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Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection – Volume 1 review — A well crafted time capsule of an iconic series, though light on new content

The first time I booted up Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation 1 is forever etched into my mind as a defining gaming moment of my childhood. I had played 3D games before, but nothing quite like Metal Gear. I played through the opening area in awe, dumbfounded by the effective mixture of action movie cinematography and stealth gameplay, culminating with my mind being blown by the title card reveal once I stepped into the elevator and headed to the surface. In the years since its release the gaming medium has evolved by leaps and bounds, but much of the filmic approach prevalent in gaming now is due in part to the flawless execution of cinematic cutscenes and gameplay pioneered by the Metal Gear series.

After the instant success of Metal Gear Solid, multiple mainline titles were released, including two during the PS2 era (Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater), one during the PS3 era (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots), and one during the PS4/Xbox 360 era (Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain) – not counting spin offs and handheld releases. These titles were all instant classics, with each one receiving critical acclaim and fan praise. Unfortunately as the years wore on most of these titles became a hassle to obtain if you do not own the original systems that they were released on, often leading to frustration from the series’ loyal fanbase. Thankfully, Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection – Volume 1 solves this issue by bringing many of these titles (but not quite all of them) to modern consoles, including the often-forgotten MSX/NES/FC titles.

With Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection – Volume 1, you are treated to the complete early history of this iconic series, from its retro NES/MSX beginnings through what is arguably the best title in the series, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The titles are spread throughout five separate downloadable files (at least on the PS5), with no main menu to speak of through which to access all content at once. Instead, players are given the option to individually choose which game or bundle you’d like to install first. Included in this volume is Metal Gear (MSX), Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MSX), Metal Gear (NES/FC Version), Snake’s Revenge, Metal Gear Solid – Master Collection Version, Metal Gear Solid 2 – Master Collection Version (HD Collection Version), Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – Master Collection Version (HD Collection Version), and a bonus content download which serves as its own accessible title.

Let’s tackle each download/bundle available one at a time, beginning with the bonus content:

Bonus Content - Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection - Volume 1 [PS5]

The Bonus Content is a hub for various Metal Gear related content, including access to the North American and Japanese versions of the original NES/FC Metal Gear title (in all its glory, featuring the iconic “I’m getting sleepy!!” followed by the misspelled “I feel asleep!” as the guard wakes up) and Snake’s Revenge. Each title includes hi-res scans of the original box art and instruction manual, which is always a welcome addition in compilations such as this and comes with a few other modern amenities such as being able to save and load at will, change the screen alignment, and set screen wallpaper. Other bonus materials include the Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2 digital graphic novels in multiple languages, and the digital soundtrack. Unfortunately, the digital soundtrack only contains 20 tracks, rather than being a comprehensive database of Metal Gear related music. Still, what is included in the digital soundtrack is quite good and worth a listen.

Metal Gear & Metal Gear 2 - Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection - Volume 1 [PS5]

The retro/original game bundle includes the MSX titles Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in multiple languages, complete with hi-res scans of the original box art and instruction manuals. Like the NES/FC titles, you can quickly save and load your progress, but now these options are handled through the game’s pause screen itself, rather than through the PS5 menu. These original releases were top-down affairs centered around using stealth and are brutally hard to survive without meticulous planning. These titles remain important to experience as they introduced many of the ideas that would eventually be used in later games, such as using the radio to communicate, hiding from cameras, having to survive with limited supplies and ammunition, and making use of a radar to avoid enemies.

The NES/FC/MSX games remain as challenging as they were in the late 80’s but are a fascinating reminder of where this series began and a testament to the creativity of a team allowed to engineer an entirely new experience. In an age of simple platformers and straight forward run and gun games, Metal Gear was unique. Metal Gear asked players to take it slow, investigate their surroundings, make use of the environment, and plan out how to survive with little to work with. There are discrepancies between the MSX and NES titles, with the MSX games being noticeably more vibrant and detailed than their NES/FC counterparts. The MSX titles also tend to play more fluidly and have overall better pacing and structure. While outdated by today’s standards, you can’t deny that the massive fanbase that the series has now would not exist if it weren’t for the humble beginnings found in these early classics. For those with patience, each retro title remains quite fun to play once you learn how to correctly approach each area, and are well worth revisiting, especially for die-hard fans of the series.

