As hyped as I was for Metal Gear Solid, I was just as excited (if not more so) for the sequel. However, there was one road block that stood in my way and prevented me from playing it on release day: the PS2. At the time of the game's release, I had yet to adequately convince my parents that buying me a Playstation 2 was something that they needed to do.
Eventually, though, Christmas does come around and I become the proud owner of both the system and the game, which I began playing immediately. I had kept track of all the pre-game hype even though I knew I wouldn't be able to play the game for a while, and I managed to get by spoiler-free for the most part. I did have the big twist ruined, although all that I was told was that you don't play as Solid Snake in the game. I wondered how that could be since I had seen gameplay of the tanker mission and that's definitely Solid Snake on the screen.
Speaking of the tanker mission, isn't that tanker mission amazing? To this day, the first hour of Metal Gear Solid 2 is one of my favorite parts about the entire series. At the time, it pushed the limits of what the PS2 was capable of. MGS changed my opinion as to what I thought videogames were capable of, and MGS2 took it even further. Being able to sneak up on an enemy soldier and interrogate them was such a great addition, especially with the stubborn soldiers that need a little more coercing to spill information or to hand over their dog tags. A bullet through the hand usually did the trick.
The tanker section of the game is some of the purest stealth gameplay we've ever seen. In most instances in the original game, you had plenty of room to freely roam around to avoid trouble, but here, you're confined to tight corridors, requiring you to act fast and think outside the (cardboard) box. Hiding in side rooms, lockers, and causing diversions are absolutely crucial for anyone trying to get through the game unnoticed.
I also liked the way the battle with Olga required you to use the new FPS mode. While the first game had a first-person view, you couldn't use it for combat. They did a nice job of introducing this new feature early on in the game. Overall, the tanker in a very minute section of the game (once you know what you're doing, you can get through it in under 30 minutes), but also the game's highest point.
After the reveal of Metal Gear Ray, you get a cutscene showing the game's true villain: Revolver Ocelot. Or rather, Liquid Ocelot. Yeah, after Ocelot gets his hand cut off in the first game, they attach Liquid Snake's hand to Ocelot's arm and what ensues in a split personality battle with both sides fighting for supremacy, just like the movie Body Parts. This is where the series took a wide turn into weird. Don't get me wrong, the original had some weird stuff in it like all of Psycho Mantis' psychokinetic mumbo jumbo, but now we're dealing with supernatural possession. They're taking cues from a movie that The Simpsons parodied.
Pictured: Snake's (and everyone else's) contempt.
Anyway, after a cutscene that insinuates that Snake has died, you come to the big twist and take control of the game's main protagonist and wussy-baby, Raiden. This is nothing new, and I've already written about my feelings on Raiden, so I'll spare you those thoughts here. I'll just say that it was disappointing then, and it's disappointing now. Another disappointment is the setting for the game. The Big Shell has two main buildings, with six hexagonal sub-buildings connected via bridges. Despite each building being different from one another, the whole backdrop for the game is very bland. Shadow Moses had personality, the Big Shell doesn't.
I also don't feel that Dead Cell is nearly as good as Foxhound. Foxhound had an expert revolver marksman, the world's greatest sniper, a master of disguise, a commando with a (literal) barrell of bullets on his back, a dude that could read your mind, and a great antagonist overseeing it all. Dead Cell has a woman you can't shoot, a fat guy on rollerblades, a bisexual vampire, and the third clone of Big Boss calling the shots. And the battles themselves aren't all that interesting either. The battle with Fortune requires no skill on your part, just dodge her horribly telegraphed attacks. Fatman just skates around trying to plant bombs, but for the most part it's a regular battle. Vamp is also just your typical battle. He'll descend below the water and occasionally pop back up for you to take an easy shot at him.
It's not until your sword fight with Solidus that you finally feel any sort of satisfaction from a boss fight. Sons of Liberty definitely has the weakest boss fights in the entire series.
I know that I've done almost nothing but bash the game thus far, but despite that, I do still really enjoy it as a game. It's still plays like Metal Gear Solid, and in the end, that's what matters.
Oh, let me tell you something else I hate about the game: the swimming section. Why can't any 3D games get swimming right? This part of the game is infuriating, and it's even worse when you have to go back through the water with Otacon's tween sister, who can only hold her breath for about 6 seconds and can only walk if you hold her hand because you needed more than one reason to hate Emma Emmerich.
Then she dies, and now I feel like a bad person for all the mean things I said about her.
Sorry, I just...I can't get past all the things about the game that annoy me. The gameplay is pretty much the only redeeming quality. I really do love the increased sneaking and interrogation options, the graphics are beautiful, and once again, Hideo Kojima added tons of little Easter eggs for you to find.
Of course, I can't talk about MGS2 without talking about the final hour of the game. So, the easiest way to put it is that Kojima basically said to his fellow developers "Alright gang, let's get weird." And get weird, they did. There are so many betrayals and double agents and people actually turning out to be AIs and shadow agencies that I don't think I've ever quite understood what's going on no matter how many times I play the game or how many articles I read explaining it to me.
The machines have become self-aware!
In true Metal Gear fashion, the game ends on a giant cliffhanger, and it wouldn't be for another two main series entries that we finally get to continue this part of the story.
Despite my complaints, I still like the game very much. It improved on lots of gameplay elements from the original and laid the groundwork for future revisions and improvements. Regardless of how you feel about the twists and turns or the insane directions the story goes, I have very fond memories of the game. I still prefer the original, however, but the next entry is the one that I'm perhaps the most excited about writing about.
Thanks for reading, and don't forget that you can subscribe to the Error Machine YouTube channel so you don't miss out on the MGS2 longplay and afterthoughts videos that will be coming up in the next few days.