Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty
Yes, we've already dedicated more than five pages to Metal Gear Solid 2 over the last few issues since the game was first revealed at the E3, but then you're not complaining are you? In fact, we would have shown you even more if we could have, but we were limited to shots given to us from Konami. But now that the MGS2 trailer is available on DVD in Japan, the dam has burst--let the let MGS2 coverage flow forth!
Why all the hype on this game that's still over a year away? If you played the first Metal Gear Solid, chances are you don't need to ask. But even if you hated that game, seeing the roughly 10 minutes of footage of the sequel trailer will at least get you excited about the capabilities of the PlayStation 2. Sure some other PS2 titles look good, but this game-the environments, the characters, effects, everything--is head and shoulders above anything else we've seen for the system.
Unfortunately, as far as gameplay details go, we've pretty much already said everything that's known so far (and Konami is being stingy with new info) so let's recap: Solid Snake, Otacon Revolver Ocelot, and even Liquid Snake are all back. The game takes place largely on a giant tanker transporting the new Metal Gear device, and also in New York City. There's a new first-person shooting mode you can activate at any time to look around, aim and fire your weapons. Check out all the screens and captions in this spread for a few more tidbits and gameplay details, and of course stay tuned over the next few months--we'll be watching this one like a hawk.
Download Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty
Bisexual vampires, pseudo-incestuous relationships, morbidly obese bomb enthusiasts on roller blades--by criminy, Metal Gear Solid 2 is crammed with stuff that'd put dollar signs in Jerry Springer's eyes. But if you can look past the freak-show cast, an overwrought and preachy plot, and girlie hero Raiden (who replaces mucho macho series hero Solid Snake for much of the game), you're rewarded with ingeniously designed gameplay filled with taught spy-thriller moments and clever boss battles. Just to hurt your brain, the PS2 version of MGS2: Substance even has a skateboarding minigame. Ultimate moment: Finally wrapping your head around the ultimate plot twist: That MGS2 is really a simulation of MGS1, and you've just been playing a game within a game designed to trap Solid Snake for his enemies. Hey, isn't that how St. Elsewhere ended?
Due sometime in the fall of 2004, MGS3 asks PS2 gamers if they wanna take it outside to the dense wilderness of Southeast Asia for a Cold War-era prequel of sorts (presumably starring Solid Snake's papa, Big Boss). The emphasis is on using camouflage and survival skills, which you might have guessed from the game's subtitle: Snake Eater.
Outer Heaven. Zanzibar Land. Solid Snake. Big Boss. All of these names are familiar to fans of the Metal Gear series, the brainchild of Hideo Kojima, a virtuoso among game designers. With a proud tradition stretching back to the original Nintendo Entertainment System, Metal Gear has been a well-known title for many years. Just three years ago, in 1998, Metal Gear received a significant facelift in the form of Metal Gear Solid, a title for PlayStation system. For the first time, the world saw Metal Gear in a way more befitting Kojima's vision for the adventures of Solid Snake. With fully 3D characters and environment, Metal Gear Solid was an impressive leap forward for the series. Integrating the detailed narrative that Kojima envisioned for the Metal Gear series, MGS2 carries on where Metal Gear Solid left off.
Strongly plot driven, MGS2 sets you as Solid Snake, a legendary mercenary who has thrice saved the world from the threat of Metal Gear. Metal Gear, codename for a massive walking tank with the capability to launch a nuclear strike, is the world's greatest threat to peace. Able to place a nuclear strike anywhere in the world long before early warning systems can even detect it, a single Metal Gear could tip the balance of power in any region where it is deployed. Solid Snake, a veteran of the elite US Special Forces unit FOXHOUND, is now a member of a UN backed anti-Metal Gear organization, known only as Philanthropy.
Two years previously, detailed in the original Metal Gear Solid, Solid Snake thwarted a plan to steal a prototype Metal Gear unit. Snake faced enemies unlike any other, as he fought Special Forces troopers from his own unit, FOXHOUND. Now, he's facing an old foe in a new arena. In an amazing opening sequence, Snake boards a tanker passing underneath the Washington Bridge in New York. In the middle of a storm, at night, Snake uses a bungee cord to drop down silently onto the deck of the tanker. He's here to investigate rumors of a new prototype Metal Gear, codenamed Metal Gear Ray, being developed by the US Marines. That's just the start of the storyline for MGS2, and while I'd love to tell you more, you'll really have to play this title to find out. One of the tactics used in the creation of the game was to keep certain aspects of the game secret until release, avoiding spoiling the plot. Suffice it to say that this plot has plenty of twists and turns and dovetails with the rest of the Metal Gear storyline.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Like the first Metal Gear Solid, MGS2 is appropriately termed 'Tactical Espionage Action.' MGS2 focuses first and foremost on stealth, requiring you to infiltrate locations with a sense of caution and strategy. First off, the game is in second person perspective, watching Solid Snake through a camera viewpoint that tracks with Snake's movements. You've got a first person view, for getting a good look on the situation, but the thing you'll notice most about the camera is that it usually gives you a good, broad view of the situation. It doesn't shift and change like other games, maintaining a standard slight overhead view. This view management is very manageable, and not prone to adjusting unusually unless necessary, such as in a large firefight.
