Metal Gear Solid (Master Collection Vol. 1) Review

Josh Wise

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 comprises the work of Hideo Kojima, who made a string of celebrated stealth games, and the work of Konami, who made everyone angry for eight years. Kojima’s departure from Konami, in2015, was akin to a nasty divorce: the heated end to a long-cooled union, rife with rumour and bitterness, with only one party taking custody of the kids. And here they are again – Solid Snake, Liquid Snake, and the rest of the terrible children that make up this astonishing series. What we have, in short, is a bundle of re-releases, and the latest in a line of efforts, on the part of Konami, to patch its reputation.


Since Kojima’s exit, Konami has appeared dazed, absent. Lately, though, it’s as if it were desperate to shake the crown of stars whirling above its head and whip itself into a fervour. We had a pair of Castlevania collections, in 2019 and 2021; Silent Hill is drifting back to our screens, in a proliferation of damp forms; and now this, which Konami presumably hopes will warrant the shriek-burst of an exclamation mark. This volume includes, in chronological order: Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Chronological order, that is, in terms of their release, not of their overarching storyline; time, in this series, has a toxifying habit of slithering back and forth and coiling inwards, nipping its own tale.

You will not emerge from this batch of espionage adventures with a clear picture of its twin heroes, Solid Snake and Big Boss. Nor, if you already possess a mortal weakness for Metal Gear, will you glean any fresh knowledge of its creation. But part of the joy of these games is their enduring belief that pictures and knowledge can’t help but grow murky and stale, fouled up by the formless gush of time. This is the sort of package that I would recommend paddling around in over the course of a contented weekend, picking away at its entrails. Dive first into Snake Eater (or technically Subsistence, the upgraded version included here), and, basking in its paranoid, greenhouse air, you will immediately feel better about life. Then into Metal Gear Solid, the star of this first volume, which until now has only been legally available to download on the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Vita, and on PC via

It’s a relief to see it on a TV, as that submarine ripples out of the blue toward the camera – a promise, back in 1998, of impossible depth – and you hear Colonel Campbell’s briefing. The game has a beautiful feel now. In solidarity with its star, it has about it the texture of cardboard: the quivering walls, the wet-darkened hangars, and the muffled audio that seems to seep in from all sides. One advantage of having these titles packed in together is the chance to register the clashing of climates, from sun-shocked jungle to nose-dripping cold, from snowy Alaskan helipads to New York harbours in the frothing rain. It reminds you of the geographical restlessness of Metal Gear, its will to wander without borders into hotspots of strife, and also its determination to crawl through shifts of political weather. “This game contains expressions and themes which may be considered outdated,” reads a message at the start. “These elements have been included without alteration to preserve the historical context in which the game was made and the creator’s original vision.”


Note the placement of that apostrophe. Not slotted in after the “s” but before, slicing away the notion of a group effort. What’s interesting about this is not that the work of Yoji Shinkawa, Tomokazu Fukushima, and Harry Gregson-Williams (among many others) is being snubbed. Rather, it’s Konami’s surreal ambivalence toward Kojima, bowing to his singular stamp but still refusing to call him by name. Plunge into the Master Books – digital tomes, intended to illuminate – and you will find this surreal equivocation everywhere. In a passage on the original Metal Gear, whose ambitions to be an action game were belted by hardware limitation: “It was decided that while the game would still be about war, it would now have the player sneak through enemy territory.” It was decided. The passive voice, caked on like camouflage, is as elusive as its subject.

Then again, in a chapter covering “The Evolution of the Metal Gear Series,” those games with which Kojima was not directly involved are listed under a section entitled “Others.” Konami is well aware of the Kojima Canon, in other words, but by far the best coup of Master Collection Vol. 1 is its embrace of apocrypha. You will find, if you head into the Bonus Content file, the bastardised American release of Metal Gear, for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and, far more heretical, its follow-up, Snake’s Revenge. That game, referred to discreetly in the menu as “an alternate sequel,” has you taking on “Higharolla Kockamamie” and his “untold hundreds of Uzi toting soldiers,” not forgetting to dispatch his “Ultra-Sheik Nuclear Attack Tank.” You can imagine Kojima like The Sorrow, from Metal Gear Solid 3, an uninvited ghost over Konami’s shoulder, protesting with a downpour of tears.


