Review by YSF

"The Perfect Tactical Espionage Action!!!"

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Introduction
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Year 2001, the ''Year Of The Snake'', according to the Chinese horoscope seems to be an auspicious year for the grand arrival of Konami's greatest game- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty. Its 1998 predecessor marked an unprecedented revolution in the way many action games should be played with its stealth format.

''Transcend consoles from PSOne to PS2, transcend centuries from the 20th to the 21st and transcending (surpassing) its prequel MGS1'' has become the main development theme of MGS2. When the trailer was shown at E3, it stunned all viewers with its amazing quality that surpasses that of the prequel. Metal Gear Solid 2, the highly anticipated game of the year, promises to deliver more massive thrills, excitements and actions.

It's almost unbelievable that the long-awaited Metal Gear Solid 2 has finally arrived. Though many have high expectations of this sequel, they will be glad to discover that Metal Gear Solid 2 does live up to the hype. Best of all, the sequel stays true to its roots. It is undeniably an impressive game that is just as memorable as the original. Furthermore, the game is now much longer than the original.

While one may argue that since the game places strong emphasis on stealth rather than killing, the fun of killing is almost gone. I happen to disagree- Nobody says that you can't kill in Metal Gear Solid 2. Pointing a weapon at someone and then shoot at someone by the press of a button is easy but can you kill an enemy without you being discovered? That's where the ultimate challenge lies- your strategy skills, your logical thinking, your observation skills to the surroundings etc are being tested. In fact, a combination of these innovative gameplay elements plus memorable characters, stunning cinematic 3D graphics, incredible production values, fast pace gameplay with little slowdowns and complex plot twists account for the series' success and makes the series the most extraordinary and unique than any other game series.

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Story and Character Development
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This is probably the hardest part to talk about in this review. Anyway, understanding the complex plot of Metal Gear Solid 2 demands you to know some background knowledge of the previous games or else, you might find the plot difficult to follow.

The story are often very dramatic. The 3D cinematics that blends in with the actual gameplay heightens the atmosphere to an astounding level. Facial expression and gestures of a character do clearly convey the emotions very well. In fact, there are quite a number of cutscenes that are very emotional that etched into your memories forever. Most of the game's conversation is carried out via codec, a high-tech transmission device which allows you to communicate with your allies for helpful tips and information.

Lengthy cinematic sequences and extensive dialogue are common throughout the game. The abundance of non-interactive sequences lead to a justifiable criticism- games are for playing and not watching; Konami should focus more on the action. But MGS2 is an exception. These cinematic scenes are definitely worth watching, more than anything you watch in the theaters. However, the lengthy dialogues in codec conversation can be boring most of the time, rather than engaging. The conversation can sometimes take up to 30 minutes and the problem arises here- it would be better to replace the conversation with more emotional scenes.

Hideo Kojima is a good storyteller- Many thought-provoking statements can be found throughout the game. The story of MGS2 is great but not better than the original. The character developments in MGS2 don't see to be better than the original MGS. The problem lies with the fact that the twists don't seem to uncover coherently. The first few hours of the game are generally fine but towards the end, you are forced to absorb a lot of information at one go. Some of the information revealed don't seem to be logical in the real world. Anyway, my advice is ''do not be obsessed with the information presented to you.'' ''Just take in whatever you can and don't worry too much'' seems to justify the claim that Konami made- the story is fictional.

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Graphics
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The transition from PSOne to PS2 yields in the astonishingly improved of character expression and behaviour. Hideo Kojima once said that his aim was not to increase the number of polygons of models. He wanted to create ''a space in which the player can indulge in freely at real time, a space that you are able to touch and a space that you can feel the temperature, humidity, smells and even air.'' This sounds like an idealistic goal. But with Metal Gear Solid 2, the goal has been turned into a reality- the world of Metal Gear Solid 2 does promise a lifelike and interacting environment.

The visuals presented to you represents the state of the art technology- almost everything is perfection; a rare masterpiece that represents the greatest achievement of humanity. The characters, enemy soldier etc have smoother textures, clearer facial expressions and more amazing details than its prequel. The breathtaking cinematic cutscenes that segue seamlessly from the in-game proceedings with well-designed character models provide the best superb visuals that can easily rival any of Hollywood's films.

When a guard yawns, he really reveals his tiredness on his face. How about a guard who conveys his fears and panic by shivering his body when he is being ''held up''? In first person view mode, when you fire a weapon and shoot at one of an enemy's leg, the guard immediately becomes crippled. Shoot at his head and gruesome blood that spurs in all direction flows out, killing him instantly. Tiny bugs can be seen crowding near light sources; the rain and underwater effects look strikingly amazing. You even tiptoe over the bodies of unconscious guards. Even some minor, small details that someone perform are interesting to be taken as a photo too, which speaks highly of the game's graphical engine. Without any doubt, the realtime graphic of MGS2 certainly set the benchmark for the present generation of games.

