Review by discoinferno84

"Just a city boy..."

Saving the day isn't what it used to be. In the old days, all you needed was enough skills, weapons, and moxie to annihilate whatever crazed foe you were going up against. There was no questioning your duty as “The Good Guy,” only the sheer determination and belief that the cause you were fighting for was indeed correct, meaningful, and ethical. You'd just start your crusade against evil with the purest of intentions, wipe out a few minor baddies, and take down the tough and evil mastermind waiting for you at the end. Your goal would always be the destruction of that evil; there was never anything else. That was when being a video game hero didn't mean anything more than some mindless dolt stomping on enemies or shooting down a flock of foes. These days, there are so many more detailed storylines, flawed characters and extra jargon that are supposed to add so much depth and wonder to the games currently out. But when you strip away all the baggage and look at the new heroes of the gaming world, you'll still occasionally find that one innocent hero fighting for a cause he or she truly believes in.

Case in point: Raiden. This young fellow is one of many new characters that you'll learn to love and possibly hate as the events of Metal Gear Solid 2: The Sons of Liberty unfold. Unlike many of his battle-hardened contemporaries in covert operations, Raiden is basically a new operative on his first major mission. He's never been on a real battlefield before, only training sessions set up by his superiors. If anything, he's still more of an intern than a weathered war hero. However, his first mission is quite a daunting task. Simply put, this new guy has to save the President of the United States from a bunch of terrorists that have taken him hostage in this massive industrial site called the Big Shell just outside of New York City. That's a pretty tall order for some new agent, but apparently he can be trusted enough with the completion of the task at hand. Feeling ready for his first time actually out on the field, Raiden infiltrates the facility, ready and willing to take out some terrorist scum, save the President, and become a hero on par with the legendary Solid Snake himself. Sounds like a prime opportunity for this rookie to make a name for himself in the world of espionage. However, not everything is as it should be. Though this is supposed to basically be a rescue operation, Raiden will soon find himself wrapped up in the astounding lies and conspiracies of the government that he works so religiously for. And with each of the countless plot twists that he'll come across, he'll become more and more confused as his true mission and purpose become increasingly convoluted.

However, he'll be a little too preoccupied with his mission to worry about any conspiracy theories. The President is a very important man, and he's got some fairly dangerous foes guarding him. Our hero will have to put all his honed skills to the test if he ever hopes to complete the tasks laid out for him. Thankfully, Raiden isn't quite as naive as he sometimes acts. This kid comes armed with plenty of high-tech gadgetry practically begging to be used on some unsuspecting foe. You'll start off with practically nothing, but as the game progresses you'll amass a horde of enough deadly firepower to quell anyone's appetite for destruction. But no matter how powerful an arsenal he'll get, our hero will still have to keep good control of his itchy trigger fingers if he hopes to live. Though he may be physically able to save the leader of the free world, he's still outnumbered by the dozens upon dozens of guards patrolling the area. Considering that the complex is made up of a bunch of walkways and small rooms, it'll be a daunting task to get through such close quarters unscathed. That leaves Raiden with few options: he can either run and gun his way through his foes, alerting the countless other enemies to emerge out of the woodwork and getting himself shot to pieces in a blaze of glory, thus ensuring the President's demise. Or, he could do something sane and logical, which would involve him sneaking around the facility unnoticed. Your playing style is your prerogative, but it's a fair bet that'll you'll get Raiden further by trying to get by undetected.

