Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty Review
Easily the most anticipated videogame yet, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, is a game that will crush all opposition. The first Metal Gear Solid on the PSOne proved to be one of the greatest videogame releases ever. Its amazing story that combined intriguing dialogue and incredible plot twists was one aspect that made MGS such a deep and memorable adventure. Metal Gear Solid was an epic, an epic of immense proportions that was fully recognized by the media and public alike. While some may claim Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the best game of the last era, I strongly object, as I don't really find visual rehashes of the same story worth of my praise. Simply put, the best game of the 32/64-bit era had to have been either Final Fantasy VII or Metal Gear Solid. Some may say Final Fantasy, others MGS. But one thing's for sure, both games were equally and nearly perfect pieces of coding. The plot development was something remarkably high in Metal Gear Solid. The characters such as Meryl, Otacon and especially Naomi all had very detailed and yet interesting lives. Finding out who "Master Miller" really is, was probably the most classic "oh man, how couldn't I have spotted that before" moment. It almost felt like the ending of Sixth Sense. Even though we don't know much about Snake, that's the beauty of excellent character development. The hidden and unseen appreciate being unknown. Metal Gear Solid wasn't like any game I've played before. No game, shared the elements that made Metal Gear Solid what it is today. Perhaps the espionage factor had to do the most in terms of setting the game's atmosphere, but I believe that the incredible setting of Alaska played an important role as well.
Let's face it, Metal Gear Solid 2 is probably the most anticipated videogame release since Final Fantasy VII. Delivering a tearful 10-minute video over a year ago at E3, members of the press had wet their pants in sheer excitement that the MGS saga is alive on the Playstation 2. After the unbelievable video ended, the lights dimmed and a dead silence fell over the crowd and suddenly this roar of applause and whistles. An announcer then claimed that 100% of the footage was gameplay material. Around the time of announcement, everyone's jaws were already on the floor. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty quickly became the most talked about game at E3 2000. Snagging awards left and right, it became painfully obvious that waiting for a year and a half to play MGS2 would be considered torture. Much has happened since that wonderful day at E3, the day where grown men wept out of joy, we saw the release of amazing titles such as Onimusha: Warlords, Final Fantasy X (Japan), Devil May Cry, Gran Turismo 3, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. It quickly became apparent that the year 2001 would forever go down in the record books as quite possibly the best year to be a Playstation 2 owner. Blockbuster after blockbuster! No other year was as blockbuster filled as 2001: Soul Reaver 2, Onimusha, Devil May Cry, Gran Turismo 3, Twisted Metal: Black, Red Faction, Tony Hawk 3, SSX Tricky, Silent Hill 2, Grand Theft Auto 3, Star Wars: Starfighter, ICO, and Ace Combat 4 -- just to name a few. And now... Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty!
Looking at Metal Gear Solid 2, time and time again, I begin to wonder how much of the PS2's potential has Hideo's KCEJ team grasped? It's games like Metal Gear Solid 2 that really shut the fanboys up, be it Nintendo or Microsoft, in regards to which console can push more polygons. While I've said it time after time again, Metal Gear Solid 2's visuals are some of the best you'll ever come across. You can't even imagine the magnitude amount of detail that this game has. In fact, it almost seems doubtful that there will be many titles -if any for that matter- in the third generation that will come close as to where MGS2 stands, visually. The game has come a long way since it was debuted over a year ago. The initial bunch of screenshots showed that the anti-aliasing hadn't been worked on and that various graphical enhancements still needed to be made. Even at the game's early stage, it looked fantastic, and come one year later PS2 owners would be treated to a free demo of MGS2, bundled with Hideo Kojima's Zone of the Enders. Gamers worldwide got a chance to witness the final visual splendor of Metal Gear Solid 2. The final product looks absolutely phenomenal. Much like Final Fantasy X, there are times when I think that I'm watching a CG cut scene, but in all reality it's nothing more than a real-time sequence. The visuals are just so gorgeous, especially up close when every nit-picking detail can be seen.
