Review by hecktic00
"Fission Mailed"? More like "Mission Failed."
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is, basically, a game that tried way too hard to be smarter than a movie and/or book and failed miserably. Being the eagerly anticipated sequel to the outstanding piece of work that Metal Gear Solid(1) was, you'd hope for at least equal greatness. And, in a sense, it does live up. The problem is it gets way too big for its pants, and basically can't hack it anymore.
By the end of the game, the sheer amount of confusion that is brought out clearly overshadows everything else that the game offered. I could handle it up until about 80% into the game, at which point it seemed like Konami had a whole nother 4 days worth of storyline they wanted to work into the deal, but only had 1 day left to do it and 10% of the disc space left to work with. More on that later...
The ups in the game are clearly there, with wonderful graphics and good voice acting. The ups go all the way to amazing music and awesome looking villains. It was truly something that could have worked. But the downs just drag and drag, like a heated, angry bastard of a child who thinks he's always right. The obscene amount of pretentious crap that comes along with this game is extremely uncomplimentary.
Much like the first game, and even more so, the gameplay here is split into various parts. You run around in 3rd person mode, ala Resident Evil. Much to this player's delight, you have a 1st person view button that can be used in combination with your gun firing. Of course, you can also fire in 3rd person, so that's a major plus.
Unchanged from the first game, save a couple dart guns and different machine guns, MGS2 relies on the same rehashed weaponry from the first game. Actually, this wasn't a big disappointment to me as I enjoyed the first game's weapon stock. Item stock hasn't changed much at all either. You still have your trusty cigarettes and ration packs, natch.
So, yeah, you basically run around these different rooms and buildings trying to complete various obstacles. You'll run into some traps, a lot of guards, and a decent amount of bosses. The pacing is pretty decent, as it was in the first game.
There are various options in the game, and, admittingly, I haven't tested them all out yet. Cycling is just as easy as it was in MGS1. You use the 2nd shoulder buttons (L2, R2) to bring up your items/weapons menu respectfully. You can then use the D-Pad or the left analog stick to cycle through the various items you have.
Of course, all the previous things about snapping necks and stuff are here again. Also, you'll get to interact with the environment more. Example: You can now drag guards around and even put them into lockers to hide their bodies. Now, I don't think you could do that in MGS1, but there's about a 5% chance I could be wrong.
Anyway, this game is a stealth game. You must avoid visual contact from the guards at all times. You must also avoid cameras and various other things. If a guard should sight you, you'll be forced into alert mode. Alert mode basically means you're screwed. Your radar (should have spoke on this earlier) will be jammed and a bunch of guards will come running in from God knows where. They'll surround you and basically shoot you to death.
Your radar works like... Well... Radar. You have a little box in your upper-right corner that'll show various things around you as well as a map of the general area. You can view where guards are, watch their movement patterns, and see their field of vision. This is slightly disappointing to me. As much as it'd make the game harder, I never understood the whole "field of vision" bit. I guess I got it for the first MGS game because the PS1's power was limited. But with the PS2, I just don't get it. Surely, if I can see a guard, he should be able to see me... But, no, if his field of vision is out of range, he won't notice you... Hmm, k. Not very realistic, for as much as the game tries to mimic a real book or movie.
I'm glad to see the game incorporated more water into the mix this time around, but I'm also sad at the way it was done. You see, you have a breath meter (no problem here), but you also have various locales that you can surface to refill your meter during long travels underwater. Again, no problem there, but the way it's handled is lame. While you're underwater your field of vision is displayed, so you can see where you're facing. When you surface to refill your lungs, your field of vision (marked by a triangle-like bright light on the map) goes away. That, plus a camera angle change, makes me wonder which direction I'm facing when I go back down.
This wouldn't be so bad, but at one point there's someone you have to carry around who has an extremely short air-gauge. It's also crippled by the fact that there are mines floating in the water. If I don't know where I'm facing, and I dive, I might run into a mine. Sure, I could look around, but I have a person with me who runs out of air in 6 seconds flat. Psshah...
Off that topic, you play the game in two different segments. The first being that of Solid Snake himself. After a little while, the real game starts and you play as Raiden. Raiden is clearly more athletic than Snake. He can do cartwheels and hang off the side of various things(like railings) to shimmy across them. This is fun, as it adds another choice to hiding as well as a new travel route. Not that they really utilized it except for one part of the game.
Water and railings aside, the gameplay didn't really disappoint me. Sure, it didn't change much from the first game, but was there really a point? I always thought MGS1 had some of the best controls of any game around. Simple, fluid, easy to do... It was just extremely comfy. And the same can be said about MGS2, water excluded. I was mostly a happy camper.
