La Li Lu Le Lo everyone!
All aboard the crazy train – it’s Metal Gear Solid 2! What can I possibility add to the catalogue of critiques that plaque and praise Hideo Kojima’s 2001 MGS debut on the PS2. First, let me say this – Raiden is NOT the issue! The convoluted and unnecessarily complex plot is. The speeches at the end of Sons of Liberty rival the needlessly erudite and grandiose language of the “Architect Scene” from the Matrix Revolutions. Despite my own personal issues with the story, MGS2 does have plenty going for it and the remastered HD Edition adds a great deal of new content and a satisfyingly shiny finish that makes this series oddball a lovable one.
For this week’s Metal Gear Solid Retrospective review it’s Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD Edition for the PS3.
“It’s like being in a nightmare you can’t wake up from”. - Raiden
Two years have passed since the Shadows Moses incident. Snake and Otacon are now a part of Philanthropy, an anti-Metal Gear organization seeking to expose the host of new Metal Gear iterations that populate the world. Snake sneaks aboard the U.S.S. Discovery in the New York harbor where the Marines’ new Metal Gear RAY model is being transported to a remote testing arena. Unfortunately for Snake, series antagonist Revolver Ocelot, Colonel Gurlukovich and his mercenaries take over the tanker. After infiltrating the cargo hold, Ocelot betrays Gurlukovich and steals Metal Gear RAY for himself, destroying the tanker, Gurlukovich’s soldiers, and the U.S.M.C. contingent in the process. Snake is blamed for the destruction and is presumed dead.
Two Years Later
The Big Shell is constructed to assist in the government’s cleanup efforts in the wake of the sinking of the tanker. FOX-HOUND, under the command of Col. Campbell (isn’t he retired?) sends in new recruit Raiden to infiltrate the Big Shell clean up facility after Dead Cell, a rogue U.S. anti-terrorism unit and the remaining Gulukovich soldiers take over and hold V.I.P.’s hostage including the current U.S. president. Assisted by data analyst/girlfriend Rosemary, Raiden proceeds through the Big Shell.
At this point, the plot begins to unravel. Certain characters are introduced that process ‘magical abilities’. The chemistry between Rose and Raiden is nigh non-existent. In addition, the ending plot twists coupled with a lame cliffhanger make for a very unsatisfying conclusion to MGS2’s story. There are numerous gripes about the plot that I could go over but I don’t have the time nor the patience to explain them at length. You must experience it for yourself.
“It’s time to start the party…” - Fatman
There are a host of new features included in Metal Gear Solid 2 most notably, first-person view aiming and shooting. This is a welcome and much needed addition as taking out enemies in the original game was very tricky. The precision of the aiming makes navigating enemy occupied areas a breeze. Another new innovative game mechanic is the ability to ‘hold up’ enemies by sneaking up on them and aiming your weapon. You can ‘persuade’ them to give you collectable dog tags, health items and ammo.
The A.I. of the enemy soldiers is slightly improved this time around. After alerting an enemy, you can run and hide, but they will realistically search for you room by room. You can leave the area, but you still have to contend with whatever state of alertness is active at the time. However, there does exist gameplay bugs that the player can exploit very easily. If you take out a guard, he will not be able to check in with his commanding officer via radio. The CO will then send out a unit to investigate. If you leave the area before they raise the alert level, the area resets - but the enemies will not respawn. This makes any mistakes in espionage very short lived and can make the game a bit too easy.
Since this is a Metal Gear game, there has got to be great boss battles, right? Well, YES and NO. The opening shootout with Olga on the tanker is really well done. Snake can fire at her from behind cover as well as shoot out Olga’s cover. The backdrop of the New York skyline, the tanker deck and the rain all make it a very memorable encounter. On the Big Shell side, only the battle with Fat Man sticks out in my mind. Defusing bombs, using first-person to aim at Fat Man’s head for extra damage and the arena layout are engaging and make for a tense battle.
The gameplay in MGS2 is as excellent as before, even more so with the new additions. The level design is on par to that of MGS and the new features create many different opportunities to explore new paths of infiltration and take out enemies more effectively. Most importantly, it is rewarding to explore the entire map for hidden items and the new gameplay wrinkles make it a whole lot of fun.
“You can stop being part of a mistake, starting now.” - Snake
Metal Gear Solid 2 certainly was a looker back in 2001. The graphics are one of the game’s greatest assets and with a new coat of paint and polish, the HD remaster really makes the details pop. While I didn’t notice too much difference in the character models (which are still very impressive even by today’s standards), the special effects and backgrounds look sharp and give the player more to look at in the environment, especially in the real time cut scenes.
However, there is a down side to this. All the sharpness and clearer images reveal just how bland the actual environment is in and around the Big Shell. I know it’s just a clean-up facility, but come on - it’s so barren! The tanker sequence was short but features more in the way of detail inside the various tanker compartments and the outside desk areas with awesome rain and water effects.
Also of note are the animations on the characters’ faces. They don’t hold up as well as the other graphical components. I understand this game is over a decade old, but the remastered graphics only highlight these flaws and have to be addressed. Still, the game looks great despite those technical issues.
“Munch, munch…Um? Raiden? I’m eating right now. Get back to me later…munch,munch.” - A.I. Campbell
The HD edition of MGS2 includes all the extra ‘Substance’ content that features numerous VR missions that can be played with either Snake or Raiden on the outset, alternative missions including bomb defusal and enemy elimination modes.
Also included are five short ‘Snake Tales’ missions featuring Solid Snake accomplishing his own set of objectives on the Big Shell concurrent with the main story. These are nice additions to have but there are a few issues with the extra content. The ‘Snake Tales’ missions feature no additional dialogue and instead display its story through text rather than voice over. Also, the controls for the first-person view mode VR missions are incredibly outdated (e.g. no strife, no second analog stick control).
“Unless you kill me and face your past Jack, you will never escape.” - Solidus
Overall: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD Edition is by no means a classic, but with excellent remastered graphics, superb stealth gameplay and over-the-top action set pieces, it is still a fun game to play despite the nonsensical plot.