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

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

"The agonizing ride on the blue-ball express known as Metal Gear Solid is but a mere leg of the epic, despair-inducing journey of Metal Gear Solid 2. To be fair, MGS at least had an intelligible storyline and characters who did not randomly disappear and reappear under idiotic assumed names. Its sequel abandons any pretense of predictability once the prologue is over and then consumes itself whole Ouroboros-style. What we have left is an interactive artistic meltdown that is ..."

The agonizing ride on the blue-ball express known as Metal Gear Solid is but a mere leg of the epic, despair-inducing journey of Metal Gear Solid 2. To be fair, MGS at least had an intelligible storyline and characters who did not randomly disappear and reappear under idiotic assumed names. Its sequel abandons any pretense of predictability once the prologue is over and then consumes itself whole Ouroboros-style. What we have left is an interactive artistic meltdown that is playable only in brief (milky) spurts.

Anyone over the age of 13 probably remembers the Earth-shattering release of the MGS2 promotional video, and all that entails. The sheer bombardment of boner-inspiring imagery. The mind-blowing graphics only possible through the miracle of Sony's Emotion Engine. The dramatic movie-like score, culminating in a dramatic fugue that coalesces into the Metal Gear theme. Above all else, the promise of Solid Snake kicking ass in first person! For those of you whose balls have yet to drop, I assure you this eight-minute video blew more minds than The Dark Knight. Way back in 2000, yours truly was one of the geeks queueing up to download a 180x240 video; a process that could take at least 12 hours on a dialup connection. We could care less -- it was a larger-than-life cinematic experience that would be truly ours to experience first. History in the making, no doubt.

What Hideo Kojima forgot to tell us was that the video only featured the first hour of the game.

Granted, this hour is an unforgettable hour of downright brilliant gameplay. The fantastic imagery of a stealth-suited Snake bungeeing onto a cargo freighter in a rainstorm is undercut by the lameness of having said suit malfunction on impact. On top of that, the Russkies have seized control of this Marine craft and now patrol from bow to stern with AKs at the ready. It's back to slithering around in air ducts, or is it? Hetero lifemate Otacon informs you of the existence of the MkII silenced tranquilizer pistol. While it's a very brainless, weenie thing to do, it is a sound strategy to just shoot everyone you come across. Now that aiming weapons is possible, MGS2 exploits every opportunity to involve gunplay. Sneaking through shadows isn't quite as fun, but it's hard to say the same about heaving the borscht-eaters over the railing into the toxic Hudson River.

Olga Gurlukovich may look like a kooky dyke with a fetish for black and white prison garb, but the .45 she packs in those manly trousers will leave you weeping several different body fluids. The music by Harry Gregson-Williams is identical to the type of soulless but effective scores he composes as part of Hans Zimmer's "Remote Control Productions". Call it aggressive ambience: it does its job well enough in context but it's nothing you'd listen to on its own. Once Snake has his SOCOM and cardboard box, the feeling is just like slipping into a pair of dorky-looking but comfortable shoes. Even though you cannot take any of their assault rifles or radios or uniforms (until certain meticulously set-up scripted events), the lax security of Shadow Moses is an afterthought. You'll take on a dozen of these bastards in a dim hallway dotted with waist-high barrels and lined with steam pipes in the inarguable high point of MGS2. Shoot out all the lights and sneak by silently. Isolate them one at a time, snap their necks and drag the bodies into a dark corner. Blast a hole in a pipe, cackle as the nearby Commie merc recieves a faceful of third-degree suck. You can even cause a chain reaction of barrel explosions to end the battle in seconds if you are a complete ball-less weenie.

However you choose to deal with this crisis, your only set perameter is to open a certain door. On the other side is a group of a hundred or so Marines watching a speech coinciding with the unveiling of RAY, the latest terrorist-heist-bait aka the latest incarnation of Metal Gear.

"Metal GEAR?!?!?"

