Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Score: 8.0 / 10
Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The name has been uttered often, almost
always preceding or following phrases like “Game of the Year” or
“Best Game Ever!” These are lofty claims indeed stemming from an
alchemic mixture of truth, hype, marketing and plain old brainwashed,
franchise loyalty. What do
If you were a gamer back in Fall of ’98 you most likely couldn’t avoid the whirlwind of MGS hype and propaganda on the Playstation. Similarly, if you’ve 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 I’ll 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 other’s 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. You’ve surely read other reviews by this point so I’d like this to be more of a critical analysis than a plain synopsis. Don’t get your panties in a bunch just yet, hear me out first. Then you can bunch ‘em up as much as you want.
Let’s 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 it’s spectacular points it still received criticism. It’s 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 that’s where the unanimously celebrated traits end. Others
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, there’s 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.
game begins with the glorious graphics and introduction sequence you’d
only expect from such a serial powerhouse as MGS.
Doing my best to describe the story without ruining anything,
I’d say the government / terrorists / mutants / super-villains are
doing their thing again and whatever their thing is it’s 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.
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.
first thing you’ll 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 City’s Hudson river you’ll 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.
Let’s face it. There’s no dispute here, MGS2 is one of the
most beautiful games you’ll play during this hardware generation!
While it doesn’t 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.
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, you’ll 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.
It’s even more interesting if you walk underneath it while
he’s doing it – but why would you want to do that?
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 you’ll find are not necessary to
complete the game proper but are fun to use creatively and search for
the many hidden Kojima secrets.
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 ol’ 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 shouldn’t 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.
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 you’ll know
what I mean. Unrealistic boss battles?
I’m 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 that’s 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 though… While these things
hardly ruin the experience they press a few deep wrinkles into an
otherwise smooth bedspread.
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 they’ll come to
investigate. They don’t
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
it’s 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 you’re dead in most cases.
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.
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 – 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 it’s 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 we’ve ever played yet also for the obvious reasons, the same ol’ same ol’. There are more things (bad and good) I have to say about the game but then I’d be marching into “spoiler” territory. If you don’t like some of the things I’ve said here then play the game and forget about me. Otherwise, I hope I’ve 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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