Review by EBwiz

"Is Snake's final call to duty all it was meant to be?"

In 1998, Konami released the 3rd game in it's Tactical espionage action series, Metal Gear for Playstation titled simply ''Metal Gear Solid''. It became an instant hit with it's original gameplay, excellent music score, remarkable storytelling and the best voice acting in any game to date. It was no surprise when the 4th of the series, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, was announced for PS2. The surprise was in fact,when Hideo Kojima, the director of the series, claimed it would be the last in the long line. Now, after many months of hype, rumors of cancellation and the worst media blackout ever, can the new game live up to it's PSX original?

I have to disagree with most people in saying that graphics for this game are the least important aspect. They are in fact a very important aspect in a game like this one, where attention to detail and level design can affect the surrounding environments, especially with this game's AI system for the patrolling units. And geezis, the attention they paid to detail is truly remarkable. One has to wonder how much time was put into make a game like this. Everything is beautifully rendered. The character models move fluidly, there is never a decrease in frame rate, and the lighting effects are top notch. These however, are the things you will first notice. You will not notice say, that whenever the rain changes direction, the water will either splash on your camera when in first person mode, or it will go the opposite way. You will not notice how almost everything around you is interactable, and causes some minor change to the graphics set as it would in a real world situation. These small additions just add to the realism, and a game like this thrives upon reality; How one man CANNOT go into a base full of soldiers, guns a blazing, and still make it out alive with barely a scratch on him.

Maybe I shouldn't be giving this it's own paragraph, but let me talk a little about the water effects while I'm on this graphics kick. The sheer beauty of the water in this game has to be scene for itself. If I could find the correct words to describe it, I would, but it is truly incredible. What's even better, is watching the water drip off the camera slowly after coming up from underwater. Realism at it's best, folks.

Sound and sound effects work for their specific areas. Things such as footsteps, door slammings, crawling, rain, all sounds ultra realistic. But what you care about is the question: Is the voice acting on par with the original game? Unfortunately, it's a mix bag. When I first started playing, Otacon's voice disappointed me to no end. He sounded way to mellow and not as pleased about acting as he did in the original game, or at least a first. Later, he does some of the best performances in the game. But it is things like his feeble attempt at a cry for ''Snake!'' when Snake dies in battle that just make him... ugh. And the same goes for much of the other cast. Sometimes, they just don't seem to enthused about any of the events around them, and David Hayter seems to like to embarrass them with his near flawless performance for the legend himself, Solid Snake.

The gameplay is more over, what you were expecting. It's Metal Gear Solid. Creep around corners, don't use a gun, use noise to distract them, kill as little as possible, etc., etc., etc. all you MGS vets are used to, and newbies will learn to master and enjoy. However, new dimensions are added by being able to use the area around you (remember what I said about graphics) to hide or to at least buy you some time, like shooting a steam pipe your enemy is in front of to burn them. And now, the addition to a tranquilizer gun DOES indeed make it possible to beat the game without killing anyone, including bosses, though this is an extremely difficult task. Also, new items and a new system for old ones (Notably the card board box) will help you survive this stealth mission.

Finally, we come to the story. People remember the shrude truth of Shadow Moses, but are not ready for what's instore in this game. It starts out very nice, with Snake, a member of an Anti Metal Gear organization called ''Philanthropy'', out to prove that the US Military is involved in Metal Gear doings by sending pictures of the new Metal Gear RAY model on board the tanker he is on. Things soon take a turn for the worse, and I don't just mean the appearance of a couple of russian terrorist, and before we know what's going on, the scene shifts to the controls of Raiden. Raiden, member of FOXHOUND, is sent to infiltrate a base that was created to help the toxic spill of a tanker that had exploded 2 years prior, and rescue the president who has been taken prisoner by a band of terrorist calling themselves the ''Sons of Liberty'', and their leader is claiming to be Solid Snake. From here, questions flood the head of the player as they take control of someone besides Snake for the first time. Eventually, despite a few twists, things are left relatively quiet for a while. In fact, some may get mad at first that it's storytelling is not as well driven in as the first game was, but I urge you to keep playing. The game's story has enough twists and turns to almost topple the first game, and they are only covered with a sense of eerieness that something isn't right as you proceed forward to understand the truth behind it all.

Finally, one last aspect. The music of the game has been created to increase the over-all cinema feel, and this is could because it is essentially what MGS2 is. The entire game is meant, and you can tell by the angles of the camera, to simulate your basic action move, and to further drive this point in, they got famed Hollywood composer, Henry Gregson-Williams, composer for movies such as Enemy of the State and The Rock. But the music is not like what you'd expect. It is very minimalistic, and in some points, non-existant, and rather then switching to a completely new theme when caught, the music that is already playing in the background picks up with a new tempo to give the sense of urgency and chase. Truly another great aspect that further adds to the game as both a piece of cinematology, and as a wonderful game design.

Despite all the praise I give this game, there are still some nagging flaws. They are minor, but they still need to be looked at to examine how this is not a perfect game. First, the voice acting is NOT MGS1 quality. Many people will probably hate me for saying that, but it truly isn't. It came very close, but still, some voices fell short, especially during the more intense situations, but this was only briefly and minor for it to be a real problem. 2nd, no matter how more advanced it was, the AI still is nothing to write home about. Eventually, getting past guards doesn't require that much skill or luck, mainly due to all the new features you get that weren't in the original game. 3rd, The battles, except maybe a few towards the end, are no where near as thrilling as they were in the original game. You will find yourself much more satisfied with the fact you shot down the Hind D from the original game then shooting down nearly any of the heavy machinery you take on in this game.

It took a few years, but now I am happy to say that MGS2 has more then lived up to it's hype. In some aspects, it far succeeds it's predecessor, while falling short in others. Still, I believe it was a good final hurrah for Snake, and I hope you thoroughly enjoy this last adventure as much as I did. Now that another classic series has been drawn to a close, we can only hope that it, as well as many others, have set the standard to show what makes a real masterpiece.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/18/01, Updated 11/18/01

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