Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Review by danieltepeskrau
"Stop the cinematics, I want to play the game"
Metal Gear Solid... Once an awesome game and now a franchise. I was introduced to the series during my childhood when my mom gave me a copy of MGS for Christmas. I had only played Metal Gear on Nintendo and when I tried this game I was completely blown away. It opened like a movie complete with the names of the actors and developers during the opening scene. Then I heard Snake's voice for the first time. "This is Snake. Colonel, can you hear me?" he said, and I knew this was going to be an epic game. I played through 15 times in total, on every difficulty setting and getting every possible ending and outcome, exploring every nook and cranny, and literally dissecting the game. But enough of that noise. When I saw a sequel advertised on TV, I figured I was in for something special. I even had dreams about the game, wondering who was Snake going to be fighting, who was the villain, and how were they going to top Metal Gear Solid?
Sadly, it never occurred to me that they WEREN'T going to top it.
I bought it with my hard earned snow shoveling money and popped it in the PS2. Don't get me wrong, it was a good game, but there were some serious flaws that even I, just a little kid, noticed easily as I played the game. I'm only really going to concentrate on the flaws, since there's about 100 reviews that gave this game 10/10 ratings and there really isn't more that can be said about it's good points.
The graphics were just awesome. Period. I doubt there is a PS2 game with better graphics and that's all that needs to be said.
The controls were amazing. They essentially took everything from the first game, pumped it up on steroids, and somehow prevented any of the nasty side effects. You could now shoot in first-person view and leap to the prone position on your stomach to crawl, two huge problems from the first game that needed to be addressed. They also added swimming, ledge hanging, and the ability to hold up guards at gunpoint and shake items from them. The game's controls retained the charm and simplicity of the original while adding some neat new features, which is the very essence of a good sequel.
Music and Sound: 10/10
Again, a 10/10. Everything from background music to epic boss music to gunshots to voices all sounds just perfect. Like the first game, the voice acting is movie quality and helps to draw you in to the game's atmosphere and develop a personal attachment to the characters. You find yourself actually caring if a character is about to die, and even wanting to prevent it (Unlike other games where I laugh and cheer it on as a main character gets ground into hamburger).
Yikes! How did it drop THAT fast?! I thought you said the controls were 10/10! How can the control be so good and the gameplay so bad? It's very, very easy. The gameplay is great WHEN YOU ACTUALLY GET TO PLAY. The rest of the time, it's basically just watching a movie, with the controller laying on the floor, while impatiently tapping one's fingers and asking "When are they going to shut up and let me play again?!". The cinematics are dragged out as long as painfully possible, and while they can be skipped, then you miss out on the storyline. It would have been nice to have the storyline unfold DURING the gameplay, rather than pausing gameplay every 5 minutes to face-slap you with a half-hour of cinematics. It's kind of like bringing a gameboy to school. You'll get to play during recess and maybe for a few minutes during class if the teacher turns her back, but the rest of the time you'll be listening to the lesson while the gameboy calls your name from your pocket. I played through this game twice, watching every cinema scene the first time and skipping every one the second time. I sincerely doubt I took longer to actually play the game either time, but the first time was 8 hours and the second time was only 2. Mathematically, that means 3/4 of the "game" is just a movie sequence. Also, that means that a game which clocks your gameplay and rewards you at the end based on how fast you went through doesn't stop the clock during cinematic scenes. What a dirty trick.
What... the... [blank]?
That's all I had to say after finishing this game, as I stood there with my jaw cocked open and the controller slipped from my hands and clattered on the floor. Then I screamed "HOW DID THEY SCREW METAL GEAR UP THIS BAD?!"
This is actually my biggest complaint about this game and the sole reason I wrote this review, so I'm really going to get into detail.
The only part of the game which feels like Metal Gear is the prologue where you're on the tanker. You're playing as Snake, you're hunting Metal Gear, and it has the obligatory Russian villains. You're playing this for the first time and thinking "This is gonna be an awesome game!". Then 5 minutes pass (It's actually about 45, but I'm only counting actual gameplay time and not cinematics), and the main game begins.
