As echoed by countless fans and media circulations alike, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is unquestionably one of the most highly anticipated titles of the year. Shortly after the release of its critically acclaimed predecessor - Metal Gear Solid, reports surfaced regarding a sequel in the works. The response was met with an enormous wave of excitement and expectations. And rightfully so, due to the immense level of hype and momentum that's followed Metal Gear Solid 2 up to its domestic release, fans and skeptics alike have eagerly awaited the opportunity to experience the game first hand.
Naturally, an immediate concern that's lingered in the minds of gamers, notably in fans of the series, revolves around the latest installment's execution and production values. Quite understandable, since Metal Gear Solid was acknowledged for its excellence by taking the original 8-bit formula and raising it to a new level; complemented by an epic storyline, memorable characters, 3D cinematic sequences, and intuitive gameplay mechanics. Does Metal Gear Solid 2 deliver? Yes, most definitely…in a number of ways. Players can be assured that Metal Gear Solid 2 remains true to its roots, featuring a myriad of plots twists and intrigue. Like the original, the story is driven by cinematic sequences and extensive dialogue. Thus you should expect to watch the game almost equally as much as you'll be playing. A significant increase in comparison to the original has been met with mixed criticism. As highlighted in the Ico review, players are not impressed with non-interactive games, especially when it's filled with more cinemas than the gameplay itself. In my opinion, MGS2 is an exception. It should be obvious to anyone that this is much more than a game; it's really an experience…one that can only be fully appreciated by paying close attention to the story. I found some of the criticism expressed to be pretty trivial. Granted the fact that the non-interactive aspects are substantially greater than the original, but overall the story is so well executed, that it deserves your full attention.
For obvious reasons, this review won't divulge into any plot highlights which should be personally experienced. It would be in your best interest to avoid any contact from subjects based on the game, as they may contain spoiler material. In fact, don't read the manual either. Trust me, it reveals more information than you'd probably care to know. Not to worry, any/all core gameplay functions are unveiled during the context of the game. Once you've played the game yourself, you'll understand the importance of not wanting to disclose information with anyone who has yet to play the game. At that point, you'll then search out others in order to discuss and acquire opinions based on various points of the game. And you'll no doubt compare the sequel to the original, judging upon areas such as the story, gameplay, and so forth. This is likely to occur with players who have already played the first edition (Metal Gear Solid), as the sequel makes several references in this regard. Whereas newcomers, who have a vague or lack of comprehension as to what's expressed, surely will find themselves being somewhat puzzled. Thus, it's highly recommended that you take the steps to play through the original before engaging the sequel. It's like sitting down and watching Return of the Jedi for the first time, and wondering how Luke suddenly has honed the skills of the Force, among other significant details that can only be understood by viewing the previous installments. Not to say that the game can't be appreciated, but as you'll discover - the host of surprises and highlights unveiled will have greater significance.
Naturally, as many would expect, the visuals do not disappoint. The 3D cinematic sequences are masterfully designed and seamlessly integrate with the actual gameplay. Much of the sequences are very dramatic, adopting a style highly reminiscent of a high caliber Hollywood/Hong Kong action movie. Overall, the 3D models and motion-captured animations are very expressive and lifelike, though there are moments when the emotions don't always convey the exact emotion they're feeling. Not quite on the same level as demonstrated by various CG sequences featured by Square and Namco titles, but impressive no less. The most consistent element that runs through the entire game is its attention to detail. In comparison to the original, the environments possess a much greater sense of realism and interaction on a variety of levels. Bottles, flour bags, and steam pipes, to name a few, are just some of the examples of what Snake can personally interact with, each respectively has significance to the game itself or featured for novelty purposes. For example, shooting a steam pipe can be used as an impromptu offensive tool, whereas walking over a patch of bird droppings formed over a gradual period of time can render you temporarily dazed should you run over it.
