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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Konami

 

Developer

Konami

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q4 2001

 

 

- Top of the line graphics

- Ridiculous attention to detail

- Smooth control and camera angles

- More stealth than original

- Smarter A.I

 

 

- Convoluted overly complex story

- Uneven story/game play ratio

- Lackluster boss battles

 

 

Review: Splinter Cell (XBox)

Review: The Mark of Kri (Playstation 2)

 

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Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Score: 8.0 / 10

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The name has been uttered often, almost always preceding or following phrases like ďGame of the YearĒ or ďBest Game Ever!Ē These are lofty claims indeed stemming from an alchemic mixture of truth, hype, marketing and plain old brainwashed, franchise loyalty.  What do I thinkÖ..?  

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If you were a gamer back in Fall of í98 you most likely couldnít avoid the whirlwind of MGS hype and propaganda on the Playstation.  Similarly, if youíve had your ear to the gaming sidewalk for the past two years you would have heard this game stomping down the street from miles away so Iíll spare you the lengthy introductions.  To be succinct, MGS2 is the follow up to one of the most commercially anticipated games ever.  In some ways it refines our beloved hobby to the chiseled point of a deadly spear. In otherís it takes that spear and drives it through its heart, lancing the very aspects that separate games from other types of entertainment like movies.  So to me, this is a review of the game but also a little less and a little more. Youíve surely read other reviews by this point so Iíd like this to be more of a critical analysis than a plain synopsis. Donít get your panties in a bunch just yet, hear me out first.  Then you can bunch Ďem up as much as you want.

 

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Letís face it, no human is perfect. Consequently, no game made by a human is perfect. So when MGS was released on the Playstation with all of itís spectacular points it still received criticism.  Itís undeniable that we all loved the stealthy espionage, the coldly appropriate surroundings and the great attention to detail that producer Hideo Kojima put into the game. We all enjoyed the gritty Snake character and the interesting weapons and items used in the game but thatís where the unanimously celebrated traits end.  Others 

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criticized the convoluted storyline, the prolonged, tedious voice acting sequences and the annoyingly uneven ratio of game play to story progression.  The points that I loved most about the game (stealthy game play) were buried underneath a confusing knot and never reached their full potential.  Well, thereís a saying that as you get older you never change you only get more and more like yourself.  Such is the case with MGS2 for better or worse.

The game begins with the glorious graphics and introduction sequence youíd only expect from such a serial powerhouse as MGS.  Doing my best to describe the story without ruining anything, Iíd say the government / terrorists / mutants / super-villains are doing their thing again and whatever their thing is itís somehow portrayed through countless cut-scenes, rambling Codec voice acting conversations and an endless supply of glutinous drama. The concepts presented throughout the game are original enough at times to seem fresh and new but become way too exhaustive in the long run. In the pursuit of a cinematic gaming experience it seems the focus on making something comparable to a movie was exaggerated. Every time someone farts a conversation ensues about whose fault it was, why they did it, who covered it up, conspired and betrayed this group and that person and so on and so on... No one sneezes without having a long drawn out story connected to it and nothing (I mean nothing (seriously)) happens without there being some sort of shocking controversy or intrigue related to it.  You end up (at least I did) skipping chunks of conversations and cut-scenes out of sheer impatience.

Iíd have to hand it to Kojima for impressive effort though. This is no half-assed storyline. It definitely lends some much-needed cinematic realism with the type of advanced plot we rarely see in the game world.  Yet in the end I feel it was taken to a great extreme.

The first thing youíll probably notice in the game is the frighteningly realistic graphics.  The first time you take control of Snake on the tanker floating down New York Cityís Hudson river youíll take in the shamelessly detailed environment from the realistic lighting of the ships lamps to the rational yet amazing beading of rain on the first-person camera lens.  Letís face it. Thereís no dispute here, MGS2 is one of the most beautiful games youíll play during this hardware generation! While it doesnít enjoy the same sort of color palette as a game like Jak & Daxter it perfectly represents the frigid, steely environments that are portrayed in the game. 

