Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 Review – Nowhere To Hide

While the improvements are minimal, the games are as great as ever.

When Metal Gear Solid was released twenty-five years ago, it was obviously something special. It’s often referred to as one of the most significant video games ever made, popularizing both stealth mechanics and longer in-engine cinematics in games.

But for all that prestige and reverence, the entire series has been bizarrely hard to jump into if you weren’t around when it was first released. There’s no single platform to buy the series’ first four games, with the fourth being incredibly elusive. Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 is the first step in remedying that. And while it’s a step in the right direction on paper, the execution is mixed.

The first volume of Master Collection brings together all of the games that essentially began the Metal Gear canon. Canon and non-canon games are included and, if you buy the Master Collection, with some extras. Many games are included – the original Metal Gear as it appeared on both the MSX and the NES. The official sequel, Metal Gear 2, is also included, but so is the non-canon Metal Gear 2: Snake’s Revenge. The main attractions here, however, are Metal Gear Solid 1 through 3. There are some additional extras, too, but I’ll touch on those later.

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 Review - Metal Gear Solid 2

Arguably, the centrepiece of Volume 1 of the Master Collection is that it represents the first time that the original Metal Gear Solid has been available outside of the PlayStation ecosystem on other consoles. As such, this game has received the most attention in this collection. Besides the original PlayStation version, the VR Missions and Special Missions expansion packs are also included. The expanded version of the original game, Metal Gear Solid: Integral, is also included, marking the first time it’s been available outside of Japan. It’s an incredibly comprehensive package and easily exceeds the expectation of what would be included with a typical remaster.

That being said, these are essentially the PlayStation version of the game running in a fancy bespoke emulator with minimal improvements. Where the PC version, already available elsewhere, offers higher resolutions, smoother textures and framerates, this version has all the warts that the original PlayStation release had. Rough, wobbly textures and a framerate of 30fps that somehow still manages to drop. Yes, this is the most authentic version of the game that Konami could present, but not giving players the option to also try the PC version seems like a misstep here.

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 Review - Metal Gear Solid

But the intention wasn’t even to include the games as they originally appeared, as the ports included in Master Collection of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 are the improved ports from Bluepoints 2011 remasters. These games run at a maximum of 1080p resolution and a buttery smooth 60 frames per second (half that on Switch). While it’s disappointing not to see many substantial changes made to these ports to restore missing content from the original releases, these are still great ways to experience the games. Similarly, while Master Collection includes multiple versions of Metal Gear Solid, only the HD Collection versions of 2 and 3 are included here.


That’s not to say that the HD Collection ports were terrible. They were the best ways to play Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 on modern platforms. But their inclusion in Master Collection Vol. 1 feels barebones compared to the treatment the original Metal Gear Solid has received. It’s mainly a bit of a letdown that these games haven’t been tweaked with a bump in resolution, given the power of the consoles we’re playing with now. As it stands, if these were the two games you were interested in within the Master Collection, but you already own HD Collection, this might not be worth the double dip for you.

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 Review - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Besides the games, each comes with a Master Book and Screenplay Book, which any keen Metal Gear Solid fan will appreciate. Each book spans over eighty pages; summarising events, detailing characters and providing tips and tricks that you might’ve read about in magazines if you were growing up when these games came out. They’re all great additions that do a great job of walking the player through each game narratively and showing how each one connects to the overarching mythos. The Master Books are comprehensive, but given their breadth, I can’t help but feel they’d better serve as a physical printed compendium rather than a digital add-on to pore over on a screen.

Despite some questionable remastering choices, it’s a massive boon to Konami that these games are still so strong, regardless of their treatment. While some areas of Metal Gear Solid can be a bit tougher to play today, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 are still an absolute joy to play. Metal Gear Solid 3 is, in particular, still one of the greatest stealth games ever. Metal Gear Solid 2 has a story that only gets better and more relevant to the zeitgeist as time progresses. They’re all fantastic games with remarkable polish and strong stories to tell. The original games that appeared on the MSX and NES are a little bit more of an acquired taste, but to be blunt, they’ve aged poorly compared to the trilogy of Metal Gear Solid games included here.

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 Review - Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake Screenshot

There are some other bonuses, too – namely, the digital graphic novels previously available for the PlayStation Portable and included with specific collections. These interactive novels were fun ways to experience the story of Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2, though they’re not included in the base package and must be downloaded separately to work. For those who love preservation, this isn’t the best way to go about things – even the instruction manuals link to websites that’ll inevitably disappear after decades have passed – but it’s, once again, still nice of Konami to bother to include these. Especially if you struggle to get through Metal Gear Solid as a newer player.

Of course, the question must be asked. Is this worth it? It really depends. When you boil it down to what’s included here, Master Collection is good value for money. If you did the bare minimum in all of the games included here, you’ve got more than forty hours of play to get through. And it’s a good forty hours plus, too. The additional materials, like the Master Books, are fantastic and comprehensive additions that the most hardcore fans will enjoy immersing themselves in. But these consoles that the collection is launching on are capable of so much more – and if you own any previous copies of Metal Gear Solid – it makes the lack of substantial improvements to the games themselves a key deciding factor on whether you’d need to purchase this again.

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 Review - Master Books

Still, having the first three games of one of gaming’s most prolific franchises is hardly bad. And given how good these games are, playing Master Collection is just a reminder of how vital preservation is and how many people need to play these games if they haven’t already. And that’s worth celebrating.

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 does precisely what it claims to do - bring the first three Metal Gear Solid games to all major platforms after a much-felt absence. While the technical updates given to each game are scarce, this still represents a great way to get into one of the most important and prolific series in video games. Could there be some more touch-ups to modernise these games? Absolutely. But it’s hard to ignore the quality of the games included in this package, and it’s a testament to their strengths that, even with slight improvement, they’re still as compelling as ever.
Core trilogy is still a joy to play
Master Books are a great and comprehensive bonus
MGS1 could've used more of a touch-up
Limited technical improvements to MGS2 and MGS3