Review by Shady

"I've spotted the enemy! Requesting backup!"

I loved Metal Gear Solid. The story was very interesting, the ''sneak-em-up'' stealth gameplay was fantastic, and the overall experience was unforgettable. It was easily one of the best games on the Playstation.

Metal Gear Solid's sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, expands on its predecessor's best elements. Well, for the most part anyway. MGS2 undoubtedly delivers in terms of its gameplay. However, its story is sorely lacking.

The story does start off interesting enough. As Solid Snake, the same hero from MGS, you begin by sneaking aboard a military tanker in hopes of acquiring photographic evidence of a new Metal Gear. This portion of the game is basically a prologue, it’s known as the ''tanker'' chapter. It is, unfortunately, also the only time you can play as Snake throughout the game. That’s right, once you’re done with the tanker chapter, you’re forced to use a new character.

This would be no problem if the new character were even half as cool as Snake. The new guy, code-named Raiden, is horrible. He’s an incredibly green rookie who’s only previous espionage action was through VR training. He has an annoying voice and he is always bugging the Colonel (his commanding officer) for help. He also has a girlfriend, known as Rose, who is in on the mission. The two of them often waste time talking to each other, even while Raiden is in the thick of a battle. There are just so many things wrong with Raiden, it’s ridiculous.

The part of the game in which you play as Raiden, known as the ''plant'' chapter, is where the story starts to get a little wacky. The lame plot isn’t Raiden’s fault though, it’s the ''I wanna write a story with so many plot twists that you will never know what is really going on'' idea used by Hideo Kojima, the game’s director. There are so many complex plot twists, conspiracies, forms of betrayal, and heady political mumbo-jumbo that the story becomes downright laughable by the end. I was intrigued by the story until about halfway through the game - that’s when the aforementioned problems kick in. For a game that relies on the story so much (there’s literally hours of cinemas and CODEC conversations devoted to the plot), it’s a shame that the story is so bad. It is presented well, but it is executed terribly.

The villains this time around are decent, although they suffer from poor character development. The main adversaries in the first MGS were members of FOX-HOUND. In MGS2, your biggest enemies will be members of Dead Cell, a strange anti-terrorism group. The group’s members look like they came straight out of a Marvel comic book. All of them have their own unique abilities, but they are nowhere near as fun to battle as Metal Gear Solid’s bosses were. In fact, most of these boss battles are way too easy. I was able to beat most on my first try.

Fortunately, where MGS2 fails with its lame story and average characters, it makes up for it with its mind-blowing, enhanced gameplay. While Metal Gear Solid offered a lot of innovative ideas in terms of gameplay, MGS2 simply trounces those features. Snake (and Raiden) can do so many things, it’s crazy. All of the old methods remain in place (knocking on walls to distract guards, crawling through air ducts, hiding under cardboard boxes, etc.), but there are also dozens of new tricks to use. You can now ''freeze'' guards, making them drop their weapon and raise both hands in the air. You can drag an enemy’s body anywhere you like - you can even stuff their body in a locker! You can also hide in said lockers if you need a quick place to escape.

This time around, you can actually climb onto objects. You can also jump over railings, and you can swim. But perhaps the biggest new trick you can use is shooting via first-person view mode. This new way to shoot makes aiming much easier since you can see things a lot clearer than you would in regular third-person view. Konami implemented this feature so flawlessly that it is a wonder why they didn’t use it in the first place.

One of the most common complaints about the first Metal Gear Solid was its rather dim-witted enemy AI. If a guard spotted you, one or two more of them would come after you. If they didn’t find you right away, they would return to their positions shortly after. While it was impressive for its time, the AI wasn’t too great.

MGS2, however, improves upon the AI problem in almost every way possible. If a guard spots you this time, consider yourself screwed. You better hope to find a good hiding place fast because pretty soon a bunch more guards will come running in to help their buddy take you out. The backup squads are fully equipped with AKS-74U assault rifles and big glass shields. They will search the entire room you were found in, and will only give up searching if they fail to find you after a few minutes. Now it is definitely a smart idea to avoid the guards. You need to be as sneaky as ever if you want to succeed in this game.

If, by some unfortunate means, you do happen to get caught in a shootout with the tough enemy AI, you will at least have a good dozen or so weapons at your command. Most of the weapons from the first MGS remain, but there are also quite a few new pieces of military hardware at your disposal. You’ll have access to everything from simple handguns to grenade launchers to porno books to use against the enemy. The weapon you will probably use the most, however, is a simple M9 tranquilizer gun. This baby is silent, and will put the guards to sleep. A shot to the head or heart will make them sleep for a good long time, getting them out of your way.

You’ll also have access to some useful items, such as health-preserving rations, a mine detector, and various types of goggles. As if all of those weapons and items weren’t enough help, you still have access to the enemy radar and the CODEC system. The radar is the same as before; it shows you what your surroundings are and where the enemies are located. The CODEC system is also the same; it enables you to talk to your allies whenever needed. With so many ways of help, you will most likely never be stuck for a long time.

One problem that still remains from the first Metal Gear Solid is that the game is over too fast. Even with the hours of cutscenes and CODEC conversations, I was able to finish the game in less than 10 hours. It’s still worth it to play through more than once though - there are loads of goodies waiting to be unlocked.

Metal Gear Solid 2 is a wonderful looking game. The graphics are easily some of the best I have ever seen, if not THE best. The character models are fantastic - all of them look like real. There are absolutely no jaggies or other graphical glitches to speak of; everything is smooth and fluid. An amazing amount of detail was put into the game’s environments as well. See that bag of flour over there? Shoot it and watch the flour fly all over the place. Need to distract that enemy? Shoot that fire extinguisher. I’m sure the extinguisher’s contents will definitely get their attention. The attention to detail is amazing.

The audio is almost as impressive as the visuals. Henry Gregson-Williams (Enemy of the State, Armageddon, The Rock) composed the score for MGS2, and quite frankly, he did an excellent job. His score is certainly one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard. The character voice acting is also phenomenal. Snake still sounds like a tough guy, the Colonel sounds older and more mature, and Raiden sounds, well, like a very weak rookie. I still prefer Metal Gear Solid’s character voices, but these are still great.

All in all, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is a very impressive game, although it is a bit disappointing. The foolish story, average characters, and short game length are all annoying problems that could have easily been averted. However, the timeless ''sneak 'em up'' stealth gameplay more than makes up for its shortcomings. A definite must play.


Best Feature - Super fun ''sneak ’em up'' gameplay.
Worst Feature - The ridiculously bad story.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/24/02, Updated 12/24/02

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