Let him cry on! As vital as Kojima’s Metal Gear is to the general health of games, those “Others” in its penumbra – huddled at the back of the Master Book, consigned to the silly oblivion of non-canonicity – help us keep a good check on the health of Metal Gear. I’m thinking of Metal Gear Acid, for the PlayStation Portable, which cut the actions of the series into cards and had Solid Snake shuffling through what felt like a bad dream. Metal Gear Solid: Ghost Babel, for the Game Boy Colour, which was happily haunted by the noise and visual language of those early MSX games. (Both were directed by Shinta Nojiri, a former protégé of Kojima’s.) And, closest to my heart, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, for the PSP. Its cutscenes, like those of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, featured artwork by Ashley Wood, whose worried loops of ink scratch away at the same anxieties that infest the main entries.

These curios help us trace the arc of Kojima’s output – the particular madness it inspired in other developers, and, more important, the good games that it sparked to life. It’s heartening to see Konami look beyond him, as it does here. But we need more than looks, more than Master Books; we need the games, many of them locked on islands of old plastic, and we need them now.


And so to housekeeping. What’s here is welcome, though owners of the 2011 Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection may feel irked at the prospect of parting with £59.99 in exchange for four games they already own – minus Peace Walker, which is doubtless going to clomp along in future volumes. (They may be doubly miffed if they happen to own it on Xbox 360, and can therefore play it on an Xbox Series X, via backwards compatibility.) The biggest draw, then, is Metal Gear Solid. It’s a fine port, with attention paid to several welcome details. We have updated button prompts; on PlayStation 5, the hard rumble has been pestled into haptics; and we also have the PlayStation version of Metal Gear Solid: Integral, the re-released Japanese edition of the game, lined with appealing extras.

It’s nice to have. The ability to play the entire story in first-person view is to be relished, along with the Very Easy mode, which grants you an unlimited MP5. But the Metal Gear helpless (I count myself among them, and apologise for it vehemently) will feel the pang of missed opportunity. For one thing, the developer commentary hasn’t been translated from the Japanese, so you had better buy a phrasebook and get cramming. Also, the PC port of Integral, while clumsily truncated, remains the only version with DirectX support, calming the shakes of those console polygons, like a dose of Pentazemine, and sharpening the resolution. To have that on modern platforms would be a thrill.


Some things are, perhaps, too much to ask for, many of them roped up in rights issues. Given that the Master Collection is a multi-platform release, we still don’t have the Snake vs. Monkey minigame, a wondrous nod to the Sony-exclusive Ape Escape, which was peeled from Snake Eater in the HD Collection and never reinstated. Likewise, the idea of Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, the GameCube remake from Silicon Knights, ever breaking out of its purple prison seems unlikely.

In the end, this is, for serious Metal Gear addicts, a must. It brings these games onto modern platforms and puts them in each other’s company. They start to talk among themselves across time. Check out the opening of the NES version of Metal Gear, wherein Snake leaps from a plane and parachutes into the trees, rather than the watery ingress of the MSX version. I couldn’t help but wonder if Kojima hadn’t glimpsed something in those seconds: the image of a hero in free fall, swallowed by something steamy and corrupted, and came up with the start of Snake Eater, and its HALO jump. And look at the echo in the opening of Metal Gear 2, as Solid Snake climbs unglamourously up a cliff, and you can make out the first minutes of Ground Zeroes, with Big Boss gripping similar crags. Whenever Vol. 2 appears, its chief contribution will be to deliver Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – currently languishing in a Cell on the PlayStation 3. But I hope that Konami pursues the exciting, disloyal track it has begun here, and gives us those stranger games. What looks like betrayal may, in fact, be allegiance to a deeper legacy.

Metal Gear Solid (Master Collectio...

A comforting anthology for diehards, with some disappointing omissions, sweetened by the inclusion of certain curios.

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Some of the best scores composed for games, and featuring full digital track lists to listen to. The scores haven’t been remastered; they’re just presented as is.


Standard ports of the HD Collection, and a low-maintenance port of Metal Gear Solid 1 – beautiful in their day but nothing has been done to them here.


A slew of classic stealth games, all of which hold up very well, and shine a light on modern stealth games in interesting ways – though custom save points would have been nice.


There are five main games here, totalling well over 60 hours, and there are a number of intriguing curios and oddities. But there are also some disappointing omissions, and the overall lack of effort with the collection is a shame.


The same lists appear as for the HD Collection – a fairly standard spread with some small highlights. Very unimaginative in places.

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