Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 (PS5) REVIEW – Needs More Mastering

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MGS Master Collection
MGS Master Collection
Release Date
October 24, 2023
PC, PS5, PS4, XS, XO, NS
Our Score

The kind of people interested in this compilation probably don’t need reminding how long it’s been since we’ve seen anything new from the Metal Gear series. Since Hideo Kojima’s messy split from Konami, the IP has pretty much been on ice barring one misguided and maligned survival spin-off back in 2018 — fans have definitely been kept waiting. Following the reveal of a Kojima-less yet supposedly faithful remake of Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 was also announced as a way of bringing the classics (and Snake’s Revenge) back to modern platforms.

Konami has certainly done just that — but not much else.

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 makes Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Snake’s Revenge, Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and the original Metal Gear Solid 3 playable for the most recent PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo consoles while failing to really take advantage of those platforms. All of the games here are playable and are a step up from dusting off the original hardware, but despite the word “Master” in this compilation’s title, it’s hard not to feel like it’s been left to some apprentices instead. However, these are still some of the greatest games of all time (and Snake’s Revenge) and their inherent quality carries the collection more than what the collection itself brings: not very much.

The Metal Gear you know and love is here, with barely any noticeable changes to their cores — for good and bad. Nothing is censored to appease modern sensibilities (locker kissers rejoice), and there are even multiple versions of the original Metal Gear Solid with regional differences for the die-hards to really drill into. I finally took the chance to complete the original MGS having only ever beaten Twin Snakes on GameCube about ten times, and while it’s obviously showing its age in some respects, it’s still packed with the kind of fine details that most modern games simply don’t bother with.

It’s a shame, then, that the resolution seems almost exactly as it was at the time of its release — I honestly don’t think it’s 720p here, or even 540p. Konami says the output resolution is 1920 × 1080, but this feels like it only actually applies for the border that surrounds the fairly meager aspect ratio. It also runs at just 30fps, which may have more to do with how the game was built back in 1998 than anything else. There was also a really offputting crackling with the audio during my playthrough, though this may be fixed by a patch that’s due to come out around official launch time.

The saving grace of this port is the fact that players can now pause cutscenes, so anyone’s bladder control who was ruined by Kojima’s storytelling might be in luck. This is also how players can change their controller port for the iconic Mantis fight, and also remap their controls on their fly. However, this QoL feature is bafflingly only present in the original Metal Gear Solid across the 3D games. Disappointingly, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 are both pretty much just exact ports of Bluepoint’s remasters for the HD Collection on 7th gen, with the apparent upconverting of their resolutions still seemingly a ways off hitting a true 1080p. Metal Gear Solid 2 feels especially basic, as some textures look super flat and muted, while Metal Gear Solid 3 looks much more crisp but still some ways short of modern HD.

Curiously, there were still some aesthetic bugs from the HD Collection that hadn’t been fixed in the Master Collection during my playthrough, though a planned launch patch may again fix that. Here’s hoping it also fixes random freezing on PS5 while playing Metal Gear Solid 2, as I encountered three different instances where the game seized up for about 5 seconds before returning to normal. That really just shouldn’t be happening for a port of a 6th gen game to 9th gen hardware, no matter how you slice it.

The Master Collection isn’t entirely disappointing, though, as the archival extras do make up for some of the shortcomings elsewhere. The ability to browse through each game’s digitally scanned screenplay is a brilliant touch, so too are the whole textbooks covering all things Metal Gear that feel like uber-manuals. It’s a shame that something like The Document of Metal Gear Solid 2 isn’t also bundled in with the Master Collection, but the inclusion of the Digital Graphic Novels (which are unfortunately another separate download) and select tracks from the various scores make up for that.

It’s also hard not to appreciate just how wonderfully the 3D games have aged in general over the years. Metal Gear Solid’s polygons may look ropey by today’s standards, but just the way scenes are constructed feels lightyears ahead of a lot of today’s games in terms of raw composition. Sons of Liberty’s prescient storytelling makes it timeless and vital, with there being plenty of valuable lessons for a new generation of fans to take from it. The unapologetically horny Snake Eater had an incredible amount of innovative systems and mechanics for its day, with it arguably being the series high point in terms of balancing gameplay with a dense, complex story. These three are some of the greatest games of all time (two of them probably within my own personal top ten) and their qualities shine brightly through even the most basic of ports.

Ultimately, Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 isn’t quite a dud, as most will no doubt get a kick out of playing Metal Gear again after such a long absence, even if the day one asking price is a bit steep. However, it’s hard not to feel a bit like the chance to shine up the classics and make a real diamond (dog) was wasted here.

A PS5 key was provided by PR for the purposes of this review. 

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MGS Master Collection
The Metal Gear Solid games remain as masterful as ever, but the same can't be said for this rather rudimentary compilation.