Metal Gear Solid, released in 1998, was one of the most intense stealth cinematic gaming experiences ever designed for the PlayStation. Now, 25 years later, we see the first-ever re-release of the Hideo Kojima classic on something other than the old CD-based grey box. Alongside this classic comes the must-loved Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and the 2 NES/MGX era Metal Gear games. The question is: Does Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 still have the stealthy goods in 2023 or has Konami created a quick stealth kill of yet another beloved franchise?
Name:Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 Platform(s): PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, and Xbox Series X|S Developer: KONAMI Publisher: KONAMI Game Type: Stealth, Shooter Video Game, Adventure game Mode(s): Single Player Release Date: October 24, 2023
A Timeline More Confusing than any Zelda Game (Story)
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, which is chronologically the first game in the series, introduces Naked Snake (or Snake for short), an operative working for the fictional Force Operation X (FOX) unit of the CIA during the Cold War. The game focuses on the rise of Snake from an apprentice to a legendary soldier, as well as the downfall of his mentor and matriarchal figure, The Boss. After The Boss defects to the Soviet Union, Snake is sent into Russia to kill her and end the threat posed by Yevgeny Borisovitch Volgin, a GRU colonel with plans to overthrow the Soviet government. Snake’s heroics during the game earned him the nickname “Big Boss” at the end. The origins of The Patriots, an organization founded by Zero, are also explored.
The first Metal Gear game for the MSX follows Solid Snake, a rookie of the FOXHOUND special operations unit. He is sent by his superior, Big Boss, to the fortress in South Africa known as Outer Heaven, with the goal of finding the missing squad member Gray Fox and investigating a weapon known as Metal Gear. However, after Snake unexpectedly completes his goals, Big Boss is revealed to be the leader of Outer Heaven, which he has created as a place for soldiers to fight free of any ideology that he believes has been forced upon them by governments. He fights Snake and is killed. In Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake the real Big Boss has established a new military nation, Zanzibar Land, and he and Snake face off again, with Snake achieving victory and seemingly killing Big Boss for good.
Metal Gear Solid elaborates on the storyline of the earlier games and reveals that Solid Snake is a genetic clone of Big Boss, created as part of a secret government project. An antagonist is introduced in the form of Liquid Snake, Snake’s twin brother who takes control of FOXHOUND after Snake’s retirement. Liquid and FOXHOUND take control of a nuclear weapons disposal facility in Alaska and commandeer REX, the next-generation Metal Gear weapons platform being tested there. They threaten to detonate REX’s warhead unless the government turns over the remains of Big Boss. Solid Snake destroys Metal Gear REX and kills the renegade FOXHOUND members, with the exception of Revolver Ocelot.
A third Snake brother known as Solidus Snake is introduced as the United States President at the end of Metal Gear Solid and serves as the main antagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. During his time as president, Solidus became aware of a secretive cabal known as “The Patriots” who were steadily manipulating the course of history. After his tenure as president is over, Solidus takes control of the “Big Shell” offshore facility, which is being used to develop Arsenal Gear, a mobile undersea fortress designed to house and protect a network of AIs created to influence human development by filtering the availability of information across the Internet. The game is set four years after Liquid’s death in Metal Gear Solid, and it puts the player in control of Raiden, a soldier who fights against Solidus, who is revealed to be his former commander during his time as a child soldier. Raiden joins forces with Snake and learns that they are being manipulated by Revolver Ocelot, who has been working for the Patriots. At the end of the game, Ocelot seemingly becomes possessed by Liquid Snake as the nanomachines from Liquid’s arm (which Ocelot took to replace his own arm after Gray Fox slices it off in Metal Gear Solid) work their way into Ocelot’s thought process.
Story Review – Some Vague Spoilers
Passing along your seed, genome clone soldiers, creating the perfect soldier, Fox-Die, Nuclear War, and a family dynamic that would make the Addams Family blush is just the subject matter that scrapes the surface of the deep iceberg that is the Metal Gear story. Hideo Kojima’s personal commentary on the future of war and the constant threat of nuclear destruction spans every game he has made in the series, using 2 different versions of Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid 3 & the NES/MSX Metal Gear games feature Solid Snake, who later become Big Boss. Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2, Portable Ops, and ACID! feature the clone/son of Big Boss, also codename Solid Snake) and Raiden as the personal scope of a hero trying to save the world from the threat of the next nuclear delivery weapon, called Metal Gear!