It begins with a masked man in spiffy tights swimming up into the dock of the enemy's base and following orders from good old Colonel Campbell. You either nod with quiet respect to the obvious Shadow Moses reference, or you're disappointed in their lack of originality and find yourself sarcastically wondering if the main villain is going to be there and say "Stay alert. He'll be through here. I know it." Either way you're walking on sunshine. They talk for a bit, and while you wonder why is Snake's voice so high, you dismiss it thinking that it's probably the Foot Clan mask he's wearing. Then a big storm cloud comes and rains all over your sunny beach as Colonel Campbell says his new codename is "Raiden" and the man you thought was snake takes his mask off! WTF?! That's not Snake, it's Taylor Hanson! It's bad enough that they replaced Snake, but with THAT guy?! You've can't be serious! No, this is a joke, right? Any minute now Snake is going to surface as well and tell Raiden to secure their escape route or something while HE takes the mission. Yeah, that's got to be it. But no. You're stuck playing as this whiny little crybaby for the entire game. What's even worse, is that the game continues to tease you with Solid Snake throughout. This isn't a spoiler, it's as obvious as a freaking hurricane that Pliskin is Snake. You all knew it the second you saw him. You simply spend the entire game pining to play as Snake and hoping beyond hope that you'll take over as him halfway through or at least get to play another short scenario as him. Sadly, this isn't the case.
What a dirty trick! To make things worse, they tease you by giving you a taste of Snake in the prologue. I guess the disappointment of not playing as Snake wasn't bad enough for the masochists who made this game. They had to kick you while you were down as well. They did this on purpose, too! Read the advertisement on the back of the package:
"Solid Snake is back in the latest installment of the critically acclaimed series from director, Hideo Kojima. Top-secret weapons technology is being mysteriously transported under cover of an oil tanker to an unknown destination. Armed with an arsenal of new weapons, supplies, and stealth maneuvers, it's up to Snake to infiltrate the transport and keep this deadly weapon of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands"
Throw in nothing BUT pictures of Solid Snake and boom! The trap is baited and ready for misinformed suckers (Like me) who think you actually get to play as Snake in this game. And I know this is pushing the spoiler dial, but the public needs to know. IN THIS GAME YOU DO NOT PLAY AS SOLID SNAKE FOR ANY PRACTICAL LENGTH OF TIME. YOU PLAY AS A WHINY LITTLE MAMA'S BOY, AND IF YOU CAN'T HANDLE THAT, THEN DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME!
Here's my edited version of the advertisement:
"Solid Snake is back in the latest installment of the critically acclaimed series from director, Hideo Kojima. Top-secret weapons technology is being mysteriously transported under cover of an oil tanker to an unknown destination. Armed with an arsenal of new weapons, supplies, and stealth maneuvers, it's up to Snake to infiltrate the transport and keep this deadly weapon of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands. That would have made an awesome game, but it only lasts for about 5 minutes. Then you're stuck with this former Herbal Essences model for the entire game, so enjoy."
Okay, so we've got Colonel Campbell and we've got (shudder) Raiden. Who's missing? That's right, the good-looking woman who you radio to save. After Mei Ling in MGS, we all knew this was going to become a mandatory staple of the game. And we were right... sort of. Enter Rose, Raiden's girlfriend. But anyone who was looking forward to a cute woman who was going to give short but interesting (admit it) proverbs while being respectively flirted with by the main character is in for some real disappointment. Instead, we've got Rose constantly browbeating Raiden over the stupidest most mundane garbage I've ever heard! "Oh! You forgot what tomorrow is!", "Why won't you open up to me, Jack?", "Why can't you love me, Jack"? And keep in mind that I'm giving you the abridged version. After saving, she'll sometimes blabber on until the end of time unless you begin hammering the X button to skip her. You find yourself wanting to shoot HER in the head with the SOCOM just to silence her forever! Am I the only one who thinks this is inappropriate? How would you like it if you were up to your neck in bad guys and you had someone doing that to YOU over the radio? Does she think they're in Marriage Councelling? Is Colonel Campbell the shrink who's supposed to sit there while Rose and Raiden play a role-playing game involving terrorists in order to save their marriage? NO!!! Raiden is risking his fey, girlish life to save the world, so maybe Rose should stop distracting him and wait until if and when he comes home in one piece to pester him about forgetting to buy her a box of chocolates for their anniversary or whatever. Frigging harridan.
