Often referred to by many Metal Gear Solid fans as the black sheep in the family. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was loved by many but, thanks to Hideo Kojima providing a big twist in the plot early on, it was also flamed by fans many years ago. How has this held up all these years later, now that you know how it all pans out? I have the liberty of telling you that it’s perhaps better than you might recall.
Building the future and keeping the past alive are one in the same thing
Once you’ve got past that glorious intro, with music composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, things kick off 2 years after the events that took place at Shadow Moses Island in Metal Gear Solid on the PS1. Solid Snake and Otacon are now members of a non-governmental organisation Philanthropy and are on the hunt for a new type of Metal Gear they got wind of. The Metal Gear is said to be on a Tanker that Snake infiltrates and before you know it events spiral out of control, as you would expect from most Metal Gear Solid games. The big twist happens early on in all its glory, which I won’t spoil for those one or two people on earth who never played it and plan to do so. What I’d like to point out however is that you’re made well aware just how important this entry is into the series after having played all the MGS games since. What you play here leads up to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and plays a very important role in the series. In fact, I’d just about say it’s compulsory to play this before tackling MGS 4. So how has it aged in terms of controls?
I won’t lie – 14 years later the control scheme is a bit of a mess. Coupled with a camera that shows you a very limited field of vision. Understand that, unlike MGS 2 HD on PS3, there was no widescreen option on the PS2 version, hence you feel a little constrained with what you can see on-screen. Of course you can switch to a first-person view by pressing and holding R1 (it was the first time you could do so in an MGS game), but you can’t move your character in any direction while doing so. You can aim and shoot, and that’s that. That’s where the good ol’ radar system comes into play. You’re virtually getting a good understanding of your surroundings as your enemies (including cameras) will have a cone representing their field of vision on the radar. Stay out of that area and you’re safe. You could also lean up against walls and press R2 or L2 to peak around corners, with the camera panning in such a way that you could see what was ahead of you. What made Metal Gear Solid 2 such a big hit back in 2002 was partly based on the freedom you received to toy with foes. You know what? In 2016 it’s still a stupid amount of fun.
You’ll find yourself in a game of ‘finger Twister’ in your efforts to get the button combination just right, but by sneaking up to an unsuspecting guard and aiming your gun at his head you’ll put him in a state of panic. Move out from behind and stand in front of him, while still aiming the gun at him (which is easier said than done), and he’ll wiggle a bit and drop some valuable items. Keep the gun aimed at his head or crotch *hehehe* and he’ll finally drop a Dogtag. You had the option to either kill off guards or put them to sleep. Once you see the ZzzZZzzzz appearing you either dump them in an empty cupboard or throw them overboard. Best you not leave them for other guards to find as that would put the status in alert mode and, with the AI as good as it was, they would track you down. The tanker and oilrig is your virtual playground and though it’s not quite GTA you will find a bunch of things to interact with, or to use to confuse your foes. There are so many ways to go about your business that you’re always exploring new ways at completing a task. Like MGS 1 there is a massive focus on boss battles too.
The boss battles are… err… solid
The boss battles in MGS 2 are perhaps not quite as memorable as Psycho Mantis in MGS 1, but there are some battles that will leave you with various ways to bring an end to the battle. And, though the battles might all seem straight-forward there’s something about it that might seem over familiar. I’m just going to leave that there, but it’s once again Hideo Kojima playing his silly little mind games. Each and every character introduced have their own reason for being tied into this massive series and it’s still a joy to behold today. But it’s in these boss battles that you’ll quickly learn to deal with your item and weapon selection tool.
By holding in the L2 button you can scroll and switch between various items (like your rations to replenish your health automatically, should your life bar deplete) and your R2 button is used to select and equip your various weapons. It took me a few minutes to adjust to it, but before I knew it I was switching weapons and items without having to think about it. It’s an old system that somehow still feels current. Shooting your guns? Well, that feels like something from Noah’s Ark. Press in your Square button and release it to shoot. At least you have that first-person mode to assist, but it’s still a backwards mechanic. Another problem comes in the form of crouching and moving… or rather, the lack thereof. If you’re in a crouching position and push in any direction Snake will automatically convert into a crawl. It’s very annoying and something that was ultimately fixed with the re-release of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. How we worked with that setup and enjoyed it back then is beyond me. It’s however a small price to pay for a game that’s somehow stood the test of time.
Hara-Kiri Rock. I need scissors! 61!
You’d have to go back to 2002 to understand just how big a deal Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was. The trailer for this game helped the PS2 gain the early advantage as players knew that the game would require the PS2, as it was exclusive at launch. The production value was just unmatched and in many regards it is still the case to some degree these days. The twist knocked everyone out the park and this MGS in particular set up everything for what was to follow. This is Hideo Kojima and his crew at the top of their game. The plot is a confusing mess at first, but play it again… and again, and then play MGS 4 and you’ll come to the conclusion that this could possibly be Hideo’s best work yet. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty has aged gracefully, and in a world where there are more remakes and remasters than new IP’s you have no reason to not experience some of the best storytelling and moments in recent years.