After an era of pachinko machines and sports clubs, Konami is back. Well, its old games are back. The Japanese company is on a mission to regain the fans it lost after abandoning the hardcore gaming space, and turning nostalgia into dollars was always going to be the first thing it did. A more expansive remake of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is on its way, but for now we have the Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection, which makes the first three classics playable on modern hardware once more. The trip down memory lane is a reminder of why the three titles are a lock in any top 50 list of the greatest games ever made, but the digital packaging that brings them back can leave much to be desired.
What we have here is the original Metal Gear Solid presented in all its PS1 glory, coupled with the PS3 HD remasters of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Alongside them is a bevvy of bonus content taken from the Substance and Subsistence re-releases on PS2, as well as extra material like digital comics, soundtracks, and screenplays.
Metal Gear Solid uses a 4:3 ratio at its original 30 frames-per-second, with customisable borders to fill in the gaps on your TV. Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater, meanwhile, sport a 1080p resolution and run at 60fps. There are no extra bells or whistles to be found in the new Master Collection; the three games are as they were either 25 years ago or following the PS3 remasters from Bluepoint Games — save for a small resolution bump.
Given the power Konami has access to in the PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and top-of-the-range PCs, this is somewhat of a disappointment. So much more could have been done — even just on the purely resolution and frame rate end — to make these three classics shine once more. They still do as the unique direction of Hideo Kojima is clear to see, but it's smeared somewhat by PS1 pixels and dated PS3 visuals.
What really lets the overall package down, though, is how all of this content is presented to you. We can't speak to how the Master Collection is handled on other consoles or PC, but on PS5, nothing feels cohesive. What you're actually getting is five separate apps on the PS5 home screen rather than a single, comprehensive bundle. The three main Metal Gear Solid games have their own launchers, versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake are packaged into one, and then there's even more bonus content housed in a fifth, completely separate application.
It's a really messy way of structuring the collection, because it doesn't really feel like one at all. It's fine for jumping in and out of one specific title, but you've got to play a guessing game to locate the extra content. For example, you'll find the bonus master books and screenplays built into the game apps themselves, but then the graphic novels are siloed off in the launcher purely for bonus features. Except that application isn't just for the extra bits and pieces at all because you’ll find another version of Metal Gear in there as well as Metal Gear: Snake's Revenge.
It feels like a release put together with a pritt stick rather than super glue, with content spilling out into other apps when really it could have all been housed under one roof. All of the bonus features you'd want out of a special release are there, but they're arranged in such a way that it's sometimes difficult to locate things — and it's always messy. The biggest offence of all is each app takes up its own slot on your PS5 Profile page, meaning you'll get a long, ugly list of "Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1" repeated five times — the listings aren't even individualised for each game!
Thankfully, this becomes a non-issue once you actually boot up and get started with one of the three main games. There's still nothing else quite like a Metal Gear Solid game out there, and dipping your toes into any one of them is enough to consider ignoring your current-gen backlog for a few playthroughs all over again. Its unique mixture of stealth gameplay and lengthy, story-heavy cutscenes is unmatched to this day; it's baffling that nobody has tried to earnestly create their own take on such sneaking missions in the time since Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
As such, the series continues to stand alone, meaning Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater still more than hold up three generations later. From the wild story of the Big Shell incident to the harsh jungles of Snake Eater, it's a joy to return to these experiences on current hardware. Their 20-minute cutscenes are a welcome invitation; their stealth gameplay and Big Boss rank attempts a fun challenge.
The PS1's Metal Gear Solid presents more of a challenge, though. At 30fps with unresponsive, heavy controls, it feels a lot more dated compared to the rest of the package. Nostalgia will get returning fans through — though you might find the PS5 controls more frustrating than you expect — but it'll come as little surprise if complete newcomers fail to stick with it. The first game feels pretty archaic at this point, and proved tough for even us to return to.
Still, the Master Collection marks the first-ever Trophy list for Metal Gear Solid, and earning a Platinum gong for such a coveted title is an offer most fans won't be able to refuse. Along with updated Trophy lists for Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater, the Master Collection is the best way to experience all three masterpieces at once since the PS3 days. Luckily, the five apps at least make it clear and obvious where to locate the main classics.
The Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection bundles together three of the greatest games ever made, but does so in a convoluted manner. Spread across five separate apps on PS5, it can be a challenge to locate the specific version or the bonus feature you need. The digital packaging surrounding the three classics doesn't quite feel like the labour of love it should do, but once you sink into the PS1 original, Sons of Liberty, or Snake Eater, it's abundantly clear there's still nothing quite like Metal Gear Solid. Konami's Master Collection gets by on the ever-lasting quality of its fallen series, not the means that have brought it back.