And guess what? This all takes place only moments into the game. Ooooooooh...
Let's talk boss characters. I'm not going to get into any real detail because I don't want to spoil the surprise for the few and far between who haven't played this game, but I will scratch the surface. Let's think back to MGS. For bosses, you had a gunfighter, an M1 Tank, a Sniper, a Hind D helicopter, a robotic ninja (WTF), a psychic (WTF), a Sniper again, a big guy with a machine gun, good old Metal Gear, and a climactic fistfight with the villain. Except for the robot ninja and the psychic, they all fit the militant soldier atmosphere very very well. Heck, even the robot ninja plays an integral role in the storyline, and in a world of giant bipedal tanks, cybernetic armor that allows that kind of movement isn't too hard to stomach. That's 9 boss fights, only one of which doesn't really fit with the storyline.
However, anyone whose expecting the same in Sons of Liberty will, once again, be very disappointed. The fact that I keep throwing that word in should be a hint to how bad the game's story is. The boss battles are just inane, and with the exception of Olga in the prologue, none of the boss characters fit with the storyline. I guess even with all the possibilities and countless kinds of guns, ammo, and combat techniques in the real world, that just wasn't enough. They had to beef up the bosses with magic powers. That's right. Magic powers. There is one boss character in particular who really pushes this too far. I'm not naming any names but anyone who's played through will know who I mean. He stands and runs on water like he thinks he's Jesus, runs up vertical walls, levitates, and even throws magical shadows at you. Is this Metal Gear or Devil May Cry? Whether or not you personally thought this character was cool doesn't even enter the equation either. What the heck was he doing in this kind of game?! All the villains of this game belong on one of those badly dubbed animes from the 90s.
Finally, we get to the storyline itself. It makes absolutely no sense, and even after playing it twice, I'm still left scratching my head. It suffers from what I affectionately call "Anime Syndrome". Rather than just making the storyline clear to you, the player, they instead make it as convoluted as humanly possible and then systematically have a character narrate to tell you what just happened. Unfortunately, they don't do that very well either. They mention things in the storyline which make no sense to you, yet they talk as if you already know what it is. This causes you to either think you should already know it and feel like an idiot, or you assume they mentioned it before during an hour long cinematic sequence while you were keeping yourself awake by reading an Archie comic. Then, several hours later, they finally tell you what they were talking about, you no longer care because you're now trying to figure out something else that happened. Even the basic structure of the game has it's flaws. They reused and rehashed so many of the events from the first game that it's simply crushing and tried to make it interesting by kicking you with plot twist after plot twist and some preachy philosophical codec communications. The first game was awesome, but that's no excuse to throw it in a blender with some plot twists and put it in a new game. Because that's all this game's storyline is.
All in all, there really was no thought put into the storyline of this game. I'm not trying to be harsh and I'm not trying to bash the game. I'm just being painfully honest. There are too many plot twists, too many similarities in storyline to the original MGS, and just too much story period.
That's it. 4 out of 10. Normally I wouldn't be so harsh on an overall rating just because of a bad storyline, but this game puts more emphasis on the storyline than the gameplay itself. If they're going to do that, then the storyline had better be amazing. Too bad you won't find an amazing storyline in Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty. Now to the important part: Should you rent/borrow, or should you buy? I suggest the former. There were plenty of people who loved this game, so you never know. You might think it was the greatest thing ever. But unless you find it cheap in a bargain bin or at a flea market, don't buy it unless you're prepared to be as disappointed as I was.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 05/04/10
Game Release: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (US, 11/12/01)
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