Review: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (Retro)
- Release Date (NA): November 12, 2001
- Release Date (EU): March 8, 2002
- Release Date (JP): November 29, 2001
- Publisher: Konami
- Developer: KCE Japan
- Genres: Stealth, Action
- ESRB Rating: Mature
- PEGI Rating: Sixteen years and older
- Also For: Computer, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
My first experience with the MGS series was only a few years ago. I had bought a PS1 at a flea market on a whim, mostly because it was only $5, but also because I realized I hadn't played a single game for the system. With the PS1, I decided to pick up MGS1 pretty much just because I had heard about it a lot. After I played through it and loved it, I marathoned the entire series in order and loved them all (except for 5 and Peace Walker, I hate those games with a burning passion, but that's another story.) One of the games stood out from the others to me though, and that was MGS2. You don't play as Snake, the story is very deep and confusing at times even for an MGS game, and the entirety of the internet seems to absolutely hate it. It actually took me 3 entire playthroughs to fully grasp the story and understand it all. So with that, let's take a critical look at each aspect of the game and see how it holds up.
Mostly Spoiler-Free Story Summary
READ AT YOUR OWN RISK! I do not consider what I write to be spoilers but, you may.
Revolver Ocelot, one of the antagonists from MGS1, returns as a villain once again and has taken over an Oil Plant off the shore of New York. However, this time he is teamed up with a terrorist group called Dead Cell, which consist of 4 other villains. Vamp, a Vampire from Romania. Fortune, a mysterious woman who is too lucky to die. Fatman, an explosives expert. And last but not least a strange man who claims to be Solid Snake. Unexpected events unfold with many twists and turns along the way as you try to successfully complete your mission; rescue the President.
After the short introduction mission, you play as Raiden. Raiden is a rookie, somewhat sassy soldier from the secret group FOXHOUND. Raiden is very different from your stereotypical soldier. He constantly goes against orders, argues with his Colonel and does things that "are not part of the simulation." Initially you know almost nothing about him but over the course of the game you will learn about his backstory and see how he evolves as a character.
I've left so much out here, but it really is a story you should experience for yourself. It does get deep and it does get confusing, which is par for the course with MGS. However, if you pay attention and watch and listen to each cutscene, you should be able to understand at least most of it and leave satisfied. For me though it took a few playthroughs to be able to realize some of the symbolism and deeper meanings that arent explained to you directly. The story and cutscenes are my absolutely favorite parts of MGS.
The Metal Gear series is made up of Stealth Action games. You sneak around from room to room trying to avoid detection. I would even go so far as to say its also a puzzle game because you try to plan out the best way to get around guards in a room with the weapons and items that you have.
Enemy guards can detect you several ways, sight, sound and clues you leave behind. If you fire an unsupressed weapon, walk too fast and loudly when nearby, or make some other type of noise in the environment, the guards will either immediately go into alert mode, or go to the location of the noise and search for the source. If you are physically seen by a guard, you are given a bit of a grace period. They will hide behind the nearest wall and call for backup. If you can take him out in within that 5 or so second window, then you will be safe. If they successfuly call for backup, they will immediately go into alert mode and begin opening fire and chasing you. If you can outrun the guards and hide for a given ammount of time, they will back off and return to their normal positions.
One of my favorite parts about this game, and the others in the series, is that there are so many ways to play and use the tools that you are given. Many of the items and weapons have other uses throughout the game and, almost always, if you think it will work then it probably will. Just one small example out of the millions, the Coolant Spray. In the game, you use the spray to freeze and defuse C4 bombs. But, you can also use it to make guards choke and gag on it AND you can use it to wake up sleeping and unconcious enemies quickly. That clearly isnt the intended use of the item but it functions for other things and I find that to be awesome.
The graphics in this particular entry are fantastic and still hold up today. The game finds a nice inbetween with its own art style while also looking somewhat realistic in its own ways. The textures, while somewhat simplistic in design, fit the setting very well and the great lighting effects help balance out the simplicity. Environmental effects also look amazing, particularly the rain and water effects. It is one of the best looking PS2 games and it looks even better in the HD re-release. Also, shout out to Raidens hair physics, pretty great.
Metal Gear Solid 2 has a fantastic soundtrack. Every song fits the mood and setting perfectly, whether its a Jazz and Techno fusion song that plays while you sneak around or a more somber tune that plays during a heartfelt moment, it is always great. My particular favorites are the songs that play during the VR Missions.
I would strongly reccomend taking a look at a few of the OSTs that were released for the game, they contain OFFICIAL remixes of the songs that were in the game as well as completely new songs that didnt make the cut.