For starters, Solid Snake has this -drop-dead- gorgeous detailed look. Everything about him overflows with visual brilliance, even the little things such as eye-sockets! Snake's very noticeable new feature is his five o' clock shadow (rugged beard). The way it is designed is pretty clever. Instead of being thick, the hairs on Snake's face are moderately dense, as you can still see the skin on Snake's jaw area. It's a weird graphical feature to talk about, but it's just there and pretty cool. Little details such as Snake's eyes and his bandana move around very gracefully as well, making everything all the more realistic. The character detail as a whole is fantastic. Each and every secondary character is incredibly detailed and composed of some very high-resolution texture work. Solid Snake himself, along with another playable character that shall remain nameless, is hands-down one of the best-crafted videogame characters since Onimusha's Samanosuke, The Bouncer's Sion, or Final Fantasy X's Auron. His movements are so fluid and his physical properties are so detailed, that a cut-scene is good enough to be mistaken for a CG. It's very safe to say that Konami is pushing polygons well up to ten thousand column, per character.
Only now have I truly witnessed the atmosphere of Metal Gear Solid 2, as I have poured hours into the game awing at the spectacular backgrounds and their wonderful details. While generally the atmosphere is dimmer one when compared to game such as Final Fantasy X, these environments are most suitable for a game like Metal Gear Solid 2. Everything is placed very accordingly and just in the perfect spot. The texture work is really well done, and presents this nearly pre-rendered look, but look a little closer and you'll notice a couple of jags here and there. But make no mistake about it! Metal Gear Solid 2 is about as gorgeous as a videogame can get. I dare anybody to show me proof of a game, other than Final Fantasy X, that looks better than Metal Gear Solid 2 does. Really, I feel that the screenshots do speak for themselves, as they demonstrate the unbelievable visual potency that is MGS2.
I fear it will be 'very' hard for me to speak about the gameplay and the game's story, so pardon me in advance if this certain portion of the review looks half-assed. I say this because Metal Gear Solid 2's story is 'very' sensitive. In other words the game is quite vulnerable to spoilers, as the story consists of some incredibly emotional turn of events every hour or so, with an excellent plot somewhere in between. The game is a true sequel to the PSX title. Solid Snake has returned, as the game follows events a few years after Metal Gear Solid in Shadow Moses, off of Alaska. This time around the game takes place in New York City, but not in a high security building or anything related to that. Instead the first portion of the game sets you on a ship, as many of you know and have played the demo, and obviously there is a second portion to the game, which I will refrain from mentioning. Also, I should really point out that the game's manual reveals many spoilers. While it doesn't show any dramatic points from the story, it does show screenshots of the game that may show who the second playable mystery character is, and what his role is in the game. As far as cameo appearances by MGS characters go, expect many surprises; that's all I'll tell you.
For the most part Metal Gear Solid 2 is a warm welcome in terms of knowledge and understanding what to do, and how to do it. Kojima's team has kept the key elements of MGS and shifted them over to the sequel. In addition, the sequel also features an allusion or two in relation to the PSX title. There are a few points in the game where the gamer would come across something, and it would instantly remind them of a very similar event from Metal Gear Solid. Little things like these really toy with your senses. Metal Gear Solid 2 features a deluge of weaponry and accessories, after all no spy is complete without the proper gadgets. The weapons are of course no secret, as by now many of you should know that Snake has an M9 tranquilizer gun, which actually can be used as the only gun throughout the whole game. In addition, Snake and the undisclosed character can pick up Hand Grenades, a USP Handgun, Stinger Missile launcher, Fa-Mas, Chaff Grenade, Socom, Stun Grenade, M4, AKs 74-U Assault Rifle, C4, PSG1 Sniper Rifle, Claymore land mine, Nikita Missile Launcher, RGB6 grenade launcher and even a Sword blade! There are many great gadgets and tools that you will have access to, including a heartbeat sensor, noise suppressor (silencer), camera, thermal goggles, directional microphone, coolant spray for C4 use, and even a stun gun! But remember one thing, most of the lethal weaponry in the game is not recommended for use, not unless you desire to be spotted by the guards.
