Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Solid Snake and friends fight a new group of villains that plan to expose our government.
**First, the spoiler-free review**
Metal Gear Solid 2 was one the most anticipated games ever. The game was kept ultra-super-classified x 10 by mastermind, creator, and director, Hideo Kojima. People went nuts for every new video and screenshot that was released. I was one of those people. Seeing a new video was like finding the Holy Grail. Watching them for the first time got me so pumped for the final release of the game. In Japan a DVD of just the trailer was released and sold insanely well. Stores were sold out and it was constantly rented out of video stores. Then the demo disc was released with Kojimaís cool mech game, Zone of the Enders. I played through the demo a few times and new for sure that the final game would kick ass.
The first Metal Gear Solid was a damn fine game, and MGS2 is better. You now control Solid Snake in far superior tactical espionage action from the first.
In the opening cinema you see that Snake is using the stealth camouflage from the first game. Now, if Snake has the stealth camo at the beginning of MGS2, are we to believe that Snake pussed out on the torture in MGS and let Meryl die? Therefore the true ending of MGS would be the one with Otacon and Snake getting all buddy-buddy. Hmm, I thought Solid Snake was tough and wanted a piece of Merylís ďgreat butt.Ē I guess we all have our times of weakness, even the legendary Solid Snake.
The graphics and detail have obviously been greatly enhanced with the PS2ís power. Glasses and bottles shatter when you shoot them. You can do several new things to the enemy soldiers this time, such as steal their dog tags, stuff them in lockers, or my personal favorite of throwing them off the ship. MGS2 gives you so much to do whenever you want. You can play through the game too many times and never play it the same way. The game is also longer than Metal Gear Solidís often complained of length. I donít know, maybe itís just me but I thought the length of MGS was fine.
The voice-acting, like the first, is outstanding. The multi-talented David Hayter once again voices our favorite grizzled hero. Hayter also wrote the screenplay for the first X-Men movie and co-wrote X-Men 2. Man, what an awesome guy. He can do the coolest game voice ever and heís an excellent writer. The returning characters have their accompanying actors and the new characters get some great voice treatment as well. I appreciate how the names of the actors, not the characters, are displayed in the opening cinema. It makes the entire experience feel more like a movie, as it should. The script is, for the most part, a Hollywood blockbuster.
The new and almost new characters are an interesting lot. First we have the members of Dead Cell, a former antiĖterrorist organization now seemingly fighting against our country. Fortune is ďLady Luck,Ē a strong-will woman with a curse of immortality. Vamp is a vampire with possible bi-curious tendencies. With a name like that what else would he be? He obviously does vampire type stuff and is somehow unfazed by sunlight. Fatman is a mad-bomber on rollerblades. The character is fine but the rollerblades have got to go. The leader of Dead Cell is Solidus Snake, whom we heard briefly at the end of MGS. Throughout the game we get to learn a lot about these villains, sometimes a little too much if you're persistent in your codec messages though. That also applies for a couple of the good guys, as some things are probably better left unsaid.
Along with the characters revelations there are some real surprises in store for anyone who plays the game. These surprises range from little things that will make you smile, things that make you say ďThat is so cool,Ē things that will make you laugh out loud, and some that are just shocking. Are they shocking in a good way or a bad way? Well, both really.
A few small surprises that I really liked (donít worry this wonít ruin the game for you) were the Zone of the Enders and McFarlane Toys boxes you see later on. I thought Z.O.E. was great and I am a huge fan of Todd McFarlane and his incredible action figures. The incomparable McFarlane Toys is responsible for lines of figures from MGS and MGS2. Itís simply some of greatest advertising there is.
Another cool little thing is the ďInstruction MangaĒ in the instruction manual. Itís not particularly that big of a deal, but itís cool to see Snake manga-ized.
The story is very involving this time and you really should pay close attention to it. If you donít, you will be confused on latter events and the further explanations of everything thatís happening. In fact, Iím sure youíll have to play through the game at least one or two more times just too really try to understand everything. The story gets very complicated.
Youíll also want to play through again to collect all the dog tags. In each difficulty setting the enemy soldiers wear different dog tags. The tags contain the real names of fans that got chosen in contest to have their name in MGS2. Sadly, my name did not make the cut.
Metal Gear Solid 2 is simply one of the best games you will play. The gameplay is incredible, the graphics amazing, the sounds excellent, and the story is grand with some much unforeseen twists.
**And now the spoiler-heavy part of the review**
I really like the story in MGS2. You may not agree with me, but you have to admit itís a lot better than a bunch of the crap that gets released in theaters and on television on a monthly basis. Since Kojima considers himself a director, than perhaps the game should be viewed as a movie. You spend as much time watching the story unfold as you do actually playing it.
The story starts out great with Solid Snake sneaking about the tanker, doing what he does best. At the end of the tanker incident Ocelot double-crosses his Russian comrades, takes back Metal Gear RAY, the tanker sinks, and many people die. Everything is so exciting but, we donít know that this is really only the beginning.