Once again referencing the game's cinematic quality, the cut-scenes are just like watching an animated movie.  Soldiers move with the liquid grace of real soldiers, mouths follow the words that are being spoken, and the voice acting is some of the best this side of the Mississippi.  That said, the realism of the in game graphics is just as solid as Snake sneaks around corridors and chokes unsuspecting guards. Apart from the beauty of the espionage in the main game, youíll be treated to a great many side jokes and visuals like the many scattered posters of half naked women (blatantly appealing to the thirteen year old boy in all of us), the painfully detailed seagulls or the soldier who decides to relieve himself over one of the rails.  Itís even more interesting if you walk underneath it while heís doing it Ė but why would you want to do that?

What emerges from the complete work is a (almost) perfectly interactive world on a disc that can be visited often for all types of experimentation and tomfoolery. Many of the objects youíll find are not necessary to complete the game proper but are fun to use creatively and search for the many hidden Kojima secrets. 

Yet and still, much like a beautiful Christmas turkey filled with air (ala National Lampoons Christmas Vacation) the real meat of any game comes down to game play.  In this respect, MGS2 does everything the series ever did correctly even better and still suffers from the same olí maladies as before.  For starters the control and camera angles are butter smooth using both analog sticks and the L and R buttons. Much like the first game, most players shouldnít have a hard time picking it up and going. The difficulty comes from the targeting system which often times requires taking advantage of the new first person shooting mode but can sometimes make you lose precious tenths of a second. Now there are more weapons, more gadgets and gizmos to fool around with and a larger environment in which to do so. Similarly, there are new moves like the ability to flip over a rail and hang or drop down below to another level and first person shooting. 

These moves along with many from MGS make the environment more interactive and comprehensive than most games out there today.  Yet they are piggy-backed by too frequent cut-scenes and lengthy conversations that stunt the action, a less than intuitive shooting system, annoying combat sequences and unrealistic boss battles.  Annoying combat sequences? Try the first corridor gunfight Snake has during the final stretch of the tanker chapter and youíll know what I mean. Unrealistic boss battles?  Iím referring to the imbalance in the amount of realism in the regular game to the impractical patterns that bosses follow making it easier for them to be defeated once the pattern is discovered.  This is something thatís been present in some games since the advent of gaming but seems a little discordant in a game of such caliber of design. Maybe I just want too much thoughÖ While these things hardly ruin the experience they press a few deep wrinkles into an otherwise smooth bedspread.   

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In other ways the game play is uplifted by extremely advanced A.I. Unlike in MGS, the enemy soldiers in MGS2 are seriously patrolling the area.  The slightest sound will trigger suspicion and theyíll come to investigate.  They donít just come and look though, they search and radio in for reinforcements just to cover the area.  They are much more sensitive to the environment than ever before creating a very real feeling of an actual entity that you have to avoid.  Consequently, once there is an alert, much like the FBI agents that come out when you get a five star wanted rating in GTA3, sometimes itís easier to simply turn yourself in and go back to the last auto-save point.  Soldiers swarm the corridors with raid gear and automatic weapons and search relentlessly until youíre dead in most cases. 

Overall, the game play is smooth and strangely satisfying for fans of the series and genre. There is much more stealth to be had than in the first game, more areas to explore and an engaging storyline to push it all along.  Despite the problems I have with the story, the plot progresses nicely and will never leave the player less than entertained. 

Even the most cynical sound critic would have to break their mold of evaluation for MGS2.  While it can only be fully appreciated with a superior sound system or headphones, MGS2 is undeniably audiophile exact.  The voice acting, done by professionals like Kris Zimmerman, is nothing less skillful than your average mature cartoon but definitely not movie quality Ė which is actually not a bad thing. It fits the mood of the game better than the overt seriousness of a film. Yet lending again to the cinematic quality, renowned soundtrack composer Harry Gregson-Williams orchestrated the score to great effect. The suspenseful music comes and goes so naturally itís simultaneously easy to miss it and hard not to marvel at in the same stroke. 

In the end we have a complete gaming experience superior, for the obvious reasons, to almost anything weíve ever played yet also for the obvious reasons, the same olí same olí. There are more things (bad and good) I have to say about the game but then Iíd be marching into ďspoilerĒ territory. If you donít like some of the things Iíve said here then play the game and forget about me. Otherwise, I hope Iíve shed some light onto an otherwise biased and commercially driven world for at least a few readers.

 

- Doug Flowe

(February 9, 2002)

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