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The Moonlight War novel by S.K.S. Perry

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PlayStation 2) artwork

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PlayStation 2) review

"Regarding Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty I have a dilemma. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it just doesn’t have the same flair its predecessor had. It’s true that some features, like stealth and basic combat, are remarkably improved. However, its storytelling has gone completely in the wrong direction. "

Regarding Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty I have a dilemma. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it just doesn’t have the same flair its predecessor had. It’s true that some features, like stealth and basic combat, are remarkably improved. However, its storytelling has gone completely in the wrong direction.

Those who played the first Metal Gear Solid will remember the awkward combat with its slow, inaccurate aim, and the virtually useless first person view. That’s no longer the case. Quick and responsive manual aiming ensures that enemy guards won’t tear you up before you get a chance to raise your rifle while the first person mode allows you to actually fire a weapon instead of just using it to gain a better sense of your surroundings. Now you can manually and accurately target different body parts for added effectiveness instead of holding down the “lock on” button and hoping for the best. Because of this, new techniques for subduing enemies and avoiding detection altogether are now available. Should a guard happen to spot you, you can use the first person to destroy his radio before he can call reinforcements. Or you can use it to fire well-aimed tranquilizer darts into oblivious guards, giving you free reign of the area until the powerful drugs wear off.

Of course, the real point of the game is to avoid fighting as much as possible. Open combat often leads to disaster because once the alarm has been raised and everyone knows of your existence, soldiers pour into the room. Once this happens, there are only a few ways to get rid of them: outright death, expert hiding or leaving the room and coming back. In case of the latter, the guards will still be alert, even if they’re no longer attacking, meaning you have to wait several minutes for their patrols to return to normal.

Thankfully, you have an array of stealth options to exploit, both in hiding and killing. All the old favorites like hiding in a cardboard box return, but there are plenty of new things to try, too. In addition to crawling under tables or squeezing into tight corners, you can now sneak inside lockers to escape prying eyes. It’s a trick that’s virtually foolproof unless you do so while in view of everyone. You can also swing over railings and shimmy across the ledge if no other route presents itself, but this has its own risks. Hang there too long and you’ll plummet to your death.

Killing the patrolmen is much easier than continuously dodging them because once they’re dead, they stay dead a long while. Silently murdering people hasn’t changed much from the first Metal Gear Solid. Snapping necks and shooting someone with a suppressed pistol still have the same mechanics, but doing so now has added risk. Rather than just vanish into nothing, corpses stick around where anyone can stumble across them. That includes other guards, and when they find a dead body, they’ll increase security in an attempt to find the killer. Even worse, they’ll radio for a replacement at that station. To solve the problem, you need to drag the body to a place far off the regular patrol route.

As fun and challenging as this aspect of the game is, I can’t help feel underwhelmed, which brings me back to my dilemma. I really enjoyed sneaking through rooms filled with carefully positioned guards, incapacitating them one by one until I could move relatively freely. I reveled in amusement as soldiers nonchalantly walked by a seemingly harmless cardboard box, not realizing I lay beneath, ready to strike. I even enjoyed the boss fights that virtually made half of the previous game’s experience for me. Here they felt poorly placed and shallow, but they still presented a fun challenge with unique attacks and methods of defeat. The reason behind my confusion lies in one but very important aspect of the Metal Gear franchise: the plot.

Sons of Liberty’s story feels cumbersome, unsurprising and convoluted, even repetitive. You start as famous hero Solid Snake out to investigate an oil tanker supposedly housing a new Metal Gear model designed to combat all the other Metal Gear prototypes that villain Revolver Ocelot released to the world after the Shadow Moses incident. But this part of the story serves only as a prelude to things to come. Snake captures footage of the nuclear-capable walking battle tank, but the ship sinks in the process, killing him. Two years later, a young but capable recruit named Raiden takes his place, investigating the large industrial clean-up facility Big Shell constructed after the tanker incident. He’s supposed to stop terrorists from blowing the thing sky high and causing a huge environmental disaster.

Or maybe it was to stop them from launching a nuke so powerful it could wipe out the Manhattan power grid and everything else around it.

Or maybe the whole thing was just a cover up to some crazy experiment simulating Shadow Moses to prove that Raiden, and therefore anyone, can be trained to become the next Solid Snake.

Or maybe it has something to do with an obscure organization known as The Patriots that actually run the country, manipulating the President, Congress and everyone else. Maybe they’re the ones manipulating the experiment, with the real intention of using the facility to censor information in this digital age where everyone has access to everything.

See what I mean? There’s so much going on here that it’s difficult to keep straight. But through it all, I don’t recall anything that genuinely surprised me. Not like the previous game where I was thrown for a loop at every cut scene. Here I felt nothing except confusion. All the philosophical, abstract bantering and bizarre connections to a ridiculous and unbelievable (even for this franchise) conspiracy theory just totally took me out of the picture. Even the “little” things weren’t surprising. What’s that? Snake’s not really dead? I knew that from the beginning when this Pliskin character first showed up looking almost exactly like Snake only with headphones instead of a bandana. If you’re going to pull a fast one like that, at least try changing his voice actor.

There’s also the issue of repetition. While much of the game doesn’t feel like a direct rehash of Shadow Moses, there’s enough that feels familiar to make you wonder. The most cringe-worthy involved the reappearance of the cyborg ninja. Like before, it helps you out in tight situations, but unlike before, you don’t have to fight it, and its true identity won’t shock you the slightest. There’s also an incident where you have to use remote controlled missiles to destroy the circuit board supplying electricity to the floor leading to the President’s prison. This replicates a similar situation in the first Metal Gear Solid almost to the letter. The only differences lie in the layout of the room and the person you’re rescuing. What’s worse is that the missiles serve absolutely no use after this point. At least in the first game, you got to use them to defeat a really cool boss.

There are other similarities, but the others didn’t bother me as much. Thankfully, most of them were subtler than outright rip-offs. But even so, it really just feels like an excuse for laziness on the developer’s part. They even go out of their way to make a plot point about why these similarities exist. If that’s not a sign of selling out, I honestly don’t know what is.

So there you have it. I genuinely don’t know how to feel about this game. On the one hand, I really enjoyed it, but on the other hand, my enjoyment came in detached clumps because the story behind it either didn’t strike me as anything special or just made no sense at all. I couldn’t even connect with any of the characters this time around. When a game is more movie than actual play, you need that ability to understand the story and connect with the characters. Without that, it all just feels shallow and pointless.

Rating: 6/10

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Community review by wolfqueen001 (July 08, 2010)

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True posted July 09, 2010:

Loved this review, Furry. Every little interest and nit-pick I had about MGS 2 you went over and this one showed a lot of personality.

There was only one thing that I kind of had an issue with:

Killing the patrolmen is much easier than continuously dodging them because once they’re dead, they stay dead a long while.

I know what you're saying here, and I'm sure a lot of other people do as well, but it just sounds strange. In some strange way, it could be taken as a joke, but from what I can tell it's in reference to respawning enemies.

Otherwise, well done.
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wolfqueen001 posted July 11, 2010:

Yeah. I was referring to the fact that, unlike the first one, these guys don't respawn as soon as you leave a room. They still do respawn, though, so I guess I had a little trouble phrasing that concept. But you gave me an idea how to change it, which I'll do after the TT results come in.

Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad you liked it.
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sashanan posted July 11, 2010:

I wouldn't know where to begin tackling the story of this...this....*sigh* this game. You're braver than I.
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wolfqueen001 posted July 12, 2010:

haha. Thanks. Yeah, the story is pretty terrible. I just did it the best way I could think of.

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