Developer: Konami (2001)
Console: PS2 (Played on PS Vita)
Reviewed by V1
MGS2 is no doubt a step up in design from the 1998 PS1 original. The horrific textures, the jumpy animations are gone. However, while the increase in quality is clear, this is still very much a Metal Gear Solid game. The bare mechanics remain relatively untouched e.g. this is still a top down 3D stealth action game. The game is still split into sneaking sections, codec conversations (there are FUCKING LOADS!!!), action set-pieces & boss battles. There’s still the radar in the corner to show enemy positions & cones of vision. There’s still standing & prone positions. You can still enter first person mode to get a better look at your surroundings.
Whilst many mechanics have remained untouched, Kojima has also improved on many of the poorer design choices from MGS1. These new mechanics include: aiming & shooting in first person mode (a life saver), hanging from a ledge, holding up enemies & hiding them in lockers. All of these additions improve the core game play while keeping the identity of the series intact.
My biggest gripe with the design of the game is specific to the PS Vita & is not applicable to any other version. The default control scheme see the back touch screen replace the L2/R2 buttons. They are used as the weapon/item select buttons. Unfortunately the use of the rear touchscreen makes it a very frustrating experience. It’s nearly impossible to play a Vita without resting your fingers on the rear pad. Thankfully there are options to change this & a simple swap to the front touch screen fixes everything (& is arguably better than using L2/R2.)
As I mentioned above, the increase in graphic fidelity is very striking when compared to the original. Clear textures, far superior animation (both motion capturing & facial animations), & a more detailed world put this game on a whole other level. The interactivity is also incredible for a 2001 game. Bottles smash, flour bags explode & highlight hidden lasers, enemies shake & piss themselves when held up at gun point, raindrops hit characters & bounce off. This game is a bit of a looker & still holds it’s own today.
Also noteworthy is the soundtrack. A fantastic musical score underlines the entire game. There are moments when the music matches the on screen action so perfectly, that Kojima & his team must be paid kudos. Few movies reach this level of cinematic flair, so to see it in a game from 2001 is at times staggering! It must also be said that the Metal Gear theme is used to perfection in the game. Kojima uses the same theme to underscore a battery of emotions & somehow pulls it off. Bravo sir!
OK so this is where this review gets difficult. It’s very difficult to talk about this game without at least spoiling the original MGS, or one of the big spoilers from MGS2 itself. I’ll give it a try!
This game is broken up into two sections. The first part takes place in 2007 & sees Solid Snake (no longer with FOXHOUND, is part of Philanthropy now) trying to infiltrate a US Marines tanker, in order to confirm the existence of a new type of Metal Gear, Metal Gear Ray. Your mission is to sneak on board, take photos of Ray, upload them & escape unnoticed. Of course, this being a Metal Gear game, nothing is as it seems & some familiar faces from the original show up to make things much more interesting.
The second part of the game (& much more substantial part) takes place two years later & sees Raiden, a member of the new FOXHOUND, trying to infiltrate an off-shore oil cleaning facility named Big-Shell. Big Shell has been taken over by terrorists who call themselves “the Sons of Liberty”. They have the US President taken hostage & are demanding massive sums of money, under the threat of a nuclear launch from their very own Metal Gear. Raiden must free the president, take down all of the terrorists (cue numerous awesome boss battles) & stop the impending nuclear launch.
Metal Gear Solid 2 takes all the intrigue from the first game & turns it up to 11. As a result, it demands you have extensive knowledge of the series & the events of the first game. The plot would be basically gibberish to anyone who was going into the game cold. While it’s a very complicated & rewarding plot that can be outstanding at times, it also has a tendency to become a bit overbearing & downright silly at times. Long waffley monologues, ridiculous 30 minute codec conversations about nothing in particular & Kojima’s preachy writing (about hidden meaning, subtext & sequel expectation blah blah blah……) all rear their ugly heads at some point in the game, but it really didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. Overall MGS 2 tells a gripping & generally thought provoking story that held my interest for its entirety.
• Great looking game, worlds apart from the original.
• Strong narrative & voice acting, particularly from David Hayter.
• Interactive world is very impressive.
• Great gameplay enhancements, especially 1st person shooting.
• Fantastic bosses & set pieces.
• Story, narration & all 5 main characters.
• Art style & animation.
• Amazing score.
• Background info to add context.
• Baron Von Dorf
• Kojima playing around with fans expectations.
• Overly convoluted plot.
Overall: I would argue that it’s the original game which has the better overall story, more memorable bosses & more moments that have stayed in my memory. I also believe the sequel is more fun to play (due to those control enhancements) & is more important to the overall lore of the Metal Gear series. For that reason I find it difficult to decide which game I prefer. But I would recommend playing MGS2 nonetheless. It’s a great game & is rightfully remembered as one of the best of the PS2 era. 9/10