18 Minutes of Metal Gear Solid [PS5] - Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection - Volume 1

Metal Gear Solid is exactly how you may remember it being, for better or for worse. That’s not to say that the game isn’t as fun today as it was 25 years ago, but many players may be disappointed to learn that the version included in this compilation is merely an emulated version of the 1998 title and nothing more. The game is locked at 30 FPS and 1080P and appears slightly blurry at times, but that tends to be the case when older titles are stretched out on a modern TV. Fans hoping for a remaster or even the inclusion of the incredible Gamecube remake Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes will be disappointed, but for those new to the series or who just want to experience a classic again, you will find hours of enjoyment. Despite showing its age, Metal Gear Solid is still iconic, with great set pieces, fun stealth gameplay, and captivating boss fights – shout out to the incredibly creative and originally mind-blowing fight with Psycho Mantis. During my time with the game, I did not experience any slowdown or graphical issues and the 30 FPS didn’t bother me, though I know it may bother others. The game played exactly how I remembered it. Sure, the gameplay is a bit rough around the edges, the camera being static is still quite annoying and often leads to frustrating encounters, and aiming your weapon isn’t exactly precise – but the pros far outweigh the cons.

Thankfully, this release of Metal Gear Solid does contain a few extras, including all the VR and special missions, along with a digital screenplay book, and a digital master book. The screenplay is a welcome addition and a lengthy read, covering not only the entirety of the game’s dialogue but the scene settings, events, etc. to provide a full picture of Metal Gear Solid. The master book is a highly in-depth look at all things Metal Gear Solid, filled with pictures, information, tips, and more and is fascinating to read through. There are hundreds of pages to comb through between the two documents, providing fans with hours of material to digest.

22 Minutes of Metal Gear Solid 2 - Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection - Volume 1 [PS5]

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is at once the most divisive entries in the series while also being heralded as one of the best entries. This mainly stems from the switch in settings which occurs a couple of hours into the game, which I’ll avoid speaking about in case someone has managed to make it all these years without this game being spoiled. Metal Gear Solid 2 is where this franchise really began to take shape, taking the ideas present in the first entry and expanding on them to create a much longer, much more focused, and much better optimized game. That said, the version included here is essentially the same release we saw on the PS3 HD Collection and is locked at 60 FPS and 1080P. Load times are much quicker than before and the game does make use of PS5’s haptic controller features, but that’s about it in terms of new additions. Still, Metal Gear Solid 2 remains just as fun as it was upon release and is well worth revisiting, it certainly helps that the version included here runs silky smooth and feels comfortable to play.  Like Metal Gear Solid, Sons of Liberty also comes with a digital screenplay book and a digital master book, both of which are equally as enthralling as the previous ones were.

24 Minutes of Metal Gear Solid 3 - Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection - Volume 1 [PS5]

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has long been a fan favorite and playing through the title again after all these years quickly reminded me why. Everything from the previous two entries has been refined to near perfection here, with new gameplay aspects such as finding your own food and camouflage now included, all of which combine to help sell the survival aspect. Like the previous two mainline entries, you’ll find little new here aside from haptic feedback and faster load times as again, this is essentially the same version found on the HD collection (which is the updated Subsistence release using a fully 3D camera) released years ago. This is quite disappointing, but at least we have the full-fledged remake set to launch at some point within the next couple of years to provide this game with the upgrade it deserves. The game mostly runs smoothly at 60 FPS and 1080P, though I did notice some jittery movement during cutscenes, particularly when the camera was spinning.  MGS3 contains a digital screenplay book and digital master book, both of which are phenomenal.  MGS3 has always been my personal favorite entry, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the title held up despite being nearly twenty years old.

The biggest draw of this collection is the PS1 and PS2 era games, which happen to be the collection’s greatest selling point while also being the most likely source of players’ contention. While it is great to finally have all these titles available on modern consoles, it is a bit of a disappointment that they are the exact same iterations we received in the PS3/Xbox 360 Metal Gear Solid HD collection. That said, as long as a player purchasing this collection accepts this, then there are countless hours of enjoyment to be found. The real star of the show here are the digital screenplay books and digital master books, both of which are phenomenal deep dives into every aspect of each game and are well worth the time investment for any fan of this series.

Unfortunately, due to receiving this collection ahead of launch, I was not able to download the digital novel or any of the Japanese, etc. packs, and as such, can’t speak as to the quality of those items.

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Richard Allen is a freelance writer and contributing editor for various publications. When not writing for Gaming Trend you can find him covering theatre for Broadway World, movies and TV for Fandomize, or working on original stories. An avid retro gamer, he is overly obsessed with Dragon's Lair. Chat with him via @thricetheartist on Twitter and @richardallenwrites on Facebook and Instagram.

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Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection - Volume 1

Review Guidelines

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection – Volume 1 serves as both a fantastic collection of video games and as an impressively detailed look at the evolution of the iconic video games series, but is unfortunately hampered by a sense of déjà vu due to providing few upgrades to the core games from the previous HD collection release. Despite this, the Master Collection remains the only way to be able to experience these games on modern consoles and each title is well worth revisiting. The real stars of this collection are the screenplay and master books which provide meticulously crafted breakdowns of each game and serve as a treasure trove of information for die-hard fans to pore over.

Richard Allen

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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