Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Volume 1 is going to raise a few eyebrows when it launches on October 24. While the first three Metal Gear Solid (MGS) games, in particular, are stone-cold classics and important beacons in video game history, they have interactions, themes, and conversations that just wouldn't make it past the first edit in 2023. Some moments would just be a scratched-out entry in a notebook in the modern day.
I have been continuing to enjoy my replay of the games on PS3 and am reveling in how they are still just as gripping and action-packed as they were when they were first released all those years ago. However, now halfway through MGS3, it’s become clear as to why the Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Volume 1 needs to come with a warning that some content ‘may be considered outdated’, something that folks also saw in previews of the Collection a couple of weeks ago.
Fans of a certain age, like me, will know that the series, and creator Hideo Kojima himself, are no strangers to pushing the envelope and boundaries of games, what they can be, and in-game themes, but this, with the wonderful power of hindsight, may have seen things taken too far. From eyebrow-raising codec conversations to grimace-inducing ogling at female characters, and from strange ‘grabby’ character interactions to some downright weird revelations regarding family, there is a smattering of questionable inclusions that, although sitting alongside some of the best stealth action and video game stories ever, do sit very poorly in the year 2023.
In 1998’s Metal Gear Solid, it takes but a hot minute for Snake to start flirting flirts with Mei Ling on the codec making her blush and feel awkward. When Meryl - Snake’s boss’ niece, no less - appears it doesn’t take long for the flirting to commence there, either. And then there’s the ‘only’ way that Otacon and Snake can identify Meryl when she’s dressed as an enemy guard - by staring at her butt.
How bad could it be in the other games, I asked myself - well, worse is the answer.
There are some strange throwaway comments or jibes at Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty which seem to be homophobic, captured President, James Johnson, needs to make sure who Raiden is in a very, very specific way when that cut scene plays out, and there are some extraordinary revelations about Otacon’s relationship with his family in what’s supposed to be a deeply sad cutscene toward the end of that game.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is fresh in my memory as it was only a couple of days ago that ‘my’ Snake first met EVA in that derelict shack in Rassvet. The game wastes no time in making the subjects of the first ‘R1 first-person looks’ that Snake can perform be two of EVA’s body parts, in quick succession. And boy, are there some weird comments - and grabbing - between characters in this one too.
And will such moments from the third game survive and make the cut for the upcoming done for the Metal Gear Solid 3 remake that’s in the works?
That’s a quick whistle-stop tour of ones I’ve re-witnessed and re-lived recently; I’m sure there are others too.
However, another layer to this is that some of these were supposed to be ‘funny secrets’ you can find or unlock, and that shines a stranger light on them; were these deemed ‘special’ enough to be rewards for solving ‘puzzles’? One puzzle, in reality, was just staring at Meryl for long enough to make her blush. Weird. You even get trophies or achievements for some of these like getting intimate with a poster and calling someone on the codec at the same time in MGS2 (it’s called ‘Snake Beater’ if you were wondering). Will these remain as they are for trophy collectors too?
And will such moments from the third game survive and make the cut for the upcoming done for the Metal Gear Solid 3 remake that’s in the works? We already know that the remake will be using the original voice lines - so any outdated lines that are tied to key cutscenes or codec calls may well reappear.
As was reported at the time when the warning was discovered, the level of warning seems like something you might see on really outdated cartoons or shows from the early half of the 20th century that are filled with racism and misogyny. The MGS games aren’t as bad as those, of course, but there’s enough in them to make me think that the decision to have a warning on the games is probably a wise one. While longtime fans like me might have ‘worried’ what a new audience would think about clunk controls, meandering and rambling codec calls, or year-long cutscenes there are actually a few bigger hiccups and blemishes here so Konami calling them out (albeit leaving them unchanged in an effort to “preserve the historical context” and “the creator’s original vision”) in advance is also good move.
In terms of how all of these were once passable? I don’t know: saying things are from a ‘different time’ is a bit of a cop-out to me as that implies that things were OK at a particular time. Maybe, with MGS1 in mind particularly, the low graphical fidelity of the time, and stories in video games being a relatively young, emerging media made these more cartoonish and thus ‘passable’. And while once I may have thought these things were funny ‘Snake-banterisms’, just ‘words in a cutscene’, or just something akin to innuendo seen in Carry On movies, looking at them today, a lot of this stuff wouldn’t get through the first ideation stages in 2023.
When writing about only these things, it does feel a bit like I’m piercing holes in the games, and they should be seen as total takedowns - reasons to actively avoid the games. But that’s not quite the case. They are ignorable weirdisms that should be easily and quickly dismissed. After all, the Metal Gear Games really don’t need these bits to shine and to be enjoyed for what they are still: some of the most thrilling video game experiences ever created. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give them a little bit of side-eye.