One of the most astounding games on the PSX, love it or hate it, was Metal Gear Solid. The Tactical Espionage Action game that set new heights for gameplay, story and innovation. Some parts of it were cheesy sure, but over all it ranked as one of the top games for the attention to detail, graphics and quality of the 'strange' but compelling storyline - The brainchild of Hideo Kojima and the talented folks at Konami. Well Snake is back and this time he's on the PS2 and we've been waiting for this game for SO long since we were given little glimpses of it at various websites, shows and the like.
Set several years after the events of Shadow Moses Island the game once more throws you into the role of Solid Snake, the hero from the first and to be utterly honest. It's a jaw-dropping, gob-smacking, ass-kicking delight to play and to watch. Hideo Kojima is a man whose attention to detail is at times startlingly real and usually quite humorous. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is full of nice little video and audio touches, packed with top quality animation and some nail-biting gameplay on the harder levels. In my usual style of review I'm going to talk about a few of the things and tell you if I think the game's worthy of all the praise from the hype. Now the first thing you've heard by now will be it's a bit short, well it seems shorter than the first Metal Gear but what you have to remember is not everything is on the surface. And we PAL users have been given a host of extra game modes and options that the Japanese and US customers who bought the game, don't have.
Kojima has taken the idea of the movie plot-style from the first game and magnified it, using cutting-edge technology; film making techniques and other touches you might not at first notice. I have a strict attention to detail myself, I'm a stickler for a good looking and playable game, and I feel with MGS2 they've pulled it off despite what some of the critics will say. The full game intro sequence that introduces the music of Harry Gregson Williams (Enemy of the State among others) borrows elements from Hollywood style films such as Mission Impossible 2 and James Bond, it's slick and eye-catching, it moves at a high rate of knots and leaves you blurry eyed and slack jawed. Staring at the screen as the titles roll by to William's pounding soundtrack.
My wife, who's a roleplayer but not a gamer chick per-se, actually commented on how good this introduction is. This I count as a first since she's never ever commented on any game's intro before - even the first MGS didn't get the 'wife' Seal of approval. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the PAL code for this game and I can tell you now, if you own a PS2 and don't buy this then you're doing your gaming life a serious misdemeanour, it really is the most jaw dropping game on the PS2 yet. As I said before a lot of people might however not like it, because as per usual with Mr Kojima he does like to put a lot of story into his titles, so that means sitting through all the cut-scenes and the Codec moments, kind of like a Kodak moment but only more informative. But the cut scenes are a feast for the eyes, the game is so beautiful and atmospheric, it comes to life...everything has been animated that can be animated. Snake really does look the part this time. His hair moves and even drips with water, eyes move around, blinking...I can't begin to describe the levels of animation in this game. All the motion capture is spot on and Snake moves, as you'd expect he would, deadly and stealthy.
The game can be played from third person or from the first person mode, which allows a much greater degree of accuracy with weapons and for some expert recon of dangerous areas. Vision, sound and light all play an important part in this game, it's possible for Snake to take out the lights and remove some of the dangers, namely casting his shadow onto walls and alerting guards. You can tap walls, make a running noise to alert guards and pull them off the usual patrol routes. Snake can throw empty magazines to distract, or he can just run/duck/roll into a guard and knock him off his feet. Rather than describe the full list of things you can do and want to do in the game I'm going to tell you now a few of my favourites so far.
Getting Snake's feet wet and then using the trail of footprints to confuse a guard and lure him off his guard post. Sneaking up behind sloppy guards and delivering a usual punch-punch-kick combo that sends them over a railing either onto a patrolling friend or to a bone-crunching crack (Some of these moments trigger little cut-scenes)
Dragging the unconscious guards over to areas that they can be stowed in (lockers) and areas that they can be thrown overboard (on the tanker), shaking them down with a pistol and making them drop items, some guards are too tough for this to be effective so they might need to be shot in the leg or arm, just to get your point across.
The old MGS trick of pressing up against a wall and tapping it, have the guard run around the corner and beating him senseless...shaking the body around until it drops a few useful items.
The hanging from ledges to avoid patrols (watch the old gripometer), or to drop on the patrolling guard below's head, knocking him out.