Yes, only this time the animalistic, unstoppable robotic nuke platform resembles a shrimp with wings. While you can use your MkII to put each individual soldier to sleep, there is nothing to do here but take pictures with your digital camera. Rudimentary stuff even for a grizzled close-combat expert like Snake. Then, after so much promise, comes the first of hundreds of long CGI cutscenes. While the Russians get in some good kills when they crash the party, the scene is killed by the unveiling of Revolver Ocelot, looking like a European bodybuilder with newly attached forearm supplied by the late Liquid Snake. And then the arm's previous owner says a few words to his present (and dumbfounded) clone brother.

One cannot fully convey the idiocy of the talking arm, and this is only the 5% of the iceberg that is sticking above the surface of the water. The vessel is your PS2 with steering locked in the general direction of this iceberg, and the captain is determined to break through to the other side instead of taking the careful, long way around. The result involves a blonde dweeb, a mad bomber drinking champagne while shooting at you on roller skates, a boss character who cannot be killed, and a nude trip down the ascending colon of a massive new non-fightable Metal Gear. Also, Snake is in the story under the idiotic moniker of "Iriquois Pliskin", and Hal Emmerich seems to be even more attached to this man despite the fact that Snake can be held directly responsible for several of the violent deaths of his loved ones. There is a sword that you get to use for all of two scenes and cannot ever acquire outside of a scripted event. There's a feeble attempt at ambiguity with increased surrealism and even a fade-to-white which recalls the "lobotomy" ending of Total Recall. Kojima wishes he were Phillip K. Dick, but falls short and is content to be just a Dick.

While all this is the stuff of a fine examination of dependent sadomasochistic relationships, it's not compelling gaming. There are some decent chunks of "Tactical Espionage Action" between the hours and hours of crap quasi-cinema. So much time is spent on a disposable Dadaesque storyline that cancels itself out with sheer ridiculousness. An earlier draft of this writing weighed in at over 20KB, since I bothered to anally dissect the plotline. It not only gave me blisters, it boiled down to loopy but lifeless prose that lay dead on the page. Sorry Boo, but I don't hate my audience.

One doubts whether the same can be said for our erstwhile captain at the bow of a ship crumpled beneath ocean depths.

johnny_cairo's avatar
Community review by johnny_cairo (July 27, 2008)

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bluberry posted July 27, 2008:

haha. I still feel bad for letting the ball drop 10+ times.
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sashanan posted July 27, 2008:

After finishing this, I figured I should not have picked 'Very Easy' difficulty. I'm certain the lengths of story would have been easier to tolerate if I'd had to work for each scene, rather than been able to just run from one room to the next without the single guard raising the alarm (or it being cancelled the second I entered the next room anyway).

I'm enjoying MGS 3 far better and I think the fact that my progress in the game is far slower, due in part to playing on Medium this time, is much of the reason. The story makes my head spin, but it has done so on all MGS games so far.
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bluberry posted July 27, 2008:

for cereal? I thought MGS3's was by far the simplest of them all, and the best. MGS2 tried the hardest but largely failed.
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sashanan posted July 27, 2008:

Well, maybe I'm judging MGS 3 prematurely. I'm still stuck with a 100 year old sniper running circles around me - I've had a few lengthy expositions and expected many more to come, but maybe the worst is over. If I ever win this fight.

I hear that if I take enough real world time to beat this boss, he dies of old age. I can only hope.
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bluberry posted July 27, 2008:

or if you have no shame, save, reset your PS2, change the date to a week from now, and load.
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disco posted July 27, 2008:

Or you could just go to the map screen during the fight and enter the Konami Code (replace the square and triangle for the A and B buttons respectively). Doing so will reveal his position on the map.

As far as the story goes, it picks up a bit in the latter half.
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bloomer posted July 28, 2008:

Chances of me playing any more MGS games (I have the first) were extremely low, and they probably just got even lower. I can't even stand the bloody titles... 'Sons of Liberty'... 'Guns of the Patriots'. Just make me wanna puke!
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dementedhut posted July 28, 2008:

Well, if you do ever try to play another MGS again, make sure it's Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (the new camera angle makes a world of a difference in this version), since it does the best attempt at stealth in the series at that point (haven't played MGS4, so I can't comment on that) and the plot is probably the simplest out of all of them.

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