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.
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.
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.