As stated prior, I apparently lived my life wrong to the point where I never ended up touching a PS2 or original Xbox controller, choosing a Gamecube because I could only get one, and I inherited a Nintendo 64. Which is a decent excuse for why I never played several titles, but no reason why I waited over a year until I opened up the Metal Gear Solid HD collection to continue my trek through the series.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD Review
Release Date: 08/11/2011
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita
Developers: Konami, Kojima Productions Bluepoint Games(HD Port)
Assuming that Metal Gear Solid is well known enough that I can jump into it’s sequel’s history. Metal Gear Solid 2 is a title infamous for being probably the largest instance of trolling in the game industry where nobody got sued. Through early gameplay footage that fortunately did not show aspects detailed such as the entire squad that would have turned out to be artificial intelligences and a setting in the middle east. The plan to dupe the players into not filing the sneaking shoes of the beloved Solid Snake, was always intended. Causing me to believe that most of the game was made in six month’s worth of crunch time. And with a budget of 10 million, which seems remarkably tiny nowadays for such an ambitious game.
But viewing the game without the production history and demo containing the first section of the title in a move done by Kojima because he wanted to get his Mecha title, Zone of the Enders, to have some success. Metal Gear Solid 2 is basically what happens when you give a man complete creative control over something, which he had to write within a month or two. Spanning everything from embracing the silliness of games, to breaking the fourth wall in a manner that somehow manages to be subtle about itself. While still boasting a twisting storyline of several emotions as you go literally minutes between hearing about government control, incest, the alteration of one’s memories, and slicing up cyber ninjas with a katana.
However, the reason that I suspect this to not be brought up a lot when talking about creative storytelling in games, other than its age, notability, or the plethora of cutscenes, is Raiden. After a segment that took me about three hours, and others an entire summer as they replayed it ad nauseum, where you continue as the hero from the previous game, you’re taken out of his action hero inspired roots and put in the skin tight jumpsuit of a long haired blonde male going through a plot that simultaneously pays tribute to the plot structured in Metal Gear Solid. With similarities as blunt as a Ninja telling you to equip your bomb detector to avoid claymores originally calling himself “Deepthroat”. While indirectly taking the piss out of it.
It is a rare example of a title that is aware it is a video game at the end of the day, but is subtle about it. Even as I realized that he was talking to his Girlfriend about their relationship while cupping his own crotch, there is an air of class to the game that I honestly cannot think of another example of. Maybe I’m just insane, since I actually adore the Girlfriend character, who I recall hearing a lot of criticism about, yet is a delight because of not only how much of a contrast it is from sneaking around from people ready to place a bullet in your conditioner filled hair. And how you can have Raiden respond to every line she says with a select group of twelve or so lines. All of which are solid gold due to both the tone Raiden’s voice actor dons, and the context thinking his girlfriend is, “such an egotistical woman” as she is talking about how miserable he made her that one time.
As much as I adore the title in its inanity, it does come close to getting a little bit too far out there to be comprehensible, namely near the end that’s like hitting the player with a brick of exposition with no way to pause the cutscenes, because of reasons. Not even pressing the home button does anything when I thought that was the bloody point of the thing! However, it does avoid mimicking, say, Chaos;Head, and comes closer to Zero Escape with a plot that is probably one of my favorites in video games. Oh, and as for the possessed arm thing, it’s a ghost, you don’t need to explain that there are just ghosts in the world.
Above all that, the storyline boils down to, “Are you a bad enough dude to save the president?” With saving America, the internet, and the entire world being a secondary objective. The later of which I’m not even going to get into with how well unintentionally it parallels SOPA. But I could go on for hours about things I found to be neat about the story, when the gameplay is actually far better than I expected.
The only other Metal Gear Solid title I played up to this was the remake of the original, Twin Snakes, which used the majority of the mechanics introduced in this iteration. And I can safely say that part two is far better in terms of their implementation. With gameplay best summarized as the constant tagline, “Tactical Espionage Action”. it is a primarily 2D based title in terms of gameplay, with the main goal of avoiding all the guys before they see you, even if that means stuffing their broken neck face into a corner.
However, the baddies are not dumb, and will call for help the instant your conditioner treated hair is seen in their cones of vision defined by an ever helpful radar system. With there being plenty of accessories to play around with. From lockers, to ledges you can grip and scoot across, to a small arsenal of firearms and explosives, and five boxes to hide in. all tied into a first person aiming mode that, despite being arguably “primitive”.
Between the familiarization with the areas, the thrill of hunting for the invaluable radars for every section of the game’s primary location, the Big Shell facility, and manipulation of AI that will screw you over if you don’t flee through a door. The game certainly steers clear of the idea of being overshadowed by its plot, with the VR missions of distilled gameplay being good enough to stand on their own. Well, until you get to the first person shooter mode, which takes the already janky first person aiming, and made me stop playing the VR missions as a whole, due to how bass ackwards the controls were for that one oddball section.
Despite the rock solid mechanics, I still died a lot in this game, I died about sixty or seventy times in my 16 hour run. Either due how I was spotted and let go of a ledge to fall into the Atlantic. Or how I took a while before I said, “Let the vampire eat rockets! And have the fatman roll into some of his own explosive medicine!” During the sadly less frequent, and not always as memorable boss fight. Even though the last boss is one of the most gloriously absurd conclusion to take place on a national landmark. Although I still wish the big bad’s corpse was covered in that American flag.
And while I’m making bold claims, I’d be alright if most games didn’t push for graphics beyond Metal Gear Solid 2. Yes, the people look like plastic action men, but they have a very nice clean look to them even though their hair is in lumps, mouth flaps aren’t always spot on, and eyes are more or less textures on a skull. However, I simply can’t find anything so wrong with the way it looks. Despite originally being one of the first big titles for the PS2, the designers understood the limitations with it, and adjusted the art style accordingly. Or maybe that is just the very pleasant HD crispness to everything, with the textures suffering the most in theory, but nothing visually gets in the way of gameplay, even during a few minor camera mishaps
With the vocal performances being top notch, as the cutscenes make the most of their talent with dialog I would quote to the point of plagiarism. Along with a score that assists in the story’s more serious tone, while never giving the impression it wants to be taken completely seriously. Although, the few times that the score overpowers the dialog made me wince over the lack of any audio settings. Oh modern video games, how you spoil me.
I actually enjoyed Metal Gear Solid 2 more than I expected to. While a bit bloated as a whole, there are few times where I was able to not express a mix of glee and intrigue. Whether opting to tell a story through lengthy but entertaining cutscenes that only feel lengthy when looking back on them, or when the game balances between fighting women with lightning guns and sneaking in a Zone of the Enders box. Beyond a few technical things like the inability to pause cutscenes, which is a big enough issue to warrant a second mention, with my only major bit of criticism would be towards extras that vary in quality because of how they only focus on one mechanic that was barely used. Not that it’s going to keep this out of my list of my favorite games I played this year.
An exceptional product that is hindered by a few issues to the point where they are barely worth noting for this superb title. Definitely worth both your time and money.
Yep, third 19/20 this year, what can I say? There’s a lot of good stuff out there! And if Raiden was made into a girl, it might’ve gotten a notch higher, because I’m a sexist pig like that.
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