Upon finishing the exceptional tanker mission, a new cinema starts with ďSnakeĒ in a scuba suit swimming through dark water. The Colonel is giving him the mission over the codec and has changed Snakeís codename to Raiden. Raiden is keeping the scuba mask on and for some reason has long blond hair sticking out from the back of the mask. He does the usual sneaking thing in a somewhat familiar setting, ending in a very familiar elevator ride to the top of a complex. Now in the elevator scene this man removes his scuba mask and we seeÖ get ready for one of the most shocking moments in gamingÖ that this isnít the tough, experienced, and scruffy Solid Snake we all love and possibly thought we were playing as. Itís a whiny, blond, and clean-shaven pretty-boy named Raiden. You now play through the remainder of the game, which is actually most of the game, as Raiden. This is a completely unexpected twist for the player and somewhat disappointing. Itís cool that Kojima gave us this huge, totally unexpected shocker of a new main character, but I was really hoping play as Solid Snake through the entire game. Above all though, the gameplay doesnít suffer a bit, and thatís what the focus of games should be.
Raidenís part of the game continues on and things start to get a little complicated in the story, but thatís alright, I can handle figuring out conspiracies and double crosses. Triple crosses, well you certainly donít expect them, but it does start to get a little questionable.
Raidenís mission is to rescue the President and hostages. At least, thatís what heís lead to believe at the start. Raiden meets Lieutenant Iroquois Pliskin, an ingenious name for our old friend Solid Snake. Through codec messages and talk between characters throughout the mission we learn that many of the characters have their own agenda and the mission may not really be the mission. At one point the mission gets explained as the ultimate training mission to create soldiers on par with Solid Snake. The soldier, Raiden in this case, has completed all of the VR Training and has never actually been in the field. This mission, the S3 Plan, the Solid Snake Simulation, is the final test for the effectiveness of the VR Training. The Big Shell and all the events in the mission were set up to mirror those in MGS. Itís a nifty idea, to have most of the characters being manipulated to create the most advanced training simulation possible, but it leaves questions unanswered.
We are introduced to the idea of The Patriots, a group of twelve on the Wisemanís Committee that has total control of all the information told to the people of the United States. For example, elections are staged. The Patriots have already chosen who will be the next President, but they stage these elaborate electoral shows so the people believe they have free choice and that Democracy works. The Patriots are afraid that because of the advent of the digital age, they will not be able to control the flow of information. People will learn of their existence, and chaos will ensue. Solidus Snakeís real grand plan is to expose The Patriots and usher in a new age of liberty for America. I can swallow the idea of one group of men that have the real power over the country and I think itís a very interesting concept. With all the questionable proceedings that happen in the government and the many conspiracies that abound itís something that could be plausible.
Throughout the story we learn a few charactersí dark pasts and their relationships with other characters. However, sometimes we find out too much information about certain characters. Did we really need to learn about Otacon banging his stepmother, causing the suicide/death of his father? No, we didnít.
Raiden and the player also learn that the new Metal Gear RAY was just a prototype for an army of Metal Gears to protect the new new Metal Gear, Arsenal Gear. An army of Metal Gears and a new massively massive Arsenal Gear? Cool. And that is where Kojima should have stopped. Just go with the backstabbing, the dark histories, the grand libertarious scheme of Solidus, the abundance of Metal Gears, and the idea of The Patriots and that everything has been done according to their design. Itís a huge amount of story to figure out but itís enough, more than enough really. Unfortunately, the story doesnít end there; it keeps going and spirals completely out of control.
The colonel turns out not to be the colonel but the A.I. in Arsenal Gear. The S3 plan really stands for Selection for Societal Sanity and the Patriots donít exist. Well, they do, but it's not a committee of twelve men. ďThe PatriotsĒ are an immortal consciousness that has evolved from the primordial soup in the crucible of the White House. They are our guardians and only doing what is best for society. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Why couldnít Kojima just know when to stop? Giving control of the U.S. to a formless consciousness is incredibly unbelievable and helps destroy any believability and credibility that the story had going for it. Perhaps Kojima should have had David Hayter help with the script as well.
The above is just a brief outline of the whole story. A lot of stuff goes on with all the characters and much of the story is very good. Itís just that the story needed to stop at some point and it didnít. The story never stopped, even after the credits rolled. Kojima also injected many of his own philosophies about life and freedoms into the game and you can tell because some valuable life lessons about the world and the self are felt throughout the story, especially near the end. I didnít get into them because doing so would take way too long and could possibly make someoneís head explode. Perhaps the idea of The Patriots is some way-too-complicated philosophical idea that man's own sense of goodness and protecting what they love controls man itself. There are so many philosophical ideas in the story that a class could be taken to study them and a grand term paper could be written about it.
Finally, I will say that the ending was left open when Snake is told that The Patriots are already dead. Well, we know theyíre dead because apparently it's just a consciousness floating around the Whitehouse. So, if there is a sequel that picks up after the end will Solid Snake obtain a higher plane of existence to battle ďThe PatriotsĒ on a sub-conscious level? Oh boy. Overall I enjoyed the story and most of its twists and turns, but it just went too far near the end.
*But wait, thereís moreÖ*
If you like epic movie scores then donít hesitate to pick up the soundtrack to this game. It is quite good and comes in two discs. Metal Gear Solid 2: Original Soundtrack contains the most-played and familiar music while Soundtrack 2: The Other Side, contains the rest of the music from the game. Itís excellent, epic stuff that gets you the mood for some hot tactical espionage action.