Only playing on Normal setting, I can say that the difficulty of MGS2 isn't too bad. Actually, it's rather easy if you think on your toes. Some spots were rather bad because of the close-quarters, but overall it was enjoyable. The length of the game is pretty darn short. You'll get maybe 10 hours of gameplay in, if you're lucky. The rest is taken up by huge cut scenes.
What to say? The graphics are surely an improvement from MGS1. The characters are more detailed as are the locations. I was rather impressed and happy that the codec conversations weren't all done in goofy cartoon-like artwork this time around, but in regular graphics. Props to that one. I'm also finding myself satisfied that they didn't overdue the CGI with the cut-scenes. I'm glad they stuck to real movies for a few spots, good stuff. Unfortunately the cut scenes are extremely long. I think I counted many 10-15 minute cut-scenes, defined as time where you can't control what's going on.
You won't find yourself looking at a lot of menus within the game. What menus are there aren't bad. They're all rather simple and easy to navigate. The weapons/items selection bits are fast-paced and easy to navigate as well. No real complaints here.
My only problems is that there are basically two levels throughout the whole game. Ok, I realize MGS1 was one big building... or rather 1.5. But, still, they divided it well. The whole building seemed to be well divided into different elements and sections, despite it being... Well... One building. Here, though, it feels like it's just the same graphic panels over and over again. The same wallpapers, the same textures, the same! I'm so sick and tired of looking at yellow and orange now, that I feel like puking.
Yeah, this game likes to focus on the colors of the sun. 80% of the game seems centered around either yellow or orange. The orangish walls, the yellow-baring sun, the orange/black outfits of 50% of the guards. Bleh.
The voice acting, in my opinion, seems to have taken a blow here. While MGS1 really only featured one "bad" voice, that being Liquid Snake, MGS2 has a few bad voices. And not just the voices, but the placing of the voices. Sometimes it's hard to make out what the people are saying because of the music. Sometimes their way of saying the sentences just doesn't match up with what's typed on the screen... I dunno, maybe MGS1 was this bad, but I just don't remember it. All I know is it seems like MGS2 took a blow here. Oh well, I can name at least 10 other games that are significantly worse than MGS2 so it's not that bad.
I was amazingly impressed with the music in MGS2. The only thing that really had me giving a 9/10 to MGS1 was the fact that the game seemed to have only 2 music tracks. MGS2 completely blows MGS1 out of the water in this department. While that old tune is here, remixed actually, MGS2 has loads of new material. All of it is pretty formal to the marine-ish style the game tries to follow, but it's all pretty good.
Here's where we start to go downhill. As was said earlier, you play the game as two people. The first little bit of the game is played through the eyes of Solid Snake. Ol' Snake has found himself on another mission, this time without the help of any agencies(kinda). He's sneaking aboard a tanker that apparently houses a new type of Metal Gear.
Going through this area, which I refer to as the long-as-hell introduction to the game, you'll come to find out that some Russian folks are here to steal the show. They'll board the boat and take it over. Your job is to get to the place where Metal Gear Ray is and take photo evidence of it. Eventually you find out that your old friend, Revolver Ocelot, is back. Or is he?... Some weird things happen that make you think for a minute, and, before you know it, you're off that mission and on to the real one.
You now play the game as Raiden, pretty-boy, Jack. His real name is Jack, but his code name is Raiden. Ok, his code name WAS Snake, but apparently the real Snake is already on this mission, so we'll call him Raiden as per the Cornel's choice. Confused already? It only gets worse!
So you're here on this big thing called a "shell." Apparently it's used to clean up the water and stop pollutants. The good ol' president has been captured and brought here by terrorists. Or, actually, I think he was there on a field trip with a bunch of employees and the terrorists took over. I really don't remember what excuse they gave for him being there. All I know is that the president and a bunch of employees are being held captive on this thing.
This shell thing is based in the middle of the water and it's pretty big. You'll spend a lot of time running across the bridges that connect the various structures together. It was actually a well thought out playground that the developers came up with, if I do say so myself.
So, apparently, you find out there are a bunch of explosives on board as well as the president. If this place blows up, not only will the president die, but toxins will pollute the waters and various other nasty things will happen. A lot of other stuff goes down, and you're eventually left with so many plot-twists that aren't explained enough that you'll want to rip your hair out.
But, onto the characters, Raiden is your typical whiny-boy persona. No one has ever disgraced the face of an awesome main character as Raiden does. Remember how tough and cool Solid Snake was? Pfft, you're in for a complete role reversal with this new guy. His voice makes him sound like he's 12. I think even the other characters IN the game were confused about his real sex.
