Review by jshark2000

"Warning: Metal Gear Solid Fanboy Reviews MGS2- Sons of Liberty"

Basic Intro:
Several years after the Shadow Moses incident portrayed in Metal Gear Solid (one of the finest video games EVER), Solid Snake (and Metal Gear mastermind Hideo Kojima) are at it again. Snake and Otacon are retired from the anti-terrorism world, and are now founders of a group called Philanthropy, and they dedicate themselves to the cause of non-proliferation of Metal Gear technology. It seems that just following the Shadow Moses incident detailed in MGS, the then-secret technology used to make Metal Gear Rex was distributed on the black market. This had the effect of every nation developing its own Metal Gear program. With word of a new and improved US Marines version of Metal Gear being transported by tanker through New York harbor, the two-man team springs into action. Snakes' objective is to infiltrate the ship undetected, sneak into the holds where the Gear is purported to be, and bring back photographic evidence of it to disseminate on the internet.

A few years later, a new face emerges. He has a different mission, yet one that will intertwine with the first. He is called to the Big Shell, a massive cleanup facility located in the harbor. It is a very unique structure, with a shell surrounded by struts (you of course must progress through the struts before gaining access to the shell in the middle). An unknown group of terrorists has kidnapped the President, and they are currently holding him somewhere on the Big Shell. A seal team has been sent in, but this new Foxhound agent has been placed there as well: separately, and alone.

Gameplay: The controls are very intuitive and user-friendly. There is no complex aiming system, and the weapon quick switch feature from MGS exists here too. As with MGS, any time a gun is equipped in 1st person mode, the player will have to deal with the weapon shaking- either by compensating or by using pharmacological means. One of the best parts about the MG series is the unique stealth feature, and MGS2 doesn't disappoint. Hiding, crouching, and other forms of evasive action are important in the success of the missions. New additions include holding up enemies for dog tags (note their expressions!)and hanging over railings (watch your grip gauge!). Many of the favorite weapons from MGS make a return here, including SAMs, the Nikita, and the sniper rifle. I noticed a lot fewer cameras in the tanker and the plant than existed on Shadow Moses. 10/10

Graphics: Top notch. The cinematics are mind blowing and make good use of actual footage interspersed with game footage. Attention is paid to every last detail in every room, from sea lice to dirty magazines. When doing battle with a jet, one can almost feel the heat from the thrusters by the way the air around them is affected. The only minus I can think of is that close-ups of some of the characters look a little fake during the cut scenes (like they are wearing too much makeup), but that is a feeble attempt at best to deprive Hideo of a 10 here. Fission Mailed, 10/10.

Sound: Hideo pays very close attention to ambient sounds in his games, and here is no different. If you are outside too long in the rain, you will sneeze, which can alert guards, as can walking over a grate. The voice acting is well done, and synchs up to the characters' lip movements well. Listen for a less-than-triumphant return for Johnny Sasaki in this game- it had me laughing out loud. 10/10

Challenge: While I have only completed the game on ‘Normal' mode, I felt the challenge in this game was lacking most of the way through. There are of course other difficulty levels, ranging from Easy to Extreme, and the player is given the option of forgoing the radar and/or causing the game to end if he/she is spotted by an enemy guard or camera. The infamous cardboard boxes are back, but they don't seem to work as well on the guards as they used to.
Look for some new weapons to liven up various battles. A RPG (rocket propelled grenade launcher) and a sniper rifle that fires tranquilizer darts add to the enjoyment of the game. The addition of a tranquilizer handgun makes sneaking unnecessary in many parts of the game, but note that bodies must be hidden because they do not vanish this time around. The Dead Cell bosses seemed easy, and even the big nasty Metal Gear Ray had a pretty predictable pattern. One notable exception was a fight with a Harrier jet- that one gave me fits. 7/10.

Story: To fully ‘get' the story, pay a lot of attention to every conversation throughout the game. Heck, you may want to take notes. Backstabbing, lies, and various other forms of treachery run rampant here, and it can be difficult to determine who is on whose team at times. There are a number of cinematic scenes at the end that partially tie the story together; expect a bunch of twists and turns. It is almost an information overload type situation, because everything comes at you at once. While in retrospect, the ending is successful at three main things: explaining most of what happened, tying MGS2 in with MGS, and leaving just enough unanswered for MGS3 to pick up; I felt unfulfilled and got the impression that the story team tried too hard to explain too much. 8/10.

Characters: Raiden. Has there been a more divisive character in video game history? Note that MGS2 plays out in two different episodes. The tanker chapter (which chronologically comes first) features Snake, and is relatively short. The plant chapter features a new agent, Raiden, who is quite a change from what MG fans are used to. Raiden can be arguably described as effeminate: he is young, with long blond (almost white) hair, and the tendency to whine at times. He is joined on his mission by Col. Campbell (from earlier MG games) and Raiden's girlfriend Rose (who in this humble writer's opinion is a tremendous nag). I have less of a problem with Raiden than many others do, but certainly understand the arguments.

Of course Snake and Otacon are back, but look for some familiar faces like Ocelot, Colonel Campbell, and even Vulcan Raven to make appearances.
The main enemies here are members of a group called ‘Dead Cell', and they are led by a man calling himself Solid Snake. Dead Cell consists of Fatman (an explosives expert equipped with roller skates), Fortune, a female with an unusual string of good luck (and a gigantic firearm), and Vamp, a vampire type character specializing in throwing knives. While the back stories of the Cell members are developed, I was less impressed with them than with the Foxhound team from MGS, and felt less empathy for them as a result. 7/10

Replay: When I describe the original Metal Gear Solid to people, I always preface my story by saying that it is the only game in history that when I completed it for the first time; I immediately reset and started a new mission. Sadly, MGS2 didn't evoke the same desire in me. The problem is that while this is a very good game, it doesn't do enough to distinguish itself from its predecessor. Replace Harrier with Hind-D, Ray with Rex, and Solidus fight with Liquid fight- there just isn't enough to differentiate here. Also, the game doesn't have enough heart. I didn't feel the same way about the enemies as I did about Raven, Mantis, and Wolf (with Olga being the exception). That said, there are certainly a number of improvements and new techniques here to make the game fun, and more challenging. Easter eggs and references to other titles in the Metal Gear series abound, and provide a quick smile during some otherwise intense and serious gameplay.

How great can this title be if it focuses on a character other than Snake for most of the time? The answer to that depends on who you ask. As I said before, many hate Raiden's character and dislike the game as a result of it. I feel that while he can be a bit of an annoyance, it was necessary to introduce a new person into the series to differentiate this title from MGS. When the ending does eventually come, and Raiden's story is revealed, it makes a lot more sense to include him, and his purpose is understandable. I don't know that I would want to see him as a main character in future titles, but in the world of Metal Gear, time marches on, and Solid Snake is certainly not getting any younger. So when all is said and done, it can be said that when balancing the good with the bad, this game is a blockbuster and certainly worth picking up (just remember that as a MGS fanboy, every subsequent game will be hard pressed to measure up, as far as I'm concerned). 7/10

Total: 8/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/28/06

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