Review by ffmasterjose
Without much question, the Metal Gear series is one of the most established in the history of video games. There are (naturally) just as many skeptics of the series as there are loyal fans, but even many of them cannot help but to acknowledge how much of a wide success Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty turned out to be. Not just for Stealth/Action games as a whole, but for the legendary Metal Gear series itself. It brings to the table tight, gripping gameplay, an astounding soundtrack unlike any ever heard before, unforgettable characters and one of the most in-depth stories told to date. It is easily a Playstation 2 classic as well as a great sequel to the original hit of Metal Gear Solid that was released for the original Playstation.
Gameplay is truly one of the more shining features in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty. As with the previous game, Metal Gear Solid, the focus is heavily on stealth movement. That is, moving around without being detected by your enemy and still accomplishing your desired objective. This concept paid off well in the series prior to the release of Sons Of Liberty and if anything it was only more greatly improved. It draws it's success from the surprising simplicity of the whole system - even someone (like yours truly) who had never before played an stealth action game before can learn to sneak around undetected like it's second nature. The interface is easy to understand and not only does it make this game more enjoyable but it also keeps the stealth aspect of Metal Gear alive.
During Sons Of Liberty you play through two chapters. They would be the Tanker chapter where you have control over Solid Snake, the legendary man himself; and the Plant chapter where you play as Raiden - a young, albeit effeminate man who was yet to prove himself on the battlefield. Both characters play almost identical to each other in terms of controls, with the exception of a few select different moves. The controls function fine and help to integrate the player with the action that is happening on screen. The effort that was put into ensuring the game was playable is obvious just from spending about five minutes experimenting with how everything works. Whether you're crawling around in a cardboard box or silently snapping the neck of an unsuspecting sentry, rest assured each movement is fluent and balanced.
Arguably the highlight of not only Sons Of Liberty but the entire Metal Gear series as a whole. As mentioned earlier, the game is divided into two chapters. The Tank chapter takes place two years after the events of the Shadow Moses incident off Alaska where Solid Snake succeeded once again in preventing disaster. He's back along with Otacon and is just as dedicated as ever to complete his newest mission. The other portion of the Sons Of Liberty takes place on a Plant where an unfamiliar face must step up to save it all. During this point in the game the player has control over Raiden (Pronounced "Rae-den", perhaps so as not to confuse with the Mortal Kombat character?). The Plant chapter takes place two four years after the infamous Shadow Moses incident (Which would make it two years after the events of the Tank chapter) but never fear - as the events all come together in the end. As with Metal Gear Solid before it, Sons Of Liberty quickly becomes something other than what it appears. The cast of characters that are introduced, both villain and ally alike, serve to push the story further and into one of the few pieces of a fictional masterpiece.
It is worth a mention however (this may be a moot point to some but I'm including it anyway) that if you are unfamiliar with the story of previous Metal Gear games then you are going to feel a tad left out of the loop. Events and characters from previous games are mentioned frequently and if you don't know what they're talking about, you're going to miss out on some finer details of the story line at first (as I sadly learned the hard way) so consider this a friendly heads up, and play the earlier games first so you have a strong understanding of what's going on. This is not one of those sequel games where one can jump right in and grasp fully what is going on in-game.
The story itself of course follows the Metal Gear tradition of plot twists that will make even the most experienced player be taken aback just from sheer shock value. Sons Of Liberty tells a story that is unlike any other, and when all is said and done nothing will be the same in the Metal Gear realm. You simply must experience the genius of a story yourself to fully understand, you will not be disappointed.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty thankfully improves upon both Metal Gear Solid's graphical and audio presentation. During cut scenes and Codec sequences character sprites are displayed in much better detail than before, giving more life and movement during the cinematics to ultimately enhance the quality overall; no longer do the characters talk without moving their mouths or without having distinct facial expressions. Solid Snake's character just echoes of experience and knowledge, and is accurately displayed in Sons Of Liberty. While on the contrary, Raiden's younger appearance speaks volumes about his own prior experience. The environments are displayed in an even crispier form than in past games, giving detail to such small things as posters in lockers and whatnot. Texture is as accurate as everything else. However, being a Playstation 2 game released in 2001 of course it doesn't look as good as games nowadays but that wouldn't be fair to count it against Sons Of Liberty. At the time of it's release it was visually the best Metal Gear in the series, but it still today holds a place in fan's hearts all over nonetheless.
If the fantastic graphics weren't enough, Sons Of Liberty is fortunate enough to be gifted with a wonderful soundtrack for any video game, as well as superb actors and actresses for the voice-work in this game. As mentioned, the soundtrack itself has the feel of a blockbuster action movie, and delivers this feeling exact. The fast paced tunes will keep your heart pumping rapidly while you're rapidly evading your foes. If the soundtrack doesn't suit your tastes very well there is always the stellar voice work done in this game. Solid Snake retains his tough-as-nails, no nonsense tone and most of the other (if not all) of the returning cast still have their own charismatic flare to them. The new characters introduced are also given distinct voices that fit them perfectly, either making your foes sound more bone-chilling or your allies all the more hopeful. The music is outstanding and the cast members are grade A, and most are very recognizable from other widely successful video game works.
Sons Of Liberty is not the longest game around but it more than makes up for this possible shortcoming with it's replay value. It will most likely take the average player about twelve hours or so to complete the game normally, depending on how much effort they put into it. To keep gamers coming back for more and more, there are quite a few difficulty settings to play through on, not to mention rankings of the player's playthrough on the game. So if you want a higher ranking you must perfect your craft per se. But even if that wasn't enough to hold you over Sons Of Liberty offers an interesting side quest of sorts - collecting dog tags. They can be taken from enemy sentries throughout the game, so keep that in mind. The dog tags not only serve to fuel the collector within yourself but they affect the rank I mentioned earlier. All in all, even though the main adventure is brief the added difficulty modes and content are enough to hold almost anyone over - including the most veteran fan of the Metal Gear series.
There is no question in my mind that Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty is a must-buy, it is a must-own if anything more. I was very skeptic of the Metal Gear series but gave it a chance, and am very thankful that I did so. It looks visually appealing, the sound is magnificent, the game play is more than anyone could ask for, and the storyline is of the most deep in any video games even to this day. Metal Gear Solid is one of the most beloved series out there today and Sons Of Liberty is a great indication of how so. Without any doubt, if you enjoyed the first few games, and are interested in checking out this installment go out right now and get in on the secret as to why this game is so great. Even if you're not the biggest fan of Metal Gear it is at least worth a quick peep, you may even find yourself drawn to it! This game should be a welcome addition to any Playstation 2 owner's gaming library, especially if they enjoy stealth action games in general (Which the Playstation 2 is somewhat lacking of outside of Metal Gear). So, pick Sons Of Liberty up however you can, play this treasure of a game and take comfort again in knowing you have played one of the best Konami, and gaming overall has to offer. You will not regret it.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 07/24/06, Updated 05/15/08
Game Release: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (US, 11/12/01)
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