as an improvement), any issues that you still had with the original Subsistence are likely to remain in its HD upgrade, as it’s really just a port over, albeit a very well done one.

Meanwhile, the 3DS version is on that dinky little screen with battery life and such to worry about. “Why even bother?” you might wonder before picking it up. But then you do pick it up, and it’s sort of this “…oh” moment. Sure, MGS3D doesn’t have the looks and the other games, but it has got one ace up its sleeve – Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid 4’s control scheme.

Again, some might be yawning (in which case how have you read this far down?), but that’s huge news. That means the over-the-shoulder aiming and the ever-useful half-crouch are in, making Snake much easier to control out on the field. No longer must you crawl along the floor literally at a snail’s pace to keep your camo meter up, instead keeping crouched down and moving faster between objects to keep out of sight. At the best of times it can kick the game’s pace up several notches, opening up new opportunities for sneaking around the field. MGS3 HD’s controls still remain a bit of a finger-tying tango at times, especially after we’ve been treated to the following games’ refinements, but here I’m having an easy time weaving round enemies and landing headshots with the tranq gun. That said those who struggled playing Peace Walker on the single-nub PSP will definitely find the same issues present in this one. That is until that giant baby-carrying cradle of a second analogue peripheral arrives.

Regardless, the updated controls will be enough to make some fans take another look. But it’s not all the 3D version is packing; you’ll be able to make your own camouflage patterns with help of the 3DS camera and balance Snake across that tricky rope-bridge walk and over branches using the gyroscope. These are pretty insignificant bells and whistles though, and they play second fiddle to some of the best 3D effects I’ve seen on the system yet. The feature is at its best when viewed in first-person between the blades of grass as you spy on your enemy. For those fleeting moments the 3D really can grab you like few games have before. MGS3 could very well be one title that truly justifies the most important feature of Nintendo’s handheld.

That’s the ins and outs on each game, but it doesn’t answer the question on if they can co-exist. It’s not that I feel Konami are trying to “screw fans over” by asking for your money on two different updates of one game in the space of 12 months, as it’s clear that both updates play to their systems strengths. But there comes a time when even the most hardcore of fans has to say no, and the simple fact that the 3DS version will be out after the HD one makes me think that we’ll see that answer reflected in the handheld game’s sales.

As for this old fanboy? Well, let’s be honest for a second, I’m definitely getting both.