In addition to these tricks and hiding around in lockers etc, Snake has access to a modified Beretta m9 pistol that can shoot tranq darts. Aim on the head or vital areas and watch the guard's drop like ninepins. This isn't the only weapon in Solid's arsenal; he's got many more to choose from as the game progresses, much like the first. But I don't want to give too much away.
Snake's codec partner this time is good old Otacon, back from MGS with a vengeful line of dry humour and some truly humorous Codec conversations, if you can find them. Listen to a lot of the Codec talk since it will give you some good leads on where to go, what to do and might even save Snake's life.
Now I'm going to back step and start talking about the graphics themselves, what can I say...the textures, lighting, models are all top quality and really do show off what the PS2 can start to do. I personally don't think they've even scratched the surface with MGS2 - but what they do have is impressive enough for me to want to give this game the best score I can. I'm probably going to get ripped into from a lot of the gaming public over the score I do give it, but in the end...it's what I feel it deserves. We were looking for a good, nay, great game on the PS2 and this is it...I feel. Back to the graphics, the wall textures and environment details are superb with no warping or misalignment that I could notice. There are signs and logos all over the place, pinups from FHM Magazine and little in-joke posters all over the game (You have to know where to look)
The texturing on the models, characters and props is also fantastic...I really get a kick out of the laser sighting on the USP and Socom Pistols, not to mention the M9 as it snapshots a dart into the body part of a hapless guard. But what really makes the game for me graphics wise is that the guards react to the actual environment as they're shot, apart from gouts of blood and pain animations galore...they actually topple over railings and slump against the walls. Yes that's right I said slump, there are no parts in the game that I could see the deadly 'arm into graphics' or 'head into wall' syndrome that plagues so many other PC and Console shooters. It seems that Kojima has really gotten on the ball with this aspect of the game. Blood? Yes there is blood and it's there in flowing rivers of Crimson abandon, when you're shot, when you shoot someone, it sprays the floor and the wall behind with a nice red gush.
Moving onto the AI of the guards, they're pretty damn good; they'll run off...call for backup or nail you with some damn fine shooting. They seem to have different aggression levels and personalities. Get caught by one and he'll radio for his friends, but if you shoot his radio while he's not looking, perhaps that'd stop his games? If you can't escape then it's time to run like hell or fight, either guns or hand to hand...perhaps you can take one hostage and use him as a human shield? The old neck choke and throw are back. Snake's a man with many options and he's a combat vet from the first outing - should you get the guards really peeved they'll send out a special forces unit with riot shields and you'll have to switch to first person view to get in a head shot or a leg shot.
So Snake is back with a great deal of graphical and gameplay excellence, the boss fights and characterisation are awesome and the atmosphere just oozes style and substance. I can't really fault the game, I nailed the first MGS and loved it to death, so I'm afraid I'm hooked on MGS2. They've gotten all that I wanted in this game and so much more, you're just going to have to experiment with all the little tricks and touches that Kojima and his talented team have put into this game. The only real way I can fault it is that (Major Spoiler Alert Close EYES and Skip this stuff in Brackets!!! - You don't always play Snake...I won't tell you when but you'll take charge of a new guy and HE kicks much arse)
And that's all I'm going to say on that subject.
Metal Gear Solid 2 takes the games playing world by the short and curlies, twists and pulls until something gives. With a thoughtful and inspiring score by the Master of Suspenseful music 'Harry Gregson Williams' it soars like an eagle and takes flight to spur your imaginations. If you can comprehend the storyline and stick with it you'll be entertained and enthralled by the whole game. If this is the future of gaming and the PS2 then count me in. Mr Kojima better do a sequel and he'd better do it on the PS2 unless he decides to make it on the PS3 considering the vast leaps in technology. And it better be online and death match co-op capable and a hundred other things or I'm going to sit in my cubical and cry.
Note this is meant to be amusing and funny to lighten the desire to have even more Metal Gear thrown at us to devour. Some people of course will probably take offence at it and well, if they do, I'll be sending Dave around to deal with them. Yeah that's right Solid 'Dave' Snake, we're on best buddy terms since I try not to get him killed in every game I play. Seriously, go buy the UK version and lose yourself in the game!