Review by shenmuer2001

"MGS2 is a surreal experience"

Well, dear readers, here we are with my second installment of reviewing the Metal Gear Solid franchise. This time around we'll be exploring a controversial title in the series Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, hereafter referred to as MGS2.

As I said previously, MGS1 was an amazing game. Its combination of stealth, original boss battles, and a well thought out, albeit video-gamey, plot got me hooked to the franchise.* So of course, I was excited to start playing MGS2. However, I was equally hesitant to play the game because I was so impressed with the first game. Add to that the negativity towards Raiden that many people showed and I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into.

In spite of all of the criticism that he received, I must say that I enjoyed playing as Raiden. Maybe he's not as cool or confident (or manly) as Snake is, but he was crucial for the story to develop the way that it did. Raiden reflects the player in that he has no idea what is really going on other than what he's been told. He is a pawn that is constantly used and throughout the game he has to overcome his inner demons and self-doubts. He also finds that he has to live up to Snake, which is impossible for him, but he does manage to figure out more about who he is. Without saying what happens at the end, I will say that I found the final scene's symbolism to be a fitting end to Raiden's tale. I also liked how Raiden and Rose's relationship was a lot less contrived than Meryl and Snake's. Rose's constantly calling Raiden "Jack" also added to Raiden's humanity.

There are plenty of new additions to the game to make it fit in with FPSs. The biggest and also best addition to the game is the addition of a first-person mode. This makes it a lot easier to aim at targets as well as allowing to look up and shoot at things, such as surveillance cameras. The A.I. has also been improved upon which makes stealth that much more important. On a contrary note, these features make the game seem surreal. It took me a few hours to really convince myself that I was playing a Metal Gear Solid game.

This game also features a wide variety of objectives that you have to perform. For example, when you're playing as Snake, there is a section where you have to take pictures of the newest Metal Gear. As Raiden, you have to spray multiple bombs with a coolant to ensure that the tanker that you're on doesn't explode. There are sniping sections, sneaking sections, and fighting sections. Having a wide variety of missions prevents the game from becoming stale.

Another new addition that I was hesitant at first about is the implementation of dog tags. In this game, every single enemy that you face is wearing a set of dog tags that have the names of people involved in the game or people who won a contest in Japan. To get them, you have to draw your gun on an enemy when he is unaware, which causes him to stick his hands up. You then have to point the gun in his face, which causes him to shake and drop the dog tags. When I started playing the game, I didn't like the system at all. It seemed to take away from the flow of the game, since you have to approach every enemy to steal their tags instead of simply sneaking by them. As I got into it, however, I found this game mechanic to add a new level of depth to the game. I spent time in each area trying to figure out how I would get the tags from one guard without disturbing the others. Thankfully, once you got a dog tag you didn't need to collect it again, even if you died, meaning that you could always get one tag, die, and try to get the others without too much difficulty.

It was completely perfect, unfortunately. For example, I didn't find the boss battles nearly as enjoyable as I did in the first game. The bosses in MGS2 were, simply put, over the top and ridiculous, which is an odd thing for me to say considering I loved bosses such as Psycho Mantis who was probably more absurd than any character in this game. Oddly enough, it was not the bi-/vampire Vamp that annoyed me the most, but the bomb-loving, overcoat-wearing Fatman. I can't really explain it, but the idea of a fat guy rollerskating around a roof while planting bombs took me out of the game, but yet Vamp didn't. I can't explain it.

All in all, this was a really fun game to play. The story was absurd but it worked, the music was excellent, and the graphics were great. The programmers put so many little details into the game, such as a wide variety of posters featuring real women and other Kojima games, that you can spend a lot of time just looking around and admiring the surroundings. Everything in the game just fit together nicely and created a memorable experience. Of course, only the passage of time will tell me if I find this experience better or worse than MGS1, but both games are going to have a special place in my mind and should be looked upon as pinnacles of game design. Since I've only heard even better things about Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, I can't wait to see what entails that game.

*Oddly enough, this was actually the first game in the series that I have ever purchased. I got it back in 2005 and just let it sit on my shelf for years until I would bother buying... MGS3 which would then lead to me finally buying MGS1. Confusing, yes, but it got me to buy the games.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/26/09

Game Release: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (US, 11/12/01)

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