How I heard about the game
To come to grips with Metal Gear Solid 2, one must first understand context surrounding its creation. After the financial success and largely positive reception of the unseen yet ambitious Metal Gear Solid, Kojima already had plans to part ways with the series; he ended up staying (and also making similar unfulfilled claims of departure) for several more titles in the series, but what matters is that by now he had begun to attain awareness of his public image. With Sony producing trailers and people buying Kojima project Zone of the Enders chiefly to try out a short demo of the upcoming MGS sequel, what did Kojima decide to do with this albatross of a future project? Why, he made it a meta-contextual criticism of his fans' expectations! Naturally.
MGS2 is no doubt a step up in design from the 1998 PS1 original. The horrific textures, the jumpy animations are gone. However, while the increase in quality is clear, this is still very much a Metal Gear Solid game. The bare mechanics remain relatively untouched e.g. this is still a top down 3D stealth action game. The game is still split into sneaking sections, codec conversations (there are FUCKING LOADS!!!), action set-pieces & boss battles. There’s still the radar in the corner to show enemy positions & cones of vision. There’s still standing & prone positions. You can still enter first person mode to get a better look at your surroundings.
Whilst many mechanics have remained untouched, Kojima has also improved on many of the poorer design choices from MGS1. These new mechanics include: aiming & shooting in first person mode (a life saver), hanging from a ledge, holding up enemies & hiding them in lockers. All of these additions improve the core game play while keeping the identity of the series intact.
How it came across
As I mentioned above, the increase in graphic fidelity is very striking when compared to the original. Clear textures, far superior animation (both motion capturing & facial animations), & a more detailed world put this game on a whole other level. The interactivity is also incredible for a 2001 game. Bottles smash, flour bags explode & highlight hidden lasers, enemies shake & piss themselves when held up at gun point, raindrops hit characters & bounce off. This game is a bit of a looker & still holds it’s own today.
Also noteworthy is the soundtrack. A fantastic musical score underlines the entire game. There are moments when the music matches the on screen action so perfectly, that Kojima & his team must be paid kudos. Few movies reach this level of cinematic flair, so to see it in a game from 2001 is at times staggering! It must also be said that the Metal Gear theme is used to perfection in the game.
OK so this is where this review gets difficult. It’s very difficult to talk about this game without at least spoiling the original MGS, or one of the big spoilers from MGS2 itself. I’ll give it a try!
This game is broken up into two sections. The first part takes place in 2007 & sees Solid Snake (no longer with FOXHOUND, is part of Philanthropy now) trying to infiltrate a US Marines tanker, in order to confirm the existence of a new type of Metal Gear, Metal Gear Ray. Your mission is to sneak on board, take photos of Ray, upload them & escape unnoticed. Of course, this being a Metal Gear game, nothing is as it seems & some familiar faces from the original show up to make things much more interesting.
The second part of the game (& much more substantial part) takes place two years later & sees Raiden, a member of the new FOXHOUND, trying to infiltrate an off-shore oil cleaning facility named Big-Shell. Big Shell has been taken over by terrorists who call themselves “the Sons of Liberty”. They have the US President taken hostage & are demanding massive sums of money, under the threat of a nuclear launch from their very own Metal Gear. Raiden must free the president, take down all of the terrorists (cue numerous awesome boss battles) & stop the impending nuclear launch.
Metal Gear Solid 2 takes all the intrigue from the first game & turns it up to 11. As a result, it demands you have extensive knowledge of the series & the events of the first game. The plot would be basically gibberish to anyone who was going into the game cold. While it’s a very complicated & rewarding plot that can be outstanding at times, it also has a tendency to become a bit overbearing & downright silly at times. Long waffley monologues, ridiculous 30 minute codec conversations about nothing in particular & Kojima’s preachy writing (about hidden meaning, subtext & sequel expectation blah blah blah……) all rear their ugly heads at some point in the game, but it really didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story.
For a play through of MGS2 - Please take a look at the following youtube link: