Gaming History 101

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Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty Substance Review

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Editor’s Note:  Jam originally wrote this review back in August of 2015 and somehow I missed it for almost six months.  This won’t happen again but I figured we should still show love to a great game and a great review.  Sorry Jam.

Metal Gear Solid 2 was possibly one of my most anticipated video games back in my youth. I eagerly awaited its release in 2002 (a little later than the rest of the world in Europe because game companies hate us). Kojima had been very smart in teasing the hotly anticipated sequel to the PS2 classic with various trailers and that infamous pack in demo with the full retail game Zone of The Enders, which no one played. We just couldn’t wait to play as Snake. On release I’m happy to admit my fan boy goggles were literally set to “Fan-tastic” as I played this game and loved the ever loving hell out of it and not buying in to some of the games criticisms post release. Well I’m older and detestably more mature so its time to return to the title and see how it fairs today. To research for this review I played through the game on the the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on Xbox 360 and PSVita. The game had multiple releases on a lot of consoles but this review pretty much speaks to every version of the game.

mgs2_snakeMetal Gear Solid 2 puts you back into the shoes of the legendary Solid Snake, who has now gone rouge with his new pal Otacon from the first Solid game. They have formed the ultimate bro-mance to travel the world and take down metal gears (those are bipedal tanks if you’re not up to date with the series). Snake ends up on a ship passing through the Hudson River in a scene which is frankly fantastic if you’re a fan of cinema. Snake casually smokes a cig in his rain coat and gradually picks up his pace to then bungee jump off a bridge onto a ship. Re-watching this cinematic is still wonderful and possibly my favourite opening in the series. So you’re all happy playing as your hero Solid Snake. You fight a Russian girl, you take pictures of a metal gear along with sleeping soldiers, and then the game ends. Well, at least your control of Snake ends.  It has become known as the biggest historic bitch slap to the face of gaming history. After playing literally a couple of hours of the game, you are then put into the shoes of the far less interesting character: Raiden. Yeah, Raiden is no Solid Snake.  He has blonde hair, is pretty skinny, and lacks that testosterone appeal that we are used to from the much preferred Solid Snake. So you play as Raiden thinking “no big deal we’ll get back to Snake soon.” Wrong! You continue as Raiden for the rest of the game. So it’s kinda of disappointing but doesn’t completely ruin the gaming, its just not the Metal Gear story we were expecting.

If you like cutscenes, Metal Gear Solid 2 has quite a few of those. Yes if you didn’t already know you will be spending most of the game watching the story unfold rather than actually playing. The majority are skippable but the plot is genuinely quite interesting despite going on some bizarre tangents later in the game, that leave the plot feeling very unresolved. Now since we live in a day and age where Metal Gear Solid 4 has been released I suggest if you really struggle to get to grips with the plot just be patient because it all makes sense in a later game. Of course since this review is rating the game on its own merits the plot feels like it pulls a Matrix Reloaded on you, with a game with so much plot emphasis, it just leaves you feeling unfulfilled at the end of it all.

mgs2_fpsStory aside the gameplay is incredibly solid (see what I did there?). The aim of the game is to try to be stealthy and avoid detection by the enemy as you carry out your mission.  Should you get spotted, and you probably will, it’s no big deal just go hide somewhere until the alert phase drains and try again. Sounds boring right but Metal Gear Solid has always kinda made stealth fun. Metal Gear Solid 2 takes the formula from the original game and really makes use of the upgraded hardware. The main feature this time is you can aim your weapons in the first person perspective. I literally played about with this feature for hours when I first played the game. Yeah, sure, FPS games have been around for years but this felt like something fresh for the stealth genre. With this you could precision aim your weapon to a specific target, like a sensor to defuse a bomb or you could even use the feature to hold up guards. By pointing the gun at there head they would shake out some goodies for you. It really felt like a game made with a lot of care and attention. Like the original game you have your handy radar in the top right which you’ll be looking at more than the actual terrain itself since it displays the enemies line of vision. Some additional mechanics had been tweaked to the stealth system. The enemy AI felt a lot more intelligent this time around . Guards would pick up their radio to call in backup, if your really precise you could shoot the radio out preventing this. Should you fail at this and you alert the guards back up arrives and it doesn’t mess around. These additional soldiers bring shields and heavy armour and are not easy to take down. Worse still if you hid somewhere they will literally start clearing rooms in a effort to track you down. It’s frigging awesome and amazing to just watch even today. Its not all doom and gloom you can now hide in lockers to escape the enemy as well as confuse the enemy by throwing empty gun cartridges as distractions.

mgs2_bossThis is the first game in the series where you can take every enemy out humanly. Basically you can use tranquilliser guns to put guards to sleep and it’s possible to finish the game without harming anyone which is quite rewarding if not very hard to pull off. Enemy bodies alive or dead no longer disappear so you do need to hide your bodies maybe shove it in a locker, or push it off the balcony whatever works.  What with this being a Metal Gear Solid game you know you’re also going to get some interesting boss fights. Once again, you will face up against various colourful characters with bizarre and interesting personalities. Also like with any Metal Gear you bet your gonna hear about the background story of every single one of them. Every battle has a unique twist and most of the encounters have more than one way to approach them. The boss fights are great its just a shame there are so few of them, especially when compared to the previous entry in the series. Not only that many of the fights feel anti climatic and are over far too quickly.

mgs2_raidenThe music remains fantastic. Kojima productions really brought what feels like a cinematic score to the experience. The music changes up at just the right moments and as mentioned before, if the score in the opening cutscene, doesn’t sell you then nothing else will in the game.  Once again David Hayter brings it as Solid Snake but the rest of the cast also does a fine job. The bad guys are cheesy as all hell but the cast also manage to evoke an impressive amount of emotion when things start to get sad and depressing. The Solid series still remains a example of how to do voice acting well in a game.  Graphically this game still looks amazing. Back on the PS2 the graphics just blew me away the jump from the first game was amazing. The details on the characters faces, rain hitting character models and the gore, good lord. There is a surprising amount of blood splatter in this game when things get messy. It’s quite an unsettling experience shooting a guy in the face and watching him literally reach for you with his hand as he falls to his death while blood sprays out.  Now if you include all of the cutscenes your first run of the game may take up to twelve hours but if you decide to replay and skip the cinematics you can literally fly through this game in a couple of hours. It’s actually quite fun trying to speed through the game. When you finish you do unlock additional items which you can take through on your next playthrough. There are multiple difficulties and if you really want to make things hard for yourself you can turn your radar off. Not for me but its there for the hardcore.

mgs2_duoTo sum up, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is a game that I feel still holds up, but is not a game for everyone. If your not a fan of a lot of plot in your games then the excessive story content will probably put you off. If your not a fan of the stealth genre, this title may just surprise you. As this is a game that has got a lot of people into the stealth genre with its more casual approach and forgiving nature to being spotted. Most people look back on Metal Gear Solid 2 as the odd child in the series and those arguments are certainly justified but whether your playing as Snake for a short period or Raiden for the long hall, the game is still worth going back to. Even just to appreciate the impressive care and attention made to its design. If your new to the series definitely don’t start here go back to the original first but for everyone else, strap on your bandanna and get ready for some sneaking.

Final Score: 4 out of 5 (review policy)

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Written by jamalais

February 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Really a wonderful game, this game captured my imagination when i was a kid. Nice review 😀


    July 27, 2016 at 7:48 am

  2. Just so you know, this game is actually a 6/5.


    July 27, 2016 at 7:49 am

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