Given the present potential of the hardware available, Hideo Kojima and the development staff certainly went to great lengths to make Metal Gear Solid 2 as realistic as possible. When you stop to analyze the immense level of graphic integrity and minute details, which when factored in with the diverse game environments and their respective behaviors, it's truly a marvel to behold that this was accomplished in the PlayStation 2's second generation. To date, I have yet to see anything better than the level of detail and realism depicted by the pounding rainstorm featured in the opening segment. And the magnitude of excellence doesn't end there, as you'll discover that both in- and outdoor environments all carry their own respective details and appeal. In short, Metal Gear Solid 2 is easily one of the system's examples of graphic integrity at its best.
Keeping in line with the original, the control configuration remains relatively unchanged, short of a number of new moves, (namely the ability to execute a running roll and hanging from railings). More advanced moves allow Snake to shake down fallen guards for any items in their possession, dragging them out of sight, or even holding them up at gunpoint. Due to the increased AI, stealth tactics are the linchpin to successfully maneuvering throughout the entire game. And you can count on being detected at one time or another. Gone are the somewhat dumbfounded soldiers of yesteryear which could be easily avoided once you escaped their field of vision. This time around, enemy soldiers will immediately respond based on a range of factors - such as the sound of a USP discharged or even fallen soldiers that you've left in the area.
Naturally, the last thing you want to do is alert them to your presence. If you're detected, the solider is more than likely going to radio in for reinforcements. And in traditional Metal Gear Solid fashion - alarms ensue, and your radar is temporarily disabled from use. In addition, you can expect a more aggressive ensemble to arrive on the scene, complete with protective gear (and a variety of strategic tactics) which will be put to use to eradicate you. Thus, it's in your best interest to avoid detection at all costs, or at the very least, initiate an expedious route and hide until the Alert mode transpires. In the event that you die (and that's bound to happen), you can continue from the immediate area which you entered, which minimizes the frustration factor to a minimum.
Initially, you'll begin the game with a M9 rifle, which fires tranquilizer rounds to subdue soldiers. While you can still use your laser sight, MGS2 now features a first-person mode, giving you the ability to make precision shots. This time around, you'll need to be selective as to which part of the body you shoot the enemy as the effect varies accordingly. The first-person view is highly effective, but can be somewhat cumbersome at first, since you don't have the ability to run away during a firefight. It requires some adjustment, and personally, I would've preferred this function for exclusive use in certain areas, but it's generally reserved for targeting purposes. There's also a vast selection of weapons which can be acquired. Generally, the majority of offensive firepower at your disposal will be put to use - specifically designated for various objectives. Though this is not to say that players will be engaging with recycled missions. On the contrary, as the game introduces a unique spin in the manner the weapons are put to use, thus creating a new gameplay experience.
Other highlights which carried over from the original include the excellent voice acting. Overall, the quality is very solid, due to the fact that the sequel includes all of the major characters reprising their roles. There are moments where the dialogue feels somewhat contrived and exaggerated, but to its credit, the voice acting remains solid throughout. And to further complement the audible experience, Hollywood composer Harry Gregson-Williams, known for his work on Enemy of the State and The Rock delivers a powerful soundtrack. It's been argued by some industry colleagues that his performance on MGS2 though remarkable will be somewhat unmemorable. Personally, I disagree, since I've had the main trailer theme permanently etched into my brain ever since I've experienced it at E3. The complement of in-game musical tracks are just as dynamic, creating an immersive experience as they vary accordingly to the action taking place.
Initially thought to be the conclusive chapter in the Metal Gear series (as Kojima-san has recently stated that the series will continue), most will argue that the latest installment is marginally disappointing. Players will draw their own conclusions, which overall will be substantially positive. Boasting a wide range of interaction, exploration and replay value, the true experience comes from appreciating the story and the gameplay itself. For fans of the previous editions, Metal Gear Solid 2 delivers an action-packed ride from beginning to end. Due to the mixed criticism it's received, Metal Gear Solid 2's appeal depends upon your personal tastes and expectations. Nevertheless, it's very likely that the MGS2 will become an oft-played title and one of the most memorable releases on the PS2 this year.
· · · Bahn