Over the span of 5 games, with a total playtime of “OH MY GOD SHUT UP!” hours, you’ll get confused over and over again as you go through the adventures of Solid Snake(s) and Raiden as they get so much exposition through Codec calls from Colonel Campbell, Master Millar, Mei Ling, Rose, Otacon, and many other characters. Yes, the main point of Metal Gear is to sneak around and defeat the bad guys, but most of the time you are going to be sitting through long Codec calls or cutscenes telling you all about the horrors of war and why it is a bad thing. Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 is not so much a typical action adventure as it is a long University/College lecture that can be summed up as “War is bad Mmmkay”.
Metal Gear!? (Graphics)
I hope no one was going into Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 thinking that there would be some sort of cleanup, upscaling, or even bug fixing; because there is none of that at all. Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 is as bare bones as you can get. Even other retro collections included some sort of screen filter to emulate CRT TVs or 60 fps uplocks so the games run smoother on modern hardware, but not Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1. The emulation here is a direct 1:1 copy of what you would get if you emulated these games on a PC. Metal Gear Solid is the worst offender with this as some of the clipping issues that some emulators have with the 1.0 version of the game are seen in Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1.
As for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, well, these two titles are just ports of the PlayStation 3 HD Collection that were released in 2011. While these ports were very clean and good for 2011, you would think that there would be some effort to upscale them into 4K for Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1. Then there are the MSX/NES games, which are easily emulated since you can run these 4 games on a calculator in 2023, so there is nothing needed for them… Though some selection of backgrounds/side images would have been nice.
Metal Gear Gameplay Never Changes (Gameplay)
Much like the graphics in Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1, the gameplay is a direct 1:1 port of the versions they emulate. Luckily, Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 does allow things like the Player 2 Port switch for Metal Gear Solid, and includes Meryl’s Codec number on the pack of the game box. Outside of that, you get small bits and pieces here such as Metal Gear Solid: Integral, the Japanese exclusive version of Metal Gear Solid which does include English subtitles (But no Japanese language), and VR Missions (the addon disc). Playing Metal Gear Solid: Integral does give a slightly different experience if you play on the “Very Easy” difficulty level (You get unlimited ammo silenced MP5 from the very beginning), but after that, everything is the same as the US/UK release of Metal Gear Solid. The other games have no changes or additional bits and pieces.
No Twin Snakes, No Subsistence, No Substance (Replayability)
Given that this is meant to be the “Master Collection” you would think that Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 would feature the best version of all the games or the most feature-rich versions of each one. However, Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 only gives you the basic original versions of the three feature games (Let’s face it, no one bought Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 for Metal Gear, Metal Gear: Snake’s Revenge, and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake). So this means there is no unlockable Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes (Now forever locked to the GameCube), Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, or Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. It would have been nice to get these versions as an extra since those versions haven’t seen the light of day since they were released on their original consoles. Hell, I’d even settle for a port of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops or Metal Gear Solid: Acid/Acid 2!
Instead, what Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 provides in regards to extras are a couple of digital comic books, a “Master Book” containing hints, tips, and history behind each game; a script book of each game, and a digital soundtrack (as a preorder bonus). Konami really had a chance here to make Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 into a true love letter to the fans by adding a few extra games for the FULL RETAIL PRICE we are paying for this, but instead, they chose the cheap route and screwed the fans once again.
Konami Doing Konami Things (Closing)
To be honest, Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 is one crappy collection. While I’m happy that I got 3 games I enjoy a lot on my PlayStation 5 (aka the reason it gets 1.5 stars), and others get on Switch and Xbox, what we got was nothing to write home about. Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 doesn’t even hit the baselines of what a retro collection usually provides, showing the disrespect Konami is still showing Hideo Kojima and the Metal Gear Solid fanbase many years later. Even a Pachinko machine is a better fate than what we have here.
Review Disclosure Statement: Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 was bought by the reviewer for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 could have been up there with the best retro collections published in the last few years, however, Konami has shown that all they care about by releasing a quick cash grab with no decent extras or even the best versions of the games included in the collection. Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 is an example of how NOT to treat beloved franchises that could still draw money by the name value alone… I hope Silent Hill isn’t next.
The games are still challenging
1:1 port of all games
At least we have MGS on something other than PlayStation 1