"The level of realism in this game can really screw you over at times, but it also gives you so many different possibilities when it comes to making it through."
Warning: This review may contain a few spoilers.
Four years ago, the world was blessed with Metal Gear Solid, in my opinion one of the best videogaming experiences of all time. This work of art had everything: Compelling storyline, strong characters, excellent gameplay, some very clever real-life interaction, and voice acting worthy of a major motion picture (a real rarity in videogames). That game had me on the edge of my seat for months on end, and I can honestly say I've never had more fun playing a game in my entire life.
Now, four years later, the long-awaited sequel has finally arrived. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. I'll massage my ego a bit and say that no one could've been more excited than I was when I got my hands on MGS2 for the first time, and I certainly wasn't disappointed; this game is a truly worthy sequel. It does have its share of rough areas, but don't let that fool you. If you liked the Metal Gear games of the past, then you'll love the latest installment.
Getting down to business, let's see how this game stacks up.
I like to start out my reviews by getting the bad things out of the way first, so if I may be so bold, the storyline of this one starts to deteriorate about halfway through the game, and once you get to the end credits it just downright sucks. There are simply too many plot twists in this game for its own good. The end scene is even anti-climactic. Not something you would normally expect from a Hideo Kojima game.
You first start to notice this problem at the end of the Tanker Chapter, when Solid Snake finds that Liquid has posessed Revolver Ocelot through his right arm, which Ocelot had surgically transplanted from Liquid's frozen corpse to replace the one he lost in Metal Gear Solid. That one little thing starts a chain reaction of insanely confusing events that will leave you scratching your head and saying ''What the @#$% is going on here?'' And towards the end the story starts shifting from the characters onto dull-and-totally-boggling political matters that no one playing this game will really care that much about.
Okay, now that I've gotten that gripe out of the way, let's move on.
To start out with, the game's controls are for lack of a better word, perfect. They are set up very similarly to Metal Gear Solid, with a few alterations here and there to accomodate Snake's new abilities, such as the ability to aim and attack in first person view mode.
The game makes excellent use of the Dual Shock 2's full analog capability, as everything you do during your mission is affected by how hard you press the buttons on the controller. For example, when peeking around corners in first person view (one of the neat little things you'll come to love as you progress through the game), how far you lean out depends on how hard you press the shoulder buttons. How far you toss a grenade depends on how hard you hit the weapon button, and you can lower your gun without shooting if you slowly lift your finger off of the button, as well.
Gameplay is just as good as Metal Gear Solid, and better, as the enemy AI is vastly improved from the first game (and they weren't exactly chumps in that one, were they). Guards can now spot you by something as easilly missed as your shadow. Wet feet leave wet footprints. Enemies will get suspicious if you make a mess (that's right, fully-interactive environments, in the Tanker anyway; they seem to get less and less so as the game progresses). You'll even have to hide the bodies of fallen enemies to ensure you aren't discovered.
The level of realism in this game can really screw you over at times, but it also gives you so many different possibilities when it comes to making it through. You can disable a guard's radio with chaff grenades (effectively cutting off his ability to call for backup), or take it out altogether by shooting it off of his hip, if you're a good shot. Shoot steam pipes to break them open and burn your foes. Hell, you can even distract a guard by tossing an empty clip from one of your guns or leaving a porno magazine lying in the floor. I mean... WOW.
The story may be sub-par in places, but the same is not true of the voice acting. The same voice actors who did Solid Snake, Hal Emmerich, Liquid, Ocelot, and others have returned for this latest installment of the Metal Gear series, and not once will you be disappointed by the quality of the voice-overs.
There's a lot of humor written into this game if you look for it, as well (the whole Snake masturbating thing is kind of funny, but certainly not the only thing they've thrown in there). Little things you wouldn't think to check for, such as calling Otacon while inside of a locker and having Snake tease him about their first meeting.
The graphics in Metal Gear Solid 2 are absolutely incredible. They may not be photo realistic, but DAMN, are they good. Once again, the realism factor is just amazing; things like the texture of Snake's hair, and the fact that his bandana actually blows in the wind when you step outside. Like in the first Solid game, all the cut scenes are done with in-game graphics, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
And the game may be bigger and better and badder and faster, but it's still got the same witty charm that made the first one the masterpiece I've come to view it as, such as exclamation points appearing over guards' heads when they spot you.
All in all, Metal Gear Solid 2 is a great gaming experience, and while it might not be as fresh and compelling storywise as its predecessor, it is certainly up there among the best games ever made. Buy it; you will NOT regret it.
Staff review by Kieran Greyloch (Date unavailable)
Kieran Greyloch is an automotive technology student who enjoys wasting every moment of his spare time playing videogames and tabletop RPGs.
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