This week saw the release of Metal Gear Solid: The Master Collection, which makes one of the great gaming series available once more on contemporary platforms. It should have been cause for great celebration but… oh dear, oh dear oh dear. These compilations are more complex and harder work than we the audience often assume but, even so, it's striking that Konami sent out its crown jewels in anything less than fully polished condition.
Clearly someone at the publisher is paying attention, too, because if you want to take some heat off while the patchers get busy a-patching, then a distraction's a good idea. Special ops 101 or something. So it is that our first proper look at Metal Gear Solid Delta: Snake Eater has arrived: first announced at Summer Games Fest, this is a project that feels mostly remaster and part-remake of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
I'm not googling the keyboard shortcuts for the triangle every time, so you'll have to make do with me calling Delta "MGSD." MGSD is giving MGS3 a full visual overhaul, and various gameplay enhancements, but judging on the layouts shown thus far is going to hew extraordinarily close to the original in terms of the moment-to-moment Tactical Espionage Action. It's being made in Unreal Engine 5, and at this point it's appropriate to pour one out for Konami's superlatively good and chronically under-used FOX Engine. But as this trailer shows the Metal Gear Solid 5 influence is unmistakable in Naked Snake's new animations.
There is an obvious caveat here with that "in-engine" description: what looks like gameplay here is a choreographed scene showing what the game is capable of in its current pre-alpha state, and not necessarily what the final game will look like. That said, some sequences and the bridge-hanging / guard-grabbing moment near the end do look like the actual game running rather than any kind of bullshottery.
That caveat aside… I think this looks fantastic. I'm still not sold on the nature of the project itself, but I am absolutely sold on its re-envisioning of MGS3's nature. The alligators we see first are almost the least impressive of the lot, next to that saucy little Kenyan Mangrove crab scuttling into the water (OK: crab battle revival). Rats sniff around battlements, a milk snake weaves through the rocks, and then the white-rumped vulture is for me the single most visually outstanding moment of the trailer. This animal is also responsible for one of the most amazing details in this detail-oriented game when it comes to a particular boss fight.
You can certainly find things to pick at. There's clipping at times, Snake's face doesn't quite feel like it's there yet, the water physics are fine but far from outstanding, and there are definite moments where the lush visual overhaul is rubbing up starkly against the geometry of the PS2 original's environments.
But there are also things to luxuriate in, particularly how the swamp mud clings to Snake and hangs from his outfit, the clear through-line from Metal Gear Solid 5 in how Snake now approaches and hides behind cover, and the slowed-down and weightier feel of animations that have been re-purposed from the same game. This looks like stealth first and action second where MGS5 could often feel like the opposite, and that's perfect for MGS3.
One other oddity: MGSD is retaining the voice acting, but this makes clear it's doing its own thing with audio otherwise, which may well turn out to be an odd mix. The trailer features themes from the game given a more ambient treatment, and the animal SFX definitely sounds re-done.
As a huge fan of the series I was pleasantly surprised by this trailer. Still: only a fool gets optimistic about a Konami game these days, and I remain worried that MGSD is going to look the absolute business but play way too similarly to a PS2 game. That PS2 game may well be one of the best ever made but, now that the original is widely available again thanks to the Master Collection, it feels like MGSD needs to bring more to the table than a sexy looking vulture.