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PlayBack: Metal Gear Solid 2

Raiden whingers and cyborg ninjas.

Despite having neglected the series for a good three or four years, I still feel indebted to Metal Gear. In fact, if not for Kojima’s PlayStation classic, chances are, I wouldn’t sat here writing for TSA. It had that much of an impact.

At the time it was ground-breaking, combining innovative stealth and survival mechanics with a robust cast of characters. The story may have been a tad complex, yes, although back then it was all part of the charm – not so much the obstacle it gradually became in later iterations.

Another remnant of that pre-millennial era was the sense that when a game was done, was done. Watching Snake and Meryl escape a smouldering Shadow Moses and riding into the sun, there was a calming sense of closure.

Metal Gear Solid wasn’t done however, despite Kojima’s insistence. A sequel was to follow and soon became the poster child for Sony’s next console, the PlayStation 2. Put simply, it was a landmark success, both critically and in terms of sales. Even today it remains the biggest-selling instalment in the Konami franchise, shifting seven million units.


Best Bit

mgs21

What made the game so great was its loyalty to the original Metal Gear template. An intuitive stealth system, mixed with open environments and a growing arsenal of weaponry and items kept the experience fresh throughout.

On top of that, the overall design felt smart. Even then most games were tediously linear in structure, often shunting players from one level to the next. Sons of Liberty didn’t fall into this trap however, recycling old areas and populating them with new objectives and enemies.

Despite throwing a savage curveball, the story was yet another master-class, if you could keep up that is. Political conspiracies, rogue special operatives, and a platoon of heroic outcasts formed that backbone of a modern espionage thriller, occasionally filtering in sci-fi and supernatural elements.

These themes were mainly expressed through the cluster of fantastic boss fights. Outmaneuvering a roller-skating, cocktail-sipping C4 addict was frantic yet sublime. As was trying to get around the seemingly invincible Fortune and her nightmarish comrade, Vamp.


Worst Bit

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Given its universal status as a classic, there’s little to complain about when weighing up Sons of Liberty. The overlapping plot points can be strenuous and, admittedly, Raiden took some warming to although the payoff was worthwhile.
Having returned to Metal Gear Solid 2 for the first time in almost a decade, I don’t think it would be unfair to say the game hasn’t age well in some parts.

The core mechanics and systems are as sound as ever, though the fixed camera perspective and aiming has 2001 written all over it, especially the later. Using a single button to both aim and fire at the same time seemed intuitive but now, post-Call of Duty, it feels rusty to say the least.

The fact that Solid Snake was largely relegated throughout most of the game also annoyed a number of fans. It was great to see the PlayStation icon from a new perspective though there were times we were left longing for the gravelly tones of David Hayter.


It goes without saying that the best way to play Sons of Liberty today is via the recent HD Collection.

Not all games to have undergone the “HD Classics” knife have been exceptional, though Metal Gear Solid 2 is up there with best. Needless to say, Konami’s investment in solid presentational values is still paying off more than a decade later.

12 Comments
  1. Pitcher-T
    Member
    Since: Jan 2009

    I find that Metal gear solid 2 is definitely more like mgs1 than mgs3 in terms of gameplay mechanics. But I can’t get over the ‘almost pointless’ storyline. Unless I’ve missed something the story seems to all have been nothing but a simulation. ‘It was all a dream’ springs to mind. Please can someone enlighten me if I’ve missed something as I really love mgs but just didn’t ‘get’ mgs2.

    Comment posted on 02/05/2014 at 10:41.
    • ron_mcphatty
      Member
      Since: Sep 2008

      Its not a dream, but there’s forces at work pulling strings and engineering the situation to put Raiden through the ringer to closely match what happened to Snake in MGS1. It’s very convoluted but starts to make sense after the third or fourth play through :) I’m ploughing through the extra VR missions now on my Vita and apart from the awkward weapons based ones they’re absolutely brilliant, I’m finding them particularly good in short bursts. Nice little article Jim!

      Comment posted on 02/05/2014 at 11:16.
    • Avenger
      Member
      Since: Oct 2012

      It was a bit of a wild story, but the ending theme is that there is no reality any more in a global and digital age. Everything in the world is mediated by representation – a virtual reality of sorts. This theme is explored in many ways, such as the repetition of Raiden’s mission alongside Snake’s original mission in MGS1, Metal Gear and its ability to control information globally, and the way in which a group of people are controlling real events (like killing the president) in a simulation of causes and events (to create Raiden to be another Snake).

      Comment posted on 02/05/2014 at 11:48.
    • Pitcher-T
      Member
      Since: Jan 2009

      Thanks for clarifying. I knew Hideo wouldn’t make a game without some underlying powerful meaning.
      Still, I love all the MGSs, just playing through Peace Walker now on PS3. My PS4 is looking at it with green eyes.

