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Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 review – the ultimate sneaking mission

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 review – the ultimate sneaking mission
Metal Gear Solid 1 was state of the art in 1998 (Picture: Konami)

Konami re-releases almost every Metal Gear game from the first 17 years of the franchise, but they’ve left out one very important thing…

At first, we weren’t sure what to say about Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1. It’s not that there’s any doubt as to the quality or classic nature of the games. Nor are there any surprises about the way they’ve been remastered for the modern era. The problem isn’t even that there’s nothing new to say about the series and it’s first five games. The issue is that the creator of the franchise has had absolutely nothing to do with this collection and that feels wrong.

Not only has Hideo Kojima not been involved with this new release but his name has been left out of the credits for the remasters, which illustrates a level of pettiness that… fans have come to expect from Konami.

After all, the only reason he’s not still there, working away on Metal Gear Solid 8, or whatever else he would’ve come up with by now, is that they hounded him out of the company and within weeks of doing so set about removing his name from the recently released Metal Gears Solid 5. That’s the backdrop against which this collection has been released and yet the quality of the games, and archive material, shines through.

The core of this release is the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection that came out in 2012 and was primarily the work of Demon’s Souls remake developer Bluepoint Games. However, this new collection has been handled by the rather less renowned Virtuous – the no-more-than-competent remaster studio that publishers use when they don’t want to pay for anyone better.

Nevertheless, this collection is far more complete than its predecessor and starts with the original two Metal Gear games from the MSX2 home computer, as well as the NES version of the first game and the NES-only sequel Snake’s Revenge (that had nothing to do with Kojima). From those late 80s and early 90s releases it then encompasses the first three Metal Gear Solid titles on the PlayStation 1 and 2, with Vol. 2 presumably set to cover the portable and PlayStation 3 and 4 games.

The original Metal Gear Solid, from 1998, is the jewel of the collection; not only because it’s the game that put the series on the map but because it’s only been available intermittently in recent years, due to the difficulty of getting the game looking halfway decent on modern systems (talk of a full remake have been going on for years but oddly the only one that’s been announced is Metal Gear Solid 3 ).

If you’ve never played a Metal Gear game before (the last proper one was eight years ago, so that’s becoming an increasingly reasonable position) it, together with Thief: The Dark Project and GoldenEye 007, helped to define the concept of the stealth game. Or tactical espionage action as Metal Gear Solid itself would have it.

This is what the very first Metal Gear looked like (Picture: Konami)

Originally viewed from a top-down perspective, Metal Gear Solid is the reason every game in the 2000s, and still some today ( Spider-Man 2 , for example), had a stealth level. As you creep around trying to not to be seen and, in theory, only taking enemies out when they’re not looking, the game mixes together relatively realistic stealth tactics with bonkers anime style plot points and famously long cut scenes – that only got longer the more the series went on.

Metal Gear Solid 1 is largely unchanged from its original incarnation, to the point where it’s not even in widescreen. However, there are a few quality of life changes, such as standardising the controls across all the games and adding a pause button for cut scenes (which for no obvious reason takes literally 10 seconds to appear). The original controls are clumsy, especially trying to aim, but overall the game has aged better than you’d expect, in part because the top-down view means no having to manually control a cumbersome late-90s camera.

Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 were originally PlayStation 2 games but the versions included here are the same 2012 remasters from Bluepoint Games. That means 1080p resolution (remarkably, the original was always 60fps) and an optional manual camera system, adapted from the expansions Substance and Subsistence. It also means an impressive attention to detail that not only enables fourth wall breaking moments like switching joypad ports but even allows you to create fake memory card data for other Konami games – for the cut scene featuring you-know-who.

Remarkably, even the early MSX2 games hold up better than you’d expect. The controls are fiddly, and you’ll probably need a guide to follow along and show you what to do, but otherwise they’re perfectly playable and we hope the relatively similar Ghost Babel, on the Game Boy Color, doesn’t get ignored when it comes to Vol. 2.

Metal Gear Solid 2 – Nostradamus has nothing on this (Picture: Konami)

Rather than the graphics or gameplay, it’s the storytelling that feels the most outdated, not only the pretentiously long cut scenes but Kojima’s pervy humour, which was divisive even back in the day. Gratuitous shots of every female character’s front and rear are commonplace and the scene where someone tests to see whether Raiden is a man or not, by grabbing his groin, is even more eye-watering nowadays.

On the other hand, you’ve got that scene at the end of Metal Gear Solid 2, where in 2001 Kojima managed to predict the full hellscape of modern internet life, including fake news, the excesses of social media, and personal data abuse. Add in plot points about AI, government surveillance, and the abuse of anti-terrorist laws and you’ve got one of the most prescient works of science fiction ever created… in a game whose bad guys include a vampire and someone called Solidus Snake.

The Metal Gear games are products of their time and even back in the day they were a very odd mix of the sublime and the ridiculous. Whether you like them or hate them they are all historically important and highly influential, with the franchise only beginning to lose its grip on the zeitgeist in subsequent generations.

Metal Gear Solid 3 – the most recent game is 19 years old (Picture: Konami)

Video game compilations are infamous for never providing any context or museum features but here Konami has done relatively well, even if most if it is repurposed from elsewhere. The accurately named Master Books are the highlight and work like a coffee table book on your TV, although somehow the complete lack of any mention of Kojima is more disturbing in print.

Because Konami would prefer to pretend that Kojima doesn’t exist, there are no interviews or behind the scenes videos, but you do get the complete scripts, various digital comic books, and the VR Missions, Special Missions, and Integral expansions for the original Metal Gear Solid.

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No matter how dishonourable their treatment of Kojima might be we have to say this is well above average for a video game retro compilation, in terms of the both the completeness of the content and the relatively large volume of background material. Although it’s very weird that there is no single app that lets you access everything, with the whole collection split across five separate apps, which is horribly messy and cheap looking.

Ultimately though, the only significant absence from Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 is the master himself, Hideo Kojima. And unfortunately, that’s the one thing you can guarantee that Vol. 2 will leave out as well.




Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 review summary In Short: It might not honour the series’ creator, but Metal Gear itself is paid due homage, in one of the best, and most complete, retro compilations there’s ever been.
Pros: All the games are genuine classics and while there are lots of minor issues all of them remain impressively playable and accessible today. Lots of background material and unexpected extras.
Cons: Almost all mention of Hideo Kojima has been removed from the games and their ancillary materials, in an act of pure Orwellian pettiness. No significant improvements and no Ghost Babel.
Score: 8/10



Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and PC Price: £49.99 Publisher: Konami Developer: Virtuos (originals: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan and Kojima Productions) Release Date: 24th October 2023 Age Rating: 18



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MORE : Metal Gear Solid collection has content warning – probably for sexism and smoking





MORE : Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 2 contents leak – MGS4 included





MORE : Metal Gear Solid 1 remake is possible but not with Hideo Kojima



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