Now, the meat of the audio, the voice acting. The voice acting is usually very good. Usually. Every MGS game has its fair share of cheesy lines that are hard to not laugh at when they occasionally crop up. However, they are few and far between and never show up in serious, important plot moments, so for me it did not detract from the game at all. "ITS LIKE BEING IN A NIGHTMARE YOU CANT WAKE UP FROM"
As a side note, all of the lines spoken by one character and a few lines spoken from another character are very stiff in delivery. I will not spoil who or why but it is completely intentional.
Each of the games difficulty modes contains different enemy layouts which, for me at least, made the game feel different every time I played it. Rooms that I had mastered before ended up providing a new challenge and puzzle to solve.
There are also Dog Tags to collect, which are obtained by holding guards up and gun point and making them give them up. There are a TON of these to collect and collecting specific ammounts of them unlocks items for kind of a New Game+. You can unlock things like an invisibility device and different wigs that give you certain abilities.
There is also a challenge mode called VR Missions. They are sets of challenges where you try to complete them within a given time limit and try to beat the high score. A small distraction, but still fun to go through at least once.
The Substance version of the game that was released a year later adds more dog tags to collect, more VR Missions, a new mode called Snake Tales that lets you play as Snake and experience what he was doing while you were playing as Raiden, and last and certaintly most strange, a Skate Boarding mode (Only available on the PS2 version, sadly) where you ollie and grind across the plant and blow it up with some sick, gnarly moves brah. The HD re-release is the Substance version so if you end up picking that up, you will have access to all of the new content (Again, except skateboarding. Understandably, I assume it wasn't worth it to port over an entire skating engine and the assets for what is essentially a joke.)
So with the different enemy layouts and patterns in the difficulty setting, the unlockable items, trying out new play styles and weapons and items, as well as maybe finding new secrets you didnt see or know about before, there is plenty of reason to play the game more than once.
Misc. Things I Enjoyed
The most stand out part of the game is how dense it is with detail. Everywhere you look, everything you do, theres something to see and react to. You can shoot different parts of guards bodies, head arms, elbows, legs, knees, chest, and even their crotch and they will respond and behaive uniquely to it. If you're a sharp shooter, you can shoot out their radio and they won't be able to call for backup. You can shoot an ice bucket, knock the ice cubes out, and then shoot and break each of those individual ice cubes. You can shoot a box of fruit open and watch each indiviudal fruit roll out and you can shoot each one of those pieces of fruit and leave a mess of juice and chunks everywhere. You can shoot plates and bottled and they will dynamically break depending on how and what angle you shot them at. You can visit these broken objects later in the game and they will stay broken. Birds have their own AI. If there is a flock of birds and their poop piles up, you can slip on it if you run over it. If you look at birds that are flying over head in first person view, they'll crap on your face. HELL, THERES A SINGLE RUBBER DUCKY IN ONE SMALL PORTION OF THE GAME THAT YOU PROBABLY WONT EVEN SEE AND IT HAS ITS OWN FREAKING PHYSICS! And that's not even scratching the surface of this giant treasure trove.
You can shoot this can of ice cubes, knock it over and watch each cube melt or shoot the ice cubes individually
The point I'm getting at here is... Well... There is no point! All of that stuff is completley pointless and does nothing for the core game, but it adds so much depth to the locations, you get rewarded for just screwing around and it just adds to the overall experience. In any other game, if you were to shoot a box of fruit, it would just leave the same, generic looking bullet hole texture that gets left on everything; maybe a squishy sound effect would play if you're lucky. But this game takes everything to the next level. If you shoot anything that isn't an ordinary wall, it will probably react uniquely. I have never played a game with as much detail and hidden mechanics as this one.
Other than 2 or 3 cheesy deliveries on a few lines, I can't find any flaws in this game. The game play is awesome, the story will make you laugh, cry, and most importantly keep you invested the entire time. The game still looks and sounds great and you would never be able to tell that it was made in 2001. All of this and the unprecedented level of detail is what makes this game my favorite game of all time.
+ Fantastic gameplay
+ Great graphics
+ Engaging story
+ Raidens hair
+ Jammin' tunes
- Story may become confusing for first time players
Great visuals, cutscene direction and the awesome soundtrack make this game shine.
It's MGS1 but 110% more fluid and improved upon in every way plus more
Theres something new to see, big or small, every playthrough. Case in point I've put over 130 hours into the 6 hour game and still find things I didn't notice before.
out of 10
(not an average)
Everything about this game is absolutely perfect.