Snake is very mobile, able to run or walk (depending on the degree to which you push the analog stick) and execute a quick roll. You can make him jump over small obstacles or leap over the edge of a walkway, to hang out of sight of enemies. For a small kick, you can hold down the L2 and R2 buttons to have Snake perform a pull-up, letting him workout while hanging. You can crawl beneath low spaces and inside air vents, lean around corners to get a good view on your situation, crouch, and even pop out from behind cover to take a quick shot at a guard. That last one is a trick you'll want to learn for any fights you get into.
Relying on stealth, you must creep along corridors, navigating your way between the many guards that patrol the tanker. The guards all have a good sense of sight and hearing, meaning you'll need to be pretty careful to avoid them. Thankfully, you've got a mini-radar system that tracks people in the local area by the electromagnetic signature given off by the human body. This radar lets you see a small map of the local area and gives you a picture of both where the guards are and which direction they're looking. One of the reasons that you'll want to be careful is that if you're detected, the radar can be jammed easily, rendering one of your most potent tools inoperable. After a few seconds, the guards will cease the alert, but you'll still need to evade them for the radar to come back into operation.
Since Solid Snake is a solider, he's also got the ability to use various arms and armament. You're initially equipped with a modified Beretta M9 pistol, designed to fire tranquilizer rounds capable of putting enemies to sleep quickly. Although you're cautioned to avoid detection, sometimes you'll need to incapacitate or kill your enemies. In a good twist, surprising for games of this genre, you can progress through the game using only tranquilizer rounds, allowing you to avoid killing anyone on your mission. Another nice feature of MGS2 is the ability to threaten guards, forcing them to disarm themselves when menaced with your pistol. This can be useful for extracting items from them, like extra ammunition and dog tags, which are necessary to unlock some of the secrets inside the game. Along the way, you'll find an AK-74u assault rifle, a PSG-1 sniper rifle, chaff and stun grenades, and many more weapons you can use against enemy forces.
As you move through the game, you'll be treated to amazingly beautiful cut-scenes, all rendered in the game engine. These cut-scenes move the plot of MGS2 and give you more detail on the history behind the game. Also, you'll occasionally need to face a boss fight, where you take on highly trained soldiers that are more approaching Solid Snake's level of skill. These bosses are all quite strange. For instance, in the original Metal Gear Solid, you had to fight Psycho Mantis, a psychic of incredible power. Later in MGS2, you'll face off against Fortune, a strange woman carrying a massive lightning gun, with the apparent psychic ability to warp space, causing all bullets aimed at her to curve around her body.
The only real drawback to this gameplay is its complexity. Still using the same control scheme from the original Metal Gear Solid (although that isn't a bad thing), there are a lot of buttons you'll need to learn to control Snake in a quick, responsive way. Added to this is the fact that even on normal difficulty, MGS2 is slightly more difficult than the original, requiring a lot of careful planning and, in some cases, many saves and continues.
MGS2 has the best graphics I've seen on the PlayStation 2, hands down. The entire game has a level of detail and clarity unseen in console games and really shows the skill that went into producing this fine title. Little has been left out, from the flapping of Snake's bandana in the wind to the glare of lighting effects. If you're standing outside on the tanker, you can look up into the sky in first person view to get a spatter of rain on your face, and the character models are so accurate that you can selectively destroy a guards radio before he can call for reinforcements. The graphics in this game are so smooth and detailed that the only indications you've got for telling if you're in a cut-scene or not are whether you can move around with the controller. Konami has used the power of the PS2 to bring the truly narrative aspects of the Metal Gear Solid to the forefront and integrate them with top-notch gameplay.
A lot of talented people worked to make this game a reality, but without a fitting soundtrack, all of that hard work would've been for naught. MGS2 features music by Harry Gregson-Williams, the composer of such motion picture soundtracks as Armageddon and The Rock. His sense of things epic gives even the introduction movie a very dramatic feel, with proud, triumphant music that helps set the scene for the long fight ahead. Also of note is the detail and clarity of the game's sound effects. There's a convincing clunk as you run up and down stairs, and from sound alone you should be able to tell if you're on a stone office floor or the steel of a bridge or walkway.
Originality / Cool Features
Aside from the pre-designed video cut-scenes, which showcase documents, photographs, and hand-drawn art, all of the in-game cut-scenes are rendering in real-time with the power of the PS2. If you're wearing body armor just before you start a new part of the plot, you'll see your character wearing it in the cut-scene as well. I feel that this effect really adds to the suspension of disbelief in MGS2 and helps it be that much more impressive. I'm not basing this conclusion on any material from the developers, or specific notes about MGS2, rather on simple deduction and observation. I could be wrong, but even if I were, that still means the developers work was convincing enough to make me think otherwise.
Although the gameplay is similar to the original Metal Gear Solid, that isn't a bad thing, just lacking in innovation. Small details and extra touches make this game rock, especially given that you can experience both rain splatter and the movement of the New York City skyline in the distance. Using a tried and true design scheme really paid off, and the strong use of cut-scenes and narrative make this an excellent title for its single player experience. Topping out at around ten hours for your first jaunt through the game, it's a little short for an RPG, and pretty long for a FPS or Action/Adventure title, MGS2 has a lot of replayability from all of the secrets that you can uncover and the changes in opposition between difficulty settings.