Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

released on Nov 13, 2001

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

released on Nov 13, 2001

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is the sequel to the espionage action game Metal Gear Solid. Much of the gameplay remains the same, as the game's protagonist has to sneak past guards, outsmart them using various gadgets and defeat the tricky boss enemies. The game expanded its predecessor's cover mechanic, with Solid Snake or Raiden able to take cover behind walls or objects and pop out to shoot at enemies, while the improved enemy AI allowed enemies to also take cover from the player. Metal Gear Solid 2 is considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time, as well as a leading example of artistic expression in video games.


Also in series

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions
Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions

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A better art piece than a game.

This review contains spoilers

This game has become my all-time favorite.

What I thought was going to be a wacky, conspiracy stealth romp from what I heard online ended up being an emotionally impactful and deeply transformative piece of art for me.

Having decided to play through all the Metal Gear Solid games after a short run of MGS3D (Yes, the 3DS port of MGS3), I had just finished MGS1. I found out just how awesome and influential Metal Gear Solid was, and exactly why this game got all the praise it did. So coming into MGS2, I had my expectations held high. I booted it up, started a new game, and I was thrust in.

Ok so, going right in, this game introduces many new concepts right off the bat. You can roll around to get a short boost in speed, you can tranquilize and move enemies out of sight, and you see a guard above you looking down and back up, with his radar cone moving accordingly. It doesn't bother reteaching you what you know from MGS1. Seeing Snake use the STEALTH CAMO that OTACON (and Snake, if you unlocked it) used in the first game was sick, and the flip off a bridge onto a big ass boat swarming with guards was even cooler. Cut to OCELOT in a helicopter, and he has his hand??? Aw man, I can smell a good twist! I love the VULCAN RAVEN fake-out, even if it's a bit odd in the universe. Then again I'd buy a terrorist action figure. Anyway, I gotta snag some pictures of the BRAND NEW METAL GEAR Ray for Otacon to get out there. After taking out
Olga Gurlukovich, sneaking past about a hundred guards and a hundred more army guys watching a presentation, I'm in. I snag a few pictures out of the sight of the prick on stage, accidentally sent Otacon my locker finds, he says "It's your life and all...", we got the metal gear pictures we needed, and now I gotta head out. Not before REVOLVER OCELOT busts in to spoil the plan! Turns out, the arm is LIQUID SNAKES and is currently possessing him. And is working for the... La Li Lu Le Lo? Sounds like the new Big Bad!! Then BOOM!!!! THE WHOLE SHIP BLOWS UP, SPARKS EVERYWHERE, PERIL, scene.

Then it goes to a similar bridge scene, except there's COLONEL CAMPBELL and some new guy. This isn't Snake, who is that???

Do you notice most of what I capitalized? It's a bunch of callbacks to MGS1 in the tanker section. This game is rife with them, and if it continued like this it'd be kind of boring. Sure, it'd appease the crowd that simply wanted more Metal Gear, but that wouldn't stick as well. When the plant section starts, however, it does something different.

I was spoiled by this game's twist, but instead of the game progressing with Snake as the protagonist, it introduces Raiden. I love Raiden as a character, but his introduction is rough. He isn't nearly as smooth as Snake, coming off more as an arrogant rookie hopped up on VR training. Nevertheless, we continue with our objective of stopping metal gear, as we've told plenty of times by now. As the game progresses, it's incredibly similar in structure to MGS1. I had a lot of this game spoiled for me, but none of the missions were in those spoilers. It struck me as odd, but it was never boring. All of the struts had a new environment with several solutions for getting to my objective. It was engaging, but still incredibly puzzling. I felt like I was navigating the game knowing exactly what I was supposed to do having played MGS1, as a character that was clueless and following what he was told. Once I got past the Harrier encounter though, the game picked up pace quickly. The president tells us about the Patriots (or the La Li Lu Le Lo), a shadow government of sorts. After the Vamp encounter, we find out this "Big Shell" was a disguise for the real big threat, Arsenal gear. Now that's clever foreshadowing. And with it, the thin veil draped over this game became undone.

A brief segment before I get into the biggest event in gaming, but there's a scene with Otacon and his step-sister, Emma. She just died after a grueling rescue mission trying to upload her virus. She says how she never wanted to hurt Otacon, and that making Arsenal follow in his steps would make Otacon see her as grown as him. She dies holding his face, and that's when he breaks. He reveals that he was groomed by his mother, and how this led to his father taking his own life. He feels responsible for what happened to their families, and that's why he left her. He pulls through and puts on a strong front for Snake and Raiden, promising to get the hostages somewhere safe before the area is cut loose. And as they leave, the most badass shots happen. I fuckin love this image, and the Konami code being snuck into the handshake is a great touch. And then he steps into a hallway... and breaks down. We hear him talk about how they both sought love, how they waited for it while being alone for so long. We hear him tell us how he stopped wishing and finally made love happen for himself, rather than waiting. He calls her Emma one last time.