      Comment posted on 03/05/2014 at 19:49.
  2. colmshan1990
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    Metal Gear Solid 2 remains the best Metal Gear for me.

    That game is fantastic in almost every way, the soundtrack is genius and the gameplay is pitched perfectly.

    The controls do take a bit of getting used to nowadays though, but they’re thankfully not bad once you do.

    I love it to bits, far more than the other Metal Gear Solid games to be honest.

    Comment posted on 02/05/2014 at 13:03.
  3. Andrewww
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    MGS2 was my first in the series, and I liked it very much, remember I was quite impressed by the quality of the game.
    I somehow missed 3, but tried MGS4. However, that one made clear I don’t belong to the hardcore fans of the series, as it clearly only appeals to them. It was such a chore, and it made me quit early on.
    I’m currently not interested to try another one, I’m afraid, there’s too much other things to play.

    Comment posted on 02/05/2014 at 13:44.
  4. The Von Braun
    Member
    Since: Oct 2012

    :-) I sadly bought into the hype surrounding this on PS2, had ended up playing pretty much 90% of the tanker section to death on a demo disc (given away with Z.O.E?) and thus was GUTTED to find there was’nt much more on that stage in actual game.The Big Shell really felted ‘bolted-on’ and at odds to the tanker opening section.Other than that…great graphical showcase for what PS2 could do once you got your head around it, even if it did ‘cheat’ (hardware upscales resolution internally before chucking picture on-screen) and..the Xbox had a chronic port (massive slowdown on the tanker section when you had the rain effects).

    Replayed recently on HD collection, plot is still utter cobblers and there is so much cringeworthy gameplay moments it’s unreal, but not as bad as i once thought.MGS3 Snake Eater was Hideo really hitting his stride, PS2 wise though….

    Comment posted on 02/05/2014 at 15:18.
  5. hornet1990
    Member
    Since: Mar 2011

    MGS2 was my first too, always meant to get the first on PS1 but never did. In fact I only had 2 because on a whim I entered a competition in OPM and won a copy signed by Kojima himself.

    TBH I thought it was a decent enough game but recall not knowing what the hell was going on half the time in the story, and in all honesty if it wasn’t a freebie then I’d probably have been slightly disappointed.

    Comment posted on 02/05/2014 at 15:22.
  6. boyinastairwell
    Member
    Since: Jun 2010

    I’ve just started to play this even though I own 3 versions of it! I had it on PS2, PS3 and bought it from the Easter sale for the Vita and this is the version that has finally got me playing

    Comment posted on 02/05/2014 at 15:27.
  7. Lieutenant Fatman
    Member
    Since: Jul 2013

    Great game, loved it, one of my favourite games ever in fact. Raiden having arguments with Rose on the radio was the only thing that was a bit annoying. The controls have aged a tad it’s true, but I still give it 10/10, superb bit of entertainment.

    Comment posted on 02/05/2014 at 19:09.
  8. CrawFail
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    I’m currently in the process of revisiting each game (in chronological order) as I do every couple of years and am not looking forward to playing MGS2 again. The 3rd game is an absolute masterpiece and even the first game still holds up brilliantly given it’s age.
    Someone above mentioned the bolted on feel of the Big Shell incident and I couldn’t agree more.
    The issue for me is Raiden..he’s such a shit, bland, wet flannel of a character. Big Shell too, is boring..it’s only when you start running into the last quarter of the game when it gets interesting though even then it’s still baffling.
    I love the games and am immortalising characters front the series as tattoos but Hideo missed the mark with this game and I think he needed an editor badly. Or atleast someone to really question his intent with the games and the canon.
    When the game came out though I loved it more than any other game I’d played..I guess replaying it over and over makes the experience less enjoyable and makes me see the cracks a bit more.

    It’s always great to read about the game and it keeps the legacy of the series alive.
    I’m at work so can’t write more unfortunately.

    Comment posted on 02/05/2014 at 20:29.
  9. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    I’ll never, ever forget MGS2. My two brothers and I huddled around the tv. Lights turned off, stunned by what we still call ‘Metal Gear Rain’. I’d seen nothing like the opening scene and level of MGS2. One of the worlds great. Playing essentially as Snakes apprentice was genius and an amazing follow up to MGS.

    I so hope Legacy drops on PS4. If not a MGS remake.

    SNAAAKE. I’ll see you again in battle! Absolutely epic as a series. I’ve played the hell out of them and it never gets boring. MGS2 is a must for all gamers.

    Metal Gear Solid. It’ll always remain close to my heart!

    Comment posted on 02/05/2014 at 21:30.