Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 gathers some of the best games ever made and puts them all on modern platforms in one convenient package. Unfortunately, a laundry list of weird caveats and shortcomings at launch make the new anthology hard to celebrate. Why is one of the best franchises in gaming history not pulling out all the stops?
Out October 24 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, and Windows PC, Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 has been stalked by controversy for months now, with questions about subpar performance on Nintendo Switch and a lack of bells and whistles on “next-gen” platforms like PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. The anthology features five main games—Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater—and includes the oddball Snake’s Revenge and the NES and Famicom ports of Metal Gear as bonuses. But now that it’s finally here, it’s hard not to be disappointed by how publisher Konami has gone about assembling it.
First up is the lack of a visual upgrade on new platforms, or parity with the original versions on Switch. As shared prior to release, Metal Gear Solid still only plays at 30fps across all versions (it was never remastered for 2011’s Metal Gear Solid HD Collection by Bluepoint Games). The Switch version of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 are also locked at 30fps (MGS2 originally ran at 60fps on PlayStation 2). All three games max out at 1080p as well, with no 4K resolution options for the stronger hardware versions.
Read More: Kotaku’s Metal Gear Retrospective Series
Even without any big improvements, Konami notes that the launch versions still suffer from various bugs and performance issues it plans to patch sometime in the future. A full list of the shortcomings was provided to IGN. “Across Metal Gear Solid 1, 2, and 3, bug fixes are also planned, specifically on MGS2,” the site noted. “Konami warned the game may significantly slow down in certain cutscenes, which sounds worrying. A patch to reduce processing load is planned.” Visual options like CRT scanlines and the ability to switch between windowed and full-screen mode in the options menu in the two MSX games are also MIA at the moment.
There’s also the laggy pause button. Konami added the option to pause during cutscenes, a long-requested feature for the story-heavy stealth series. Footage from copies of the game that leaked early, however, showed that it can take up to 10 seconds for the game to register the pause after the button’s pressed, taking some of the shine off the new option. It’s still unclear if that’s intentional or will be patched down the road.
The Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 is, perhaps less surprisingly, encountering issues on PC as well. Initial Steam reviews are very mixed, with players complaining about unintuitive keybindings, poor UI, and a lack of aspect ratio options. “Take this with a grain of salt, the game literally just launched, but damn the video settings, button mapping, and poor UI/UX for the collection is pretty sour,” wrote one player. “I am sure it will improve over time, but yikes.”
Most galling for me personally are the games altogether missing from the physical Switch version of the collection. In North America at least, only Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, and Snake’s Revenge are actually on the game card. The three Metal Gear Solid games, which are the main ones advertised on the front of the box, must be downloaded separately. As someone who treats their Switch like a physical repository for retro remasters and re-issues, it’s frustrating to have to rely on an internet connection and a temporary online storefront to have access to all-time classics. It sounds like the Japanese physical release at least also includes the first Metal Gear Solid on the game card.
Many of the initial reviews for Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 have noted these shortcomings while still pointing out that at the end of the day these games still play great and remain some of the most profound meditations on geopolitics, war, and the military industrial complex the medium has ever produced. “I think it’s great that such a huge swathe of Metal Gear history is now readily available and easily playable on modern systems,” writes The Verge’s Jon Porter. “But there’s also a part of me that thinks Konami missed an opportunity to give Metal Gear Solid in particular a fresh coat of paint and update it for a modern audience.”
The video game industry is generally so bad at preserving its past I wish it would go all out when it decides to finally take the opportunity to repackage old games and sell them again. If that means charging more so be it. I’d gladly pay $100 for the definitive edition of all of these games. Maybe we’ll eventually get that one day. In the meantime I hope Konami’s planned post-launch updates give the collection some of the additional love it deserves.