Playing Metal Gear Solid 2 For The First Time
Playing Metal Gear Solid 2 For The First Time
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was first released in 2001 for Playstation 2 and like its predecessor has received numerous awards and recognition for its quality and entertainment value. Admittedly my anticipation for the game was high as I’d heard it’s a favourite of many gamers. I played this title as part of the HD collection on Xbox 360.
Spoilers to follow…
The first thing that struck me about the game was how different it felt from Metal Gear Solid on Playstation. The learning curve was notably more steep this time around as I adjusted to a different control scheme and controller. The game started off with a trademark Metal Gear Solid cinematic cut scene which went for much more flair and drama this time around. The familiar voice of Otacon reminded me of where we left Snake after the events of the first main title. After some exposition about what the pair has been up to, and a few references to other characters from Metal Gear Solid, I was placed in control of Snake once more.
My natural instinct with the Xbox 360 controller was to use the sticks but I later realised the D-pad was just as useful if not more important for navigating the tight confines of the cargo ship. Playing Metal Gear Solid 2 was like starting all over again, it had a much different feel from the last game and I had to relearn how to play stealthily in this new environment. This wasn’t easy to do but eventually I became familiar enough with the mechanics however by the time I’d got used to it my time with Snake was coming to an end because as those who have played will know, he’s just a small part of the playtime of this game. The gameplay felt noticeably more action packed and although stealth was definitely the way to go, it didn’t feel as punishing as the original if you were detected.
Guards were certainly easier to take down in my experience especially when using first person and the tranquilizer gun. Along the way were new obstacles such as drones and explosive traps. These became a little frustrating at one point when I was running low on supplies and needed to backtrack but overall were not too challenging. More than Metal Gear Solid, this sequel requires you to backtrack to areas you have already been on multiple occasions. This made more sense in the context of Big Shell’s orientation and layout but I did feel they put this element in too often. Going back to get the sniper rifle was particularly annoying. The new gadgets introduced were all handy and my only real gripe was Raiden’s trademark sword which was pretty useless in a battle against foes with guns. Only in the final battle with Solidus was I really able to take advantage of it.
A New Protagonist
After discovering Metal Gear Ray and seeing Liquid Ocelot make a bloody return I was given a new mission briefing as Raiden entered the Big Shell for the first time. The underwater entrance had shades of Metal Gear Solid about it and the Codec once again became a large part of the experience. Overall, I didn’t find Raiden as compelling a protagonist as Snake was. Maybe it was because of the time invested or maybe it was seeing Raiden’s naivety to being used like a puppet in the same way Snake was but I wasn’t super interested in his story. It certainly improved as it went on and I found him more likeable by the time the story wrapped up but he wasn’t presented as intelligently or as thoughtfully as Snake had been in the past.
Just like Snake, Raiden is defined by his interactions with others and the most telling interactions come from Rosemary, a person he clearly cares about. As the story unfolds we learn Rosemary is a spy for the Patriots, a shadowy organization that are the targets of the Sons of Liberty. Rose altered her personality and looks to attract Raiden so she could keep tabs on him. Come the story’s end Raiden and Rose are back together after Rose was kidnapped by the Patriots although I don’t quite understand why he chooses to trust this woman who has been spying on him for years, however their relationship is complex and she was carrying his child. Although I probably missed a few of their conversations via Codec, I think their dynamic could have been explained better for the sake of both characters.
Snake to the Rescue
I can’t help feeling Raiden would have been woefully unprepared for Big Shell without Snake but I’m glad he became an important part of the story as it unfolded although I would have liked to have had more time playing as him. His role as a mentor to Raiden was intriguing and it was neat to see Raiden going through many of the motions Snake has been through too. Metal Gear Solid 2 offered us more colourful characters and villains to fight which I enjoyed quite a bit. The Sons of Liberty were a strange, supernatural bunch from the lucky Fortune, the immortal Vamp and Solidus Snake. I think its kind of a leap to call Solidus the perfect version of Big Boss though especially as he was defeated by Raiden in the end. I found the boss fights much more manageable despite my wish for Vamp to just STAY DEAD. It was cool how characters like Olga and Fortune had such an important role by the end and it was nice to see more background given to Otacon via his sister’s introduction. His despair at her death was understandable and in many ways Otacon has suffered just as much as Snake in his life, maybe that’s why they make such a good team.
Of course it wouldn’t be Metal Gear Solid without a conspiracy and for the first time I was introduced to the idea of the Patriots, an organisation whose history I wouldn’t fully comprehend until I experienced later games. The generic Colonel being a program was something that took me by surprise and the game actually had some interesting views on AI and control for a game that came out in 2001. My favourite moment in this particular story was the final showdown with Solidus, a boss fight that on normal was challenging but easy enough to enjoy.
Living up to a Legacy
I enjoyed Metal Gear Solid 2 in its own right. It’s an enjoyable game with fun stealth gameplay and a pretty intriguing story with a big impact on the future of the series. Whether I liked it more than the original is difficult to say. The pacing of the original was excellent and I don’t feel that the sequel completely got this aspect right. Coupled with the fact that I had limited playtime with Snake and I didn’t find Raiden as compelling means that perhaps the original edges it in terms of my enjoyment of each title. Having said that, Metal Gear Solid 2 is a fantastic game with plenty to offer fans of the franchise.
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What do you think of Metal Gear Solid 2? Is it the best in the series?
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