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My 6th game review, and continuing on in the Metal Gear Solid series, we come to the second installment: Sons of Liberty.
Three years after the first game, Solid Snake is back. Ever since the events of the Shadow Moses, Snake has been seeking out and eliminating Metal Gears across the world under the new organization Philanthropy, which was formed by him and his partner and former Metal Gear developer Hal Emmerich AKA Otacon. They have discovered intel on a prototype Metal Gear being transported by the Navy onboard a tanker. Ignored by their government supervisors, they determine to infiltrate the tanker and obtain photographic evidence of the new Metal Gear Ray, a Metal Gear designed to counter other Metal Gears. However shortly after Snake's arrival the Tanker is infiltrated and taken over by a third party of Russian operatives. Still Snake continues on with his sneaking mission, but as soon as he gets the necessary photographs, Snake's former enemy Revolver Ocelot shows up, hijacks Ray and sinks the tanker, but before he leaves, Liquid starts talking to him through Ocelot, apparently through Liquid's arm attached to Ocelot's body in the place of the one he lost on Shadow Moses. Liquid has gained a foothold over his consciousness. But Snake doesn't have time to contemplate this before the tanker sinks along with him. It's a great set-up that suddenly takes a very strange turn.
Everything then jumps ahead two years, Snake is presumed dead and the story centers on a young agent named Raiden of the newly re-formed FOXHOUND. Raiden has never been on an actual mission before, but has trained his skills to perfection through VR simulated missions. A terrorist organization known as Dead Cell has seized an environmental clean-up center called the Big Shell, which was constructed in the area of the tanker incident, and because of it. They are Fortune, Fatman, Vamp, and Solidus Snake. They have taken several hostages including the President of the United States. Raiden's mission is to rescue the president and find out what the terrorists are up to. Early on in his mission, he encounters a Navy Seal named Lt. J.G. Pliskin who looks exactly like Solid Snake! Spoiler alert: he is Solid Snake! Seriously they wait till like the last stretch of the game to reveal this, when I'm sure everyone knew it was he immediately. Anyways from then on they both continue on in the mission of investigating the Big Shell.
While the first game was story centered, this game just goes nuts! Really all the cuts-scenes are like 40 minutes long and the Codec conversations take like three minutes to fast forward through. I mean, I'm a guy who watches cut-scenes, but this was an intense endurance test. Because some of the really long scenes where totally uninteresting. I don't care about Otacon's back-story, I don't want to know what's really really really going on politically in America, I don't care if you killed his parents, LET'S FIGHT ALREADY. Seriously, those are real examples. Some conversations, particularly toward the end, are not just extremely long but ridiculously convoluted, and overflowing with lame conspiracy theories. The first game's plot was complex, but not bizarre to the point of confusing you days later. And finally the ending fell apart and is one of those "none of it mattered" kind of things, that kind of frustrates me. Still the cinematic sequences are for the most part really engaging and well done, just there gets to be way too much of them.
Just like the first game, the gameplay strongly requires stealth, as there could be one guy in the room at first, but when you run up to him or just get seen by him, he'll call for backup and seemingly limitless units will appear and attack you. Luckily this time around, there is the addition of an M9 tranquilizer gun, which you start out with and can use to silently knock enemies unconscious and just slip through. Another great addition is instead of just an extra first-person view, you can use first-person shooting for much more precise hits. There is the carry-over resource from the first game: the cardboard box, that you can use to hide under at any time, and you can run around under it too. The physical moves have also been improved as you can now to a diving-somersault type move, which allows you to smoothly transition into a crawling position or knock someone over if you roll into them. You can now flip backwards over railings and shimmy across on the side by handholds. Also this game has by far the coolest melee combo ever in the series, it’s still punch-punch-kick, but this time it's an awesome spinning kick. However the enemies have gotten more sophisticated as well, when you kill someone, they don't just disappear, they lie there with blood on the floor, and if an enemy discovers them there, they will go into “Caution mode” and suspect you’re there somewhere. To balance this out you can lift and drag dead or unconscious enemies, and stow them in lockers or bathroom stalls, or just out of the open. If you knock out every enemy in a room with the M9, their HQ operators will notice they've lost contact with that area, and send in a team to check it out. The whole gameplay design is a lot more detailed than before, a couple more examples are how shooting fire extinguishers releases smoke that can reveal laser trip-wires and when you get shot you leave a blood trail, it's pretty deep.
The movement is really slick in Metal Gear Solid 2 and it gives you the super spy kind of feel. As I mentioned in the synopsis, most of the game centers on Raiden, so you only get to play as Snake in the Tanker prologue. Although this affects the story (Raiden's a real whiner) more than the gameplay, as they move similarly, I still would rather have been playing as Snake. Although playing as Raiden gets pretty badass when you get the high frequency sword, but you don't get that till the very end. Anyways, like the original, besides the basic task of just sneaking through different rooms, there are some awesome action sequences, and a lot of variety thrown at you. One of the most tense sequences was where you wear a guard's disguise through a few areas and walk past all the guards, but if you bump into one of them, your disguise disappears and your cover is blown. This was especially hard in a small room where you have to get a piece of equipment and get out with guards slowly walking at you from both directions, major thumb workout. On the subject of action sequences, there are some intense and extensive sniping sequences, parts that require you to swim, and the single most awesome stretch of the game is when you have the High frequency blade and get to fight alongside Snake and slash through wave after wave of enemies, stealth goes right out the window. But of course one of the things the original was known for was the amazing boss battles, and MGS 2 does not disappoint there.
There's only one boss fight you play as Snake in, but it's still a good, if non-lethal, shootout. For some reason, though he's in the game, you don't get to fight Revolver Ocelot this time, but this made up for by the equally badass Vamp, who's a manufactured vampire, complete with thirst for blood, healing factor and super agility, and you get to fight him! Not to mention an insane battle with not one, not two, but five Metal Gear Rays, and three at a time! Totally over the top and totally awesome. And then finally a sword duel with the main nemesis Solidus Snake, the third clone of Big Boss!!! Overall MGS2 improves upon the already great gameplay from the first game.
The most notable improvement over MGS1 lies in the graphics department. From faces to movement to environments, it's all incredibly detailed and perfectly designed. This game might still have the coolest visuals of the series. Snake finally has a face and it's very cool. Movements are extensively detailed. When you come to a body on the floor, you will tip-toe over it, you can do pull-ups from a hanging position, and when you get rained on, you stay wet and drip on the floor. Everything just reacts perfectly. The cut-scenes are really well done and they could be a movie by themselves, (and then some), but really, the way it's shot, the close-ups, the facial expressions, it all could be real people doing it. Probably the best graphics of any PS2 game, and this came out at about the beginning of the era.
The game has a great musical score by Hollywood composer Harry-Greggson Williams, it always fits the situation and wraps you up in the moment. David Hayter reprises his role as Snake, and he is just perfect, he was incredible in the first one, and he amps it up three notches here. Patrick Zimmerman plays Revolver Ocelot brilliantly. Quinton Flynn makes Raiden sound really whiny, but Phil LaMarr is badass as Vamp. Once again an overall outstanding voice cast, especially for a video game.
Overall, Metal Gear Solid 2 is a great game, one that makes great improvements on the original in gameplay and graphics, but the extremely convoluted plot detracts from the experience, and makes it not quite as great as the near-perfect original.
LASTING APPEAL 9.3/10
OVERALL EXPERIENCE 9.5/10