Can Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 Deliver the Goods?

Yes, the upcoming Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol. 1 is just a re-release, a simple port of versions released already. Not remasters, and not remakes; although let’s not forget Konami are celebrating Metal Gear Solid’s legacy by remaking 2004’s Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater in a title mysteriously titled ‘Delta’, but for now the first Master Collection’s mission seems to be to bring these widely regarded titles to modern hardware and a new audience only.

Now, this is a contentious choice to many a Metal Gear fan, with accusations Konami don’t care enough about the series being the most widespread of concerns. Konami’s rationale for placing these cultural artefacts into the hands of players in largely untouched form, they say “allows fans to play the games as they were, as first released, on the latest platforms.” They’re intent to let the games speak for themselves, even going so far as to keep in elements they feel are outdated; a short opening disclaimer alerting players to the fact the creator’s original vision remains intact, despite maybe some of the content not being appropriate for modern day audiences, is the only warning.

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Bulking up the collection is an assortment of historical curios; digital museums exhibiting artwork, downloadable graphic novels that retell events of the first two games in the series, instruction manuals for each entry, entire screenplays containing character dialogue, scripts, and briefing files for Metal Gear Solid through to MGS3, plus game soundtracks and a huge master book reciting events from across the whole series. As a package, it’s hard to argue there isn’t plenty here for Metal Gear superfans to sink their teeth into, and it’s even harder to argue that Konami plainly don’t care about Metal Gear’s fans when they’re including so much alongside the games themselves.

No, maybe detractors are concerned about Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol. 1’s reported framerates and resolutions, a stance bolstered perhaps by a recent string of lacklustre re-releases (looking at you Rockstar with your sub-par Red Dead Redemption and GTA: The Trilogy re-releases). And to be fair info straight from the horse’s mouth has been a little confusing in this regard. Stemming from a hands-on preview for the upcoming collection undertaken exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, Konami indicated that they were aiming to replicate an authentic 720p experience across all platforms including PlayStation, Xbox, and PC and not just the Switch.

Whilst no platform will be running the collection at 4K resolution, Konami has since been forced to clarify that it will target 1080p at 60fps on all platforms except the Switch, which can expect to run at 720p and 30fps in handheld mode and target up to 1080p with 30fps when docked. 1080p is not as disappointing as 720p, of course, but framerates not guaranteed to run consistently at 60fps is a major bugbear for some. There are those that prefer stable framerates, even if they are running at 30fps, and there are those that won’t notice a difference, but for those that do notice a difference the experience could be jarring. 1998’s PS One classic Metal Gear Solid was originally a 30fps game but upgrading its cinematics and animations to 60fps shouldn’t result in glitchy movement, as has been predicted by some. Animation is scaled based on a final frame rate, so even if Metal Gear Solid’s animations were produced at 30fps (or more likely 24 or 25fps given the period), then any gaps in frames are interpolated from the original animation when running at 60fps. In short, unless you’re someone who must play at 60fps to enjoy a game, the frame rate concern is a moot point. Arguably, the most important thing is that these games run smoothly, with minimal, noticeable drops in frame rate. Old games are inevitably going to run a little jittery, but fans will understandably be unforgiving should Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol. 1’s performance be sub-standard.

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Now, the lack of graphical refresh might be an issue for some too. Hand-on previewers do report that Metal Gear Solid’s graphics can show their age, with Snake’s facial features indistinguishable throughout the game, for instance. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater fare better owing to the fact they’re straight up ports of the HD versions that came to PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2011. Still, if we’re to accept Konami’s reasoning that they want to re-release the games as close to their original form as possible then we must accept some outdated fidelity too. To soften the blow, publications are reporting the games run smooth as silk, apart from the most modern of the collection Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater which unfortunately can chug along in places. Fingers crossed Konami are still ironing out any technical kinks in time for the collection’s release next week.

Casting these concerns aside for now, the fact Metal Gear Solid is coming to modern platforms at all is massive. Let’s take the fact these games still hold up mechanically to this day as a given, they’re still inarguably fantastic stories presented with innovative cinematic aplomb, with narratives exploring prescient themes of artificial intelligence, socio-political tension, digital manipulation, conspiracy – the list goes on. This is subject matter that is as much relevant today as it was back then. Plus, the Metal Gear series, after all, is the forebearer of suspenseful stealth gameplay, laying the foundation for an entire genre.

If you’ve yet to dive in, then the Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol. 1 is the perfect opportunity. Let’s not forget, some of the games in this collection have been hard to come by for generations now. Not only does this digital archive preserve the games, but distant early entries Metal Gear, MSX sequel Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, and NES exclusive Snake’s Revenge are also included, running in 4:3 aspect ratio with customisable borders. These early games may be inessential digital curios for some, but alongside the bonus content it’s fantastic these have been included for fans of the series who previously wouldn’t have had access. And, just for clarity, as it hasn’t already been mentioned in this feature, 1998’s Metal Gear Solid comes packaged with Special Missions and VR Missions, and the same 4:3 aspect ratio as the NES and MSX games. All games in the collection come with trophy support too, which would be a huge miss if not included.

If you’re on the fence with Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol. 1 owing to the ongoing discourse surrounding the game’s technical aspects, then the simple answer is to hold off purchasing until the game’s been out for a while.

For everyone else, this is a chance to own a slice of gaming history. The treasure trove of extra content makes the reasonably steep asking price almost worth it. Metal Gear Solid’s first collection is bound to land with an accepting audience, even though they’re basic re-releases. To be honest, they don’t need to be anything more. Roll on volume 2.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.

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