Nostalgia can be blissful as it has the power to eradicate the flaws from whatever you’re reminiscing about, but it can also be a red herring. We’ve all championed a treasure from our childhood, like the Metal Gear Solid series, and battled for it amongst a minefield of ridicule and cynicism with others, only to return to it as an adult and discover that, nowadays, it’s no good. But would the same be true with something as high-profile and important as Konami’s upcoming Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Volume 1?
This nostalgia-induced concern is with me when returning to older games, and particularly ones as important as the Metal Gear Solid franchise - but then a haunting and somber score drizzles over a title card that reads “A Hideo Kojima game”. A man in an uber-cool black tactical outfit swims up to an industrial complex where guards are prowling on patrol. He lifts himself out of the water and says: “This is Snake”. The signature gruff tones of voice actor David Hayter (who absolutely is Snake, regardless of how great Keifer Sutherland was in the role in Metal Gear Solid V) are heard for the first time. Instantly, my worries vanished and I was instantly teleported back to the mysterious and captivating world of espionage, extravagant storytelling, and cardboard boxes.
Spending a couple of hours with the Collection at a hands-on preview event ahead of its October 24 release allowed me to delve deeper into games that I haven’t played for decades. I pleasantly learned I wasn’t being duped by sentimentality.
Back to the start
Playing on a Nintendo Switch, I began at the beginning with Metal Gear Solid. Being accustomed to the pacing and freneticism of many modern games, it was initially tempting to dash through that opening stage past the guards to the elevator at the rear of the dock. But then I trod in a puddle and the sound immediately alerted the patrolling genome soldiers amid the eerie quiet. They came running, I bashed them in the face and hid somewhere. The incident made me rethink how I interacted with the area around me as the enemy AI was more intelligent than I remembered.
There were similar revelations when I made it through to the next area; a snow-laden platform above ground with more guards and the addition of CCTV cameras and searchlights. It was inevitable that I’d trigger an alarm by wandering too close to the huge spotlights scanning the middle of the level and so I ducked behind a crate to wait for the search for me to blow over. However, enemies were relentless and would seemingly try to cut off my path when I sought a quick exit.
This level of ingenuity continued when I moved on to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Now, Snake can go into first-person view while aiming down the sight of his gun which is a given for any shooter nowadays. Playing these games back-to-back meant I could see the fascinating ways in which the developers upgraded the experiences from one to the next. Action is also dramatically improved here too. I played through until just after the fight with Olga Gurlukovich on the Tanker level, and the Matrix-esque cinematics preceding it are still thrillingly tense today.
Much of the focus since Konami announced this collection has been on the Metal Gear Solid 3 remake, a full redo of Snake Eater, and that’s understandable. However, returning to the original demonstrates it still has much to offer as a thought-provoking experience and shouldn’t be dismissed because there’s a new version on the horizon. Incorporating camouflage into stealth and managing Snake’s injuries, like broken bones and gunshot wounds in a realistically detailed system still feels fresh - its impact on modern open-world games is apparent.
However, for all their greatness, it’d be silly to avoid mentioning the flaws in these games given their age, particularly when one is thrust upon you at the start. An early disclaimer highlights that “this game contains expressions and themes which may be considered outdated”. That’s never been more obvious than when Snake problematically flirts with Mei Ling after meeting her for the first time via the Codec in the first game.
For some, the no longer state-of-the-art graphics will be distracting. Snake’s face is a blur and his hands are like supermarket turkeys in the first game - although the second and third games do look fairly sleek still. The control scheme feels awkward and clunky at times, particularly when trying to aim a weapon. On Switch, holding R will enter first-person mode, Y will raise the gun, and releasing it will fire. It’s a long process when you’re suddenly surrounded by shotgun-wielding enemies. Also, not being able to move while crouched is infuriating. However, it really is quite easy to overlook these gameplay problems when you become immersed in the storytelling, which remains superb.
The package, should you choose to accept it
What is immediately striking about this collection is the sheer volume of content that has been squeezed into it. Aside from the meaty list of full games, which includes (deep breath) Metal Gear Solid (including the VR missions), the 2011 HD Collection versions of Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater, Metal Gear (including the NES/FC version), Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake and Snake’s Revenge, there’s a heap of bonus content that exceeds that of most other remasters or re-releases.
There are digital screenplay booklets where the pages have sketched artwork printed behind the text which is so fitting for a series that feels born out of cinema. Then there’s the Master Book which serves as a giant encyclopedia, providing insights and analysis on major characters and events from across the series. Two digital graphic novels and a digital album of the game’s music are the icing on the cake. One slight downside of all the content included is that each game is presented with its own glossy menu and is separated out into different apps, so expect your dashboard to become a little cluttered.
It’s clear that Konami has fans at the heart of this collection and that’s emphasized by their decision to also bring it to PS4 as well as current-generation consoles - a move pushed by popular demand (although the release date for that edition is still to be confirmed).
Overall, this collection of games looks set to serve as a beautifully imagined history lesson to any newbies to the franchise that still delivers engaging and thought-provoking storytelling and stealth-focused action. For life-long fans, it’ll act as a tribute to the legacy of a series that paved the way for so many blockbuster games that came after.
If you're on the hunt to delve further into Metal Gear Solid, it's worth looking at the Metal Gear Solid 3 remake and all the info we have on it, but if you want some more general action-packed fun, the best FPS games may scratch the itch.
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