Making loud noises attracts the guards, you're safe to shoot an actual bullet at a guard but only when you have the silencer equipped, other than that it's risky. Throughout the game you will be required to avoid any confrontation, but there will be moments where you will have to quietly tranquilize an enemy and then hide his body somewhere, preferably a locker of some sort. The AI has been improved over last year's game. They are more intelligent, as this time around their 'relentless' factor is through the roof. Depending on which difficulty you select, the enemies will range in scale. In other words, the harder the difficulty the more common enemies are, and the fiercer then they are when it comes down to attacking. Metal Gear Solid 2 is a lengthy adventure, it's certainly longer than the first one was, as the average completion time would range somewhere around 10-15 hours with all of the cut scenes included. Otherwise if you skip every cut-scene, then you've got a 6-8 hour game. In addition to that, there are various reasons to replay the game, and yes the stealth suit is one of them! Metal Gear Solid 2 is without a doubt the best videogame I've played to date. Even though I've been saying that over and over in a couple of my reviews, this statement stands. This year is definitely the best year to be a gamer, especially a PS2 gamer. Games like Devil May Cry, Gran Turismo 3, ICO, Tony Hawk 3 and Metal Gear Solid 2 just don't come along every day, let alone once every month! I applaud the team at KCEJ for crafting, my most memorable and cherished videogame experience since Final Fantasy VII, and I never thought that would be possible.
With a musical score done by Harry Gregson-Williams, whose credits include "Enemy of the State", "The Rock", and "Armageddon", Metal Gear Solid 2's atmosphere only gets deeper and more intense. The soundtrack now consists of some good tunes that quietly play in the background. Initially they sound a bit techno-ish, but they do the job just right. But of course the real core of the audio lies in the game's incredible voice acting! David Hayter has of course returned as the voice of Solid Snake, in addition to characters such as Ocelot and Otacon. Every line is hit with the most accurate speech tone! I found damn near nothing wrong with the voice acting. It all lived up to my expectations, as this is truly the best English voice acting you'll find in a game to date, and that could be quite uncommon in many cases. The audio in MGS2 is done by the very same cast of 'off screen' producers and directors that made the first one's so exceptional. Don't expect anything but the utmost incredible audio from MGS2; the voice acting is second to none.
The controls are virtually identical to those in the original title, with the exception of an all-new move (the roll/flip) and more sensitivity in the analog for more precise movements. Controlling the game is not a task at all. In fact picking up the controller and playing the game takes absolutely no time. Sneaking around, creeping against the walls and then suddenly cornering to aim at the first target you see is easily pulled off with the PS2's Dual Shock 2. The button lay out for all of these nifty moves is done perfectly, but judging by that 9.9 you can tell I must've had one minor gripe; indeed I did. Very rarely, would I find myself in a situation where I have to crawl under something in order to get away from the enemy. But moving around while crawling (i.e. turning around) can be quite a bit strenuous at times, and it does require some practice. Now with Metal Gear Solid 2, you are able to scale various objects such as crates, be it for leverage or just overcoming an obstacle it's a nice little feature. In addition to that, you can also shimmy while hanging from ledges, but there is a gauge present that reads how grip is left before the character will let go of the edge. As the gamer you can increase the level of the gauge by doing pull-ups. Yes you read right, you can actually do pull ups (hold R2 and L2) and increase the level of your grip so that your grip time extends, a handy feat for a few portions in the game. Overall, rock solid control with only one teeny gripe.
Seriously folks, did you expect anything less? Even though Metal Gear Solid 2 doesn't define perfection, it sure as hell does come close and it has secured a place in my gaming heart. Like I said, this is a gaming experience I will never forget. Not since Final Fantasy VII have I been so intrigued by a story, as I was with MGS2. Plot twist after plot twist, you'd think it gets boring but Hideo Kojima is a mastermind who never ceases to amaze me! Metal Gear Solid 2's visual presentation is quite possibly unrivaled by anything else on the market, as only Final Fantasy X comes to mind. The cinematics are breathtaking, and are good enough to be mistaken for computer generated sequences. The voice acting and the superb soundtrack really tops everything off and shows us that this is THE game of the next-generation era. Seeing as how I must've replayed the first MGS about 30 times or so, is it really a question as to whether or not I'll replay MGS2 for its secrets?
11/14/2001 Arnold Katayev