Review by lylemcd

"Dragon's Lair for the year 2001"

Ok, so I got the PS2 for Christmas that I wanted. Although I was supposed to get Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3, it didn't come in time. So I went and picked up my other first choice game, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Having played and (mostly) enjoyed Metal Gear Solid, and after reading the reviews, as mixed as they were, I wanted to check it out.

Now, looking at the other Gamefaqs reviews (not to mention the ones in the video game magazines), MGS2 looks like possibly the greatest game ever made. 9 and 10 out of 10 reviews here and 5 stars in the video game magazines should indicate a revolutionary new game, right? As with a few other reviews on Gamefaqs, you can tell that I disagree, since I only gave the overall game a 5. I'll explain the somewhat odd title of this review in a second since that ties in with the problems. First let's get the easy stuff out of the way.

Graphics: 10/10
There's no debate, MGS2 has reached a new level of graphical excellence. Considering the power of the PS2, this isn't really that much of a shocker. Frankly, a sub-par graphical game on the PS2 would be more of a surprise. The models are great and everything looks about as close to realistic as it can right now. Just beautiful overall.

Controls: 10/10
Although there's a lot going on and a lot of button controls to learn, the controls are tight and playable. You'll never have something go wrong control-wise unless you screwed up.

Sound-effects: 10/10
Amazing, as to be expected. The objects in the game have sounds that are as realistic as they can be. From slight differences in footsteps depending on whether you're walking or running, the sound of shell casings hitting the floor, etc. At the same time, there are enough video-gamey sounds (like when the guards are alerted to your presence) thrown in so that it's not just an exercise in hyper-realism.

Music: 10/10
The music was scripted by an individual (I forget his name offhand) who has done a lot of movie work. As you can imagine, it matches the tone/situation of the game well. Tense situations get tense music while sad situations get sad music.

Story: 5/10
This is where the game starts to run into problems. First, there is a LOT of story, told through endless full motion videos (which look beautiful) and Codec (communicator) sequences. Quite in fact, watching/listening to the story unfold takes up the majority of the play time of the game.

On top of that, the story is just too convoluted. The constant plot twists (although some are just too obvious), not to mention some of the forced melodrama and cliche is just a little too much to handle after a while. Dealing with the rather preachy/philosophical stuff near the end of the game (which was, admittedly, part of the ending of MGS as well) is simply tiresome. There are times when I sat there just asking myself 'Do I get to play again yet?' And then another 5 minutes of FMV before I did. Which brings us to:

Gameplay: 3/10
Yup, that's right, I gave it a 3. This is where I feel the game goes horribly wrong. Yes, I realize that the Metal Gear franchise basically invented the idea of tactical espionage and sneaking instead of running and gunning and that's great and inventive. But I just didn't find MGS2 fun to play. And not just because of the sneaking aspect. I have no problem with a more strategy based game and some of the situations you get yourself into are pretty tense. And, in a lot of ways, it is more challenging to have to find ways to sneak past guards than just kill everyone in sight. So it's not the concept itself I have trouble with.

It's the overall game play. Which happens to remind me of Dragon's Lair so it's time to explain my review title. Ok, for those of you too young to remember, Dragon's Lair was a 'revolutionary' laser disc video game of the classic age that looked like a cartoon (it was done by Don Bluth of Disney fame). In Dragon's lair, you had to follow a very set script, with little variety. If you did so, you got a little bit of video that advanced the 'story' (rescuing Princess Daphne from the dragon) ; if you did something wrong, you died. Basically, it just took a ton of trial and error (and in this case, quarters) to figure out how to get through the game. Make a move, die. Make a different move, die. Make a third move, die. Put in new quarter. Make a fourth move, aha ; game continues to next sequence. Frankly, the game was way more fun to watch than to play.

That's what MGS2 feels like to me. In this case there is a bit more freedom in what you do to get past a certain task. You can sneak past the guards, you can tranquilize them with your gun, you can distract them, etc. And there's more twitch action involved compared to Dragon's Lair (where the options were right, left, up, down, button). Aiming, timing shots, that sort of stuff does add a bit and is all necessary to accomplish your goal. But fundamentally it's about the same. Do your task, then you get your reward, a lovely full motion video (some of which go on forever) and then you move to the next task. A lot of the levels in MGS2 are simply try, die, repeat ; until you figure out how to get past it. Then the FMV then the next thing to do.

And even though the game feels 'open-ended', it's really not. Between locked doors, strategically placed boxes, and your cast of characters prodding you in certain directions, your path through the game is actually fairly set. There are a few exceptions but detailing them would act as a spoiler so I'm not going to.

I guess what I'm getting at is that MGS2 is more like playing an interactive type movie than a game. Frankly, I think Hideo Kojima would be better off making a movie (similar to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within) although he'd need a better scriptwriter. MGS2 isn't far off from that.

Replayability: N/A in my case
I suppose MGS2 has replayability but I'm not going to find out. The main task revolves around getting up to 150 dog tags off the guards, which sounds more like an exercise in tedium than anything else. Unlike the original MGS, there aren't even alternate endings so there's no real reason to play through for that either. And while the idea of playing on impossible difficulties, or trying to get a better rating (which is based on such things as hwo many times you die, save, use rations, etc) might be interesting to the most hardcore of gamers, I just can't seem to see the point in it. I've played to the end, I got my cheese, I was left unfulfilled. Not only won't I be replaying MGS2, I'll be trading it in for another game very shortly.

Overall: 5/10
Beautiful? Yes. Great sounds and music? Yes. Tight controls? Yes. Story? Well.....
And frankly, I just didn't find it fun. Getting to the end was more an exercise in 'Well, I've played this far so I might as well see what happens' than 'Man, I can't wait to fire this game up.'

Buy or rent: UNless you're one of the insane hardcore who's going to spend hours getting every dogtag or finding every little hidden easter egg or stuff like that, I see this as a rental. With a little effort, finishing it to the end in the 5 days you get to hold onto it should be plenty.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 01/02/02, Updated 01/02/02

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