To say that the Metal Gear franchise is one of the most influential in all of gaming would be underselling the series quite a bit. Unfortunately, despite the massive success of just about every game in the franchise from the first Metal Gear Solid onwards, quite a few titles were only really playable on old hardware from a few generations ago, or if you’re the adventurous type, through emulation. Now we have the Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1, which brings to all modern platforms 3 games that are considered to be not only excellent titles in their own right, but also incredibly influential and important to the console generations they were released on.
Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 is headlined by the first three mainline 3D games—Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater—along with the MSX versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, as well as the NES version of the 1987 classic and Snake’s Revenge. The collection also features quite a few goodies that we’ll go into over the course of this review.
To most video game fans out there, it’s no secret why the Metal Gear franchise is held in such incredibly high regard by just about everyone. While the franchise has been far from the most complex stealth games out there—Thief outdid the original Metal Gear Solid in just about every aspect in terms of gameplay—but it is important to note the historic impact these titles have had on gaming as a whole. Metal Gear Solid, for instance, essentially popularized the cutscene-based storytelling format we see in modern action-adventure games. Metal Gear Solid 2, on the other hand, was one of the first games to examine its own medium, questioning the very nature of what it means to be a sequel.
“Metal Gear Solid, for instance, essentially popularized the cutscene-based storytelling format we see in modern action-adventure games.”
The first three Metal Gear Solid games were all in all excellent choices to include in Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1, since they not only act as fun standalone stories, they also tend to crossover with each other in unique ways. Metal Gear Solid 2 is an especially notable entry here, since playing it without having played Metal Gear Solid tends to make quite a few of its messages fall flat. The game is, after all, about the nature of identity, how ideas can be disseminated, censorship, and information control.
While the fact that these titles, along with their predecessors are finally playable on modern systems is an excellent thing in and of itself—and believe me when I say that replaying Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater without having to dig out my old PS3 to play the HD Remaster has been an absolute blast—what makes Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 so interesting is all the extra stuff included alongside the games. The collection comes with a host of side content, the most interesting of which are the sheer number of books included with the release.
The most interesting of these books, aside from the screenplays for the three games with voice acting, are what are referred to as the Master books. While these books don’t really offer up any information that could be considered new, it is quite interesting to see the context under which several of the most important characters in the series were written. The Master books go quite deep into each of the games’ characters, from Solid Snake, Raiden and Naked Snake and their support crews, right down to the absolutely insane enemies the heroes have to fight off as they progress through the game—Foxhound, Dead Cell and the Cobra Unit.
“Metal Gear Solid 2 is an especially notable entry here”
Aside from all the books, music and digital graphic novels included in Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1, there are also quite a few gameplay extras that make revisiting the franchise a lot of fun. For example, you can expect to find just about every extra bit of content that was released for the original Metal Gear Solid back in the late 90s, including the arcade-styled VR missions, as well as the game’s Integral release. I personally was especially happy to see the European content for Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, which brought with it the most interesting difficulty option in European Extreme.
When it comes down to how well the games themselves play, you won’t find any new complaints. If you can get used to the rather primitive controls of the original, the interesting control scheme of Metal Gear Solid 2, and the incredibly complex (even by today’s standards) control scheme of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, you’re going to have an absolute blast. Performance on all of these games are essentially how you remember them, with Metal Gear Solid notably running at 30 frames per second. It is also interesting to note that Metal Gear Solid goes to great lengths to emulate the feeling of playing the game on a PSOne, giving you access to the old memory card storage screen, as well as the ability to swap your controller port—the latter option being incredibly important.
Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, on the other hand, make use of the version from the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection from the PS3 and Xbox 360, which means that they run at a stable frame rate of 60 FPS. Since modern controllers don’t feature the pressure sensitive controls of the PS2 and PS3, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater makes use of the L3 and R3 buttons for some of the more complex combat options you might want to use. Both of the titles also benefit quite a bit from running off an SSD, with loading times being almost non-existent.
“There are also quite a few gameplay extras that make revisiting the franchise a lot of fun.”
The only real downside of Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 is the soundtrack it provides. While it features much of the music that the franchise is known for, especially the iconic Snake Eater theme by Cynthia Harrel and Metal Gear Solid’s The Best is Yet to Come, it’s actually quite lacking if you go digging for much more than the most iconic tracks. For example, quite a bit of the combat and sneaking music is missing, and I personally had a hard time finding the Caution theme from Metal Gear Solid 3.
All in all, Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 is an excellent release. Not only do you get three fantastic stealth/action games to play through, featuring some of the most interesting and outright insane characters in video games, you also get a ton of extra goodies. The books and digital graphic novels are especially noteworthy parts of the collection, since they can let you take a break from the intense stealth gameplay offered by the games to instead delve deeper into the downright absurd world of Metal Gear. And if less complexity is your thing, there’s also the ability to play through the NES and MSX releases of Metal Gear, with each platform’s version being essentially completely different games.
And if you manage to finish playing through all of the core games, there are also plenty of gameplay extras to tinker around with, like Metal Gear Solid: Integral or Metal Gear Solid 3’s European Extreme difficulty mode.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.