MGS2: Even Better than the Original

Metal Gear Solid 2:
Sons of Liberty
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Metal Gear Solid was a masterpiece back in 1998. It was so good, in fact, that I wanted it to be our choice for Game of the Year. Unfortunately, that honor went to, of all things, Heart of Darkness on the PC? What were all the readers smoking that year? Didn’t they glance upon the visual execution that took the PS1 to its limits? What about the superb voice acting, arguably the best ever heard in a video game? Or didn’t they notice the intelligent storyline and perplexing plot twists? In any case, I think MGS was screwed out of the Game of he Year title back in 1998, and I apologize to Konami and Hideo Kojima for that.

But now here is Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and another chance at the GOTY crown. What can be said about Kojima-san except that he is truly a genius, even more than Yu Suzuki could be? Not only that, but at times, with some of the philosophical aspects in his titles (MGS1, ZOE, Snatcher, etc.), I am tempted to say that he might be a madman as well. But hey, don’t madmen make the best geniuses?

In any event, November 13, 2001, will forever be known as the day that Kojima-san exposes his magnum opus, Metal Gear Solid 2, to the American fans. This is unique because for the first time that I can recall, a Japanese-based game is released in the US first. Japan will receive MGS2 on November 22, and Europe will have to wait until February 22 for their arrival. Don’t worry guys, it’s worth the wait.

At the end of MGS1, I had a lot of questions that needed to be answered. As you may recall, a phone call is made by Revolver Ocelot, sole survivor of the renegade Fox Hound faction who overtook Shadow Moses Island, Alaska. We learn of a third survivor of "Les Enfant Terribles," a man known simply as Solidus. Web sites all over the net start asking questions of "Who is Solidus?"

More information about Solidus has been exposed in trailers from both E3 and TGS for the last two years. It is later reported that the forty third president in the game, George Sears, is also known as Solidus. And Solidus is reported to be vastly superior to both Solid and Liquid.

But even with more information about Solidus coming around, more questions were brought up with the trailer. What did it mean by "Solid Snake did die"but he is also alive?" Who was referred to as "my son?" And most puzzling, why did we hear Liquid’s voice in Trailer D (the only trailer presented in English?) I wanted to find out as much as I could, but I didn’t want any spoilers. Even when I talked to David Hayter (Solid Snake) right after E3 2001, I made a simple request of no spoilers.

And I am glad that I didn’t get any spoilers at all, because the entire storyline is just amazing, yet so perplexing that it might be too much for some players. It all starts off two years before the actual plot takes place. An oil tanker is on the Hudson River in New York, but it’s carrying a special payload"a new amphibious Metal Gear, codenamed Ray. Solid Snake, now a member of an undercover investigative team "Philantropy," is sent to the tanker to take photographic evidence of Ray, and the Marine force that is controlling it. It should be a simple investigation, right? Tell that to the Russian contingent that hijacks the tanker and recovers Ray for their personal use.

We later find out the hijacking is led by two important people: Ocelot (now also being named Shalashaka and surgically grafted with a new hand that has some special characteristics that I will not divulge without giving away some spoilers), and Colonel Sergei Gurlukovich, Spetznaz mercenary referenced briefly in the previous mission. Each have a separate agenda for Ray, and only by playing the game will the outcome be decided.

And just watching the game is a sight to behold. Considering that MGS pushed the PS1 to its limits, it’s a no-brainer that MGS2 pushes the PS2 to the breaking point. Anyone who has seen the demo already knows about the game’s amazing weather effects. Rain splatters on the screen and on all the surrounding objects. Water slowly drips down the screen. Searchlights and projectors cast real time shadows. Motion blur and special effects run aplenty, and the game still runs at 60 frames per second. All my doubts that I had after seeing the first trailer are now put to an end.

And as good as it looks, it controls well too. Keeping the same controls as before, new abilities such as hanging on to ledges and shimmying hand over hand are added. A rehashed first person view allows shooting from that perspective, and it becomes a must in order to get that clean head shot needed to knock out a guard. But the coolest add-on is to hold up a guard. While holding them up, guards can be robbed of their belongings by aiming for their head or crotch areas. Some guards, however, have nerves of steel and will even try to test you to shoot them.

And speaking of the guards’ actions, the alert mode of the last game has been vastly improved. Whereas before any detection or alert caused guards to come right out after you, it doesn’t happen this way now. The stunned guard attacks first, then runs to a remote area to radio for help. If successful, a strike team rushes to the area, riot shields and all. These calls can be averted by knocking the guard out quickly, shooting his radio, or laying down a Chaff grenade.

But if the alert is successful, my advice is to run like hell and find someplace to hide, though hiding is more tough than ever. Lockers usually work well, as long as you keep quiet, because the strike team will enter the room and scour the entire area to find you. Sometimes you will even see a small clip of the guards scanning the area, and if they don’t find you, they will leave the area. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe yet, because guards are still keeping an eye out for you.

On the other hand, don’t think that by dispatching all the sentries you will be safe either, because the commanders expect reports to come from their sentries. If they don’t hear anything, a scout team will be sent to investigate, and if caught, it’s the same as being on Alert mode.

MGS has always been known for its gripping plot twists and philosophical messages. MGS1’s message was that one’s own personal fate is not chained by their DNA. MGS2 has a message about passing of information and our actions to future generations. The storyline does get a little deep with the philosophy, but not too much that it detracts from the rest of the game, especially considering the voice work.

Once again, we are dealing with some of the best voice casting in the business. David Hayter, who made Solid Snake the badass he was in MGS1, returns to what he does best, keeping Snake as a hardened combat ready badass. Christopher (Fritz) Randolph returns as Otacon, Snake’s Codec help in Philantropy, who even does a good job in imitating Mei Ling’s morals when saving. Pat (Laine) Zimmerman is also back as Ocelot, and does a great job in portraying the gun slinging Russian mastermind we all love to hate. Other MGS1 almuni (Cam Clark, Paul Eiding) have returned to join an all-new, but equally impressive cast.

Granted, not even MGS2 is perfect. As I said before, some of the conversations do get a little too deep into the philosophy and can be a little too much for some people, but this can be a matter of personal taste. Also, the later part of the game can be a bit strange, but I won’t give away any spoilers, except to expect the unexpected.

Three years of waiting for a sequel to one of the greatest games ever made was tough, but the new game made it worthwhile. GTA3, Civilization 3, and Halo made the Game of the Year race interesting, but the addition of Metal Gear Solid 2 turns it from interesting to intense. In my opinion, the story and voice acting in MGS2 are more than enough to give it the Game of the Year title, so I am going to help it along with 5 Gem rating.

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