As with any Metal Gear game, stealth is the most fundamental part of the gameplay. Accordingly, Raiden will spend most of his time pressed up against corridor walls, inside lockers, underneath boxes, hanging on ledges, and staying out of sight in general. The game makes great use of the first-person perspective, allowing you to look around corners and observe the layout of the complex. With each area our hero encounters, he'll have to deal with a new set of guards with their own positions and patrol routes. And while these guys aren't exactly rocket scientists, they are clever enough notice someone attempting to sneak past them. You can spend minutes observing an enemy soldier, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to either sneak past or strike him down. Or you could whip out your hand tranquilizer pistol and cast your foes into a dreamy abyss. Or, you could mess with their minds by tapping on a wall for a distraction, or hold them at gunpoint for your own sadistic pleasures. The game gives you plenty of options of how you approach the situation, but the goal is always the same: getting by undetected. If you have enough skill, timing, and patience, you can go through the entire undetected by any of the inept guards that wander throughout the place. Of course, you could always make use of the decent assortment of weapons that you'll acquire, like the Nikita or the SOCOM. Unfortunately, that will usually involve killing your inept foe, which will usually lead to the rest of the baddies coming to the area to investigate their fallen comrade. If you don't act fast and make at least some semblance of an attempt to hide the corpse, the guards will be on to your murderous ways and request backup to be sent in to flush out your sorry hide.

But between all this sneaking around, you'll have to deal with the crisis as it continues to develop as the game progresses. After all, saving the President is only one of your main goals; you'll have plenty of other stuff that need to be taken care of before you can waltz in to save the day. Not only will you have to sneak past guards, but you'll also get to handle a cast of the strangest foes ever seen in the Metal gear series. A few of the old Metal Gear Solid crew are back in action, but the new cast of unlikely friends and zany foes will keep you occupied. You'll have to disarm bombs before they cause mass destruction, do some sniping, save a few important hostages, prevent a catastrophe of not-so biblical proportions, become accustomed to mysterious allies and foes alike, and tons of other technical mumbo jumbo that is supposed to build up to the final encounter with whatever evil that you're supposed to be fighting. Though occasionally and needlessly complicated, the majority of these events play an important role in the progression and overall understanding of the story. All you can do sit back and gaze in wonder as Raiden's quest takes turn after unexpected turn until you're so confused that nothing makes much sense if you don't pay close attention. But even if you get the just get gist of what's going on, you'll still enjoy every minute of it.

But despite the potential onset for confusion, this strange and twisted tale of modern espionage is presented so masterfully that you can't help but to be swept off your feet. The majority of Metal Gear Solid 2 takes place on a decrepit oilrig surrounded by ocean, one of the grittier settings in a video game. Accordingly, great care was taken to make it seem as real and absorb as possible. The exterior of the complex is made up of a series of areas interconnected with detailed walkways. Everything is painted a sullen orange color, faded from years of weathering from the maritime weather. When you're wandering outside, you can hear the dull roar of the ocean waves coming into shore, and even observe the countless pelicans that will fly around the area and defecate in various places. The inside portrayed as dank and dirty, with old machinery and pest infestations. All of the characters voices are executed with perfection, from Ocelot's slight drawl to the thick Russian accents of the least important foot soldiers. Everything seems so dark, edgy, and dingy that Raiden sticks out like a sore thumb, what with his sleek sneaking suit armor, blond mullet and whiny attitude. But despite his painfully obvious character flaws, he does a great job at playing the innocent hero caught up in something bigger than he ever expected. And considering the myriad of intense cutscenes, detailed conversations, dramatic music and everything else that makes up the presentation for this game, it's a fair bet that you'll be swept away as well.

Looking back, Metal Gear Solid 2 was one of the finest of its time, a game worthy to be the successor of the legendary original. Sure, some fans despise the new hero with a passion, while others get so confused by the mangled storyline that they throw down their PS2 controllers in despair and call it a night. It's one of those games that can invoke the love or hate for anyone playing it. But if you take away all the expectations you might have for such a sequel, you'll be in for a true treat. If you start playing this game with an open mind and an a need for a quality gaming experience, you'll be sure to appreciate Hideo Kojima's tale of espionage and suspense. This game has it all: the righteous hero, the evil and quirky villains, tons of action and suspense, and finely tuned atmosphere just waiting to be experienced. When you add up all these factors and blend them together, you've got the makings of a game that will not only appeal to Metal Gear Solid fans, but the gamers new to the series as well.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/29/05


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