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Gameplay
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The sequel stays loyal to its roots but with greater new things introduced to create another brilliant commando simulation that will sink player deeper into the virtual secret-agent persona. Unlike the original, the bodies of the dead enemies no longer vanish. Hence, disposing the dead bodies become a problem to be tackled. Also, when you sneak behind the back of a guard and point a weapon at him, you will say 'Freeze' and the guard will immediately put up both of his hands. Think of the different ways of distracting a guard like knocking on the wall, leave a book containing pictures of babes, open up a locker that has a poster of a babe or plant an explosive etc. Question yourself whether you should use a long range or a short range weapon and will firing a shot alert any of the guards? All these are welcome strategies that you can use.

New fighting moves are introduced; certain situations also require you to perform certain special actions like hanging over railings, diving etc. When fattening against the wall, a new addition allows you to use the analog stick while pressing the R1 button to peek left and right. Perhaps the greatest addition is the new first-person shooting mode which adds an entirely new realm of precision. Besides the new moves, the arsenal of items and equipment have been expanded.

Certain situations encountered in MGS2 are actually a replica of the original MGS like passing the Infra-red sensors, using Nikita missiles to aim at a control panel, the functions of the cardboard etc. This might be a bit dull for those who have played the original MGS. Nevertheless, the new strategies introduced will be able to keep any fans satisfied. Even if you have completed the game, you can still replay it to unlock all the secrets, find bonus items, taking snapshots and collect dog tags. The various difficulty modes also provide a wide variety of challenges for players.

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Control
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The control is more or less similar to the original MGS, except that the the functions of the Triangle button and the R1 button has been changed. The Triangle button has now more uses as it executes special action like opening a locker, hanging, climbing, turn handles etc. The R1 button is used for the first person view mode instead. The control, overall is much better than the original. Furthermore, the game proceeds with little slowdowns and loadings.

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Music and Sound
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MGS2 had many great professionals handling every aspect of the game. Among one is Harry Gregson-Williams who was responsible for MGS2's musical score. The introduction music of MGS2 seems to be a modified tune from the MGS: VR Missions introduction music started off really well. What is particularly special about the music is that it depends on circumstances and it changes with action. As you infiltrate into an enemy's base, the music is deliberate in the sense that if you alert any of the guards, it changes into a fast-pace theme that tells you that you must start running away from the crowd of gun-toting guards while in usual situations when you are not discovered by any guard, the music follows a slower-pace theme.

The slow-pace tune associated with Fortune was quite appropriate as it conveys a ''lifeless and half-dead'' personalities out of her. On the other hand, I find the ending theme, ''Can't Say Goodbye To Yesterday'' inappropriate to use. Most of the boss theme wasn't that memorable as compared to its prequel. In fact, I prefer the music featured in TGS Roll A found in the extra mode of Metal Gear Solid Integral.

The sound effects are superb, ranging from the noises due to the distinct tones of footsteps on different floor surfaces, sneezes, gunfire, yawns, seagulls squawking and torrential rain pouring down. etc. The game also supports Dolby Digital 5.1 audio in a few key cinematic sequences.

Fans will be glad to hear that the original voice actors like David Hayter is back. Most of the voices are spoken loudly and clear. However, just like the original, the speeches sometimes don't fit the characters' mouth movement. Other than that, the sound is of the best possible quality.

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Conclusion
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Metal Gear Solid 2 will definitely be remembered as a great sequel. It will certainly leave a defining achievement in the glory history of gaming. Its awesome graphics and unique gameplay elements will set a new standard in which all other games should be aspire to. Forget about what others have said about Metal Gear Solid 2 being not living up to the hype. It's a game that all PlayStation 2 owners must own as it has the qualities to easily becoming your most favourite game.

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My Personal Thoughts
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Konami isn't 'stingy' when it comes to making violence and blood scenes. MGS2 returns with more gore and blood than its original, targeting at mature audiences rather than young children. The various cute posters of babes has to be mentioned too- they just look like real. And also, not to mention that some guy will go na... in one part of the game. I thought that such scenes might be censored but thanks god, it didn't.

There is one last point which I want to make. We all know that the first release of the original MGS comes with 10 VR trainings but not MGS2. It seems like the schedule is too tight to add anything extra to the game. But don't worry- the main game doesn't seem to be rushed. Anyway, I do expect Konami to release something like a Metal Gear Solid Integral 2 soon that will contain many VR Missions to make up for it.

Story : 8.5/10.0
Graphics : 10.0/10.0
Concept : 9.5/10.0
Control : 10.0/10.0
Music : 7.5/10.0
Sound : 9.5/10.0
Gameplay : 10.0/10.0
Replay : 8.5/10.0
Challenge : 9.0/10.0
Presentation : 10.0/10.0
Overall : 10.0/10.0


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/09/01, Updated 12/16/02


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