Never-the-less, a nice amount of dialog goes on between Raiden and his girlfriend, who takes Naomi & Mei-Ling's place as both adviser and save person in the codec screen. You'll see a nice relationship behind all the conversations complete with average problems everyone goes through in a relationship. This is a perfect example of why I love MGS. The dialog between these two seems so real and hits so hard. It's almost like the main writer could have been a best selling author as far as this stuff goes.
But the problems arise in other areas of the game. While you're distracted by that part of the story, you're bombarded with various other things that'll make your head spin. There must have literally been 30-40 plot twists in this game, and a lot of them hit one after another within 10 minute time periods. Couple that off with the fact they're done in cut-scenes where you can't be part of the action, and it severs the enjoyment.
The other characters in the game are all pretty good. The villains(or whatever you want to call them, I had trouble dividing them into good and bad) are all detailed. Although, I'd like to comment that everyone seems like a bad guy in this game. I had trouble understanding why I wasn't playing another role instead of Raiden, because they felt like they had a more "angelic" role in the game.
Anyway, it's hard to really dwell into anymore than that because I'd be revealing spoilers. I will say that the characters range pretty well, from a vampire, to an invincible(kinda) lady, to a mad bomber(kinda...), to a lot of other things. You won't be disappointed as far as variety goes.
But, again, you notice all those "kindas" in there. Hey, I'm all for hidden meanings, but the reality is that you can't do all that with such a small game. I say small because it's all on one 4gig DVD disc. That is not enough space for such a game that needs to be filled with tons of detail. Example: I completely understood Raiden and Rose's relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend, not because I could relate (even though I could), but more because they spent enough time explaining it.
But the other stuff was just so damn unexplored, and seemed to hit about as fast as those machine guns fire bullets. One after another, plot twist after plot twist, things just went on unexplained and unnoted. Hmmm... Here, imagine if The Godfather had been forced into a 1 hour and 30 minute movie instead of the 4 hours that it was. Could you imagine how crappy it would be? That's what MGS2 feels like. It could have been so awesome, if only it were allowed to be more than one disc and they had more time to work on it. And if the story pacing was done better... As I said before, some plot twists and such seemed to happen really close to each other and at the end of the game as well. I think there's a 15 minute cut scene filled with that kinda crap, then the final boss, then another 10 minute cut scene that doesn't really explain anything, then one final plot twist. Yeah...
I can handle the fact that they made everyone seem evil in a way. Actually, I really love that type of story-telling and character setup. I love it when there aren't cookie cutter "evil" and "good" sides, but rather everyone has an agenda, and everyone is evil to someone else. I freaking love that. But, I don't love it when I come to that conclusion during 15 minutes at the end of the game. Throughout the game I have certain people picked for being good and certain people picked for being evil. And, while I enjoy plot twists and character twists, I just don't like realizing EVERY SINGLE PERSON has evil in them at the end. It just seems worthless to have went through everything else. And, actually, many of the characters tell you everything you just did was worthless... Many times as well...
So, yeah, I think they state it best when they tell you everything you just did was worthless. Because, really, there's no point. That's what I got from this game anyway. No point, nothing was really explained, and the ending gave me no explanation. For as many times as MGS2 throws around the "you were just a pawn" bit that the characters love to call each other, I really felt like I was the pawn here. And that isn't in a good way. I honestly felt like I was just playing some... "place holder" for the real MGS2 that hasn't been released yet.
Can I recommend this game? I can, because it was an experience even if it left me feeling confused and empty. But, you know, that's the nature of the beast. MGS2 offers a lot, including a wonderfully played out love story. It also has a pretty good explanation of the relationships of a couple other characters. And in that, I'd have to say MGS2's strong point is the character interaction and relationship with each other.
Just know that when you play, don't expect to understand much. I really wanted to believe I would, despite what I'd heard, but people are right. This game just fails at explaining a lot of what went down, and for that I feel kind of ripped off. True, it sets up the story for another entry in the series, but it was done in such a crappy way... And if my review seems confusing at times, you can blame MGS2 for that. When the game's confusing, I get confused, and therefore my review is confusing.
Just know these fine points, and you'll be ok in deciding it the game is for you or not.
+Amazing character relationships/interaction.
-Not enough gameplay.
-Lousy storytelling / not enough explanation.
-Way too many plot twists.
-Raiden is a whiny bastard.
-Main level isn't varied enough / seems to repeat itself a lot.
-A couple gameplay problems, easily overshadowed by the game's bigger flaws.
Final verdict? Rent before you buy. I beat the game in one weekend, and I didn't play for most of the days. It's a small game, despite all its information. Just rent it first, play it, and if you like what you're experiencing so far, go buy it.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
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