This scene means a lot to me. Hearing Otacon, a character I related to solely for how dorky he was in MGS1 tell me how he stopped waiting and started making something for himself, it made me feel like I still had time. I'm the oldest child in both my families and have unfortunately had similar experiences to him. And hearing Otacon of all people say how he pulled through healed something. I've spent a lot of my life just scraping by emotionally, hoping to catch something good in my sail. But I realized I shouldn't worry so much about getting by, and more about making a better life for myself. A little embarrassing to say I learned that from a videogame with bisexual vampires and big robots, but whatever LOL

The seams that held this "game" burst apart, revealing that we've been playing a simulation of sorts. A simulation designed to turn Raiden, a former child soldier of Solidus into Solid Snake, at the hands of the patriots. Our Colonel, and Rose, have been nothing more than AI built off of our preconceived notions of what we'd expect out of a Colonel and our desired girlfriend. But rather than some advanced VR system, they manipulate all parties involved into playing their respective parts. The almost identical structure of MGS2 to MGS1? That was all part of the plan. The only thing that wasn't was Snake himself being there under the name Plissken, but that doesn't thwart the simulation. And the worst part is that there's no way out of it. By now, we have fed the model plenty of information. We have to keep going and kill Solidus because it's the main objective, what we're told to do.

Or you could turn the game off, another thing you're told to do.

Maybe stop playing for a while, something we're told to do.

We believe the information about the Patriots was told to us by the president because it is what was told to us.

What makes this game special isn't the twist, it's how that twist used the medium of a video game to its advantage. How it preys on the fan's desire to see more and more, to then flip that on its head and have the player become another player in the perpetual workings of a flawless system. I mentioned in my Half-Life 2 review that it changed how I saw games, and that carried here. But what made MGS2 dethrone Half-Life 2 as my favorite game of all time was the way it used being a video game to elevate its already incredible plot. How it had every element I seek in a video game, to then flip that desire as a part of the story. It made me a character in this big production. And to end this rollercoaster of orchestrated chaos with the message that you can choose what to pass on, that we can make our destiny rather than follow in the path we've been given was brilliant. It was "meta" in a way I haven't seen replicated since. Even games like Undertale, which I adore for its use of these themes and meta-narratives, don't match up. Even in the discussion over this game, its thematic elements shine. We're putting our perspectives, how what we've seen, heard, felt. These are the things that we pass on in discussion. I'm passing on my perception of this game through the lens of my own life and experiences. You'll probably see this game differently than I did, with your life and experiences. That makes Metal Gear Solid 2 special, and I'm glad to have experienced this for myself.

Fuck me man, this game is Psycho Mantis all over again!!!

Story was really cool but it can be confusing as hell especially when it HITS near the end. Gameplay was like MGS1 but more refined which is great imo. Kind of hate myself for playing this before MGS1 since they didn't include that in the HD collection but I still enjoyed it quite a bit when I first played it. [Played on PS VITA August 2022 first, then August 2023 on Xbox Series X]

If Metal Gear Solid 1 was an attempt to adapt an espionage thriller film into a videogame, then Metal Gear Solid 2 is an attempt to turn the series into an abstract work. The first game had some weirdo elements like Psycho Mantis, but here, the magical realism dial is cranked to 11. Whereas the first game I felt was pretty basic in its messages of anti war and individualism, essentially just ending by saying "actually, life is worth living", the sequel explores those ideas in a much more personal manner, not only by directly bringing the player into question, but also by choosing to discuss technology more so than having to bring violence into question like every big boy mature video game needs to do.

I can't lie, I was horrified to come back to this game. I think I've realized recently that a lot of the stuff that really impressed me when I was 14-16 is actually kind of really fucking dumb, but to my shock this game actually impressed me even a second time. It's not really because Kojima predicted the future of the internet contrary to what the average video essayist unironically believes. I think its more so that he understood the moral dilemma that comes with controlling the web, because really, who should get to decide what information you see online? Algorithms aren't this random entity whose existence should just be accepted as natural, they're built by individuals with their own preconceived biases. World governments eager to censor and push propaganda? Individual owners of social media who need as much user retention possible? The Patriots' AI, an enlightened centrist being, really only generates more polarization in the name of human happiness. In that sense, Metal Gear Solid 2 feels like an invitation to a truly free internet. Its the way in which we can most reliably preserve history, share our ideas. The amount of misinformation may be daunting, but that misinformation is almost like a necessary evil, and that it's really up to us to deduct what is real and what is false.

But forget that pseudo-philosophical bullshit, the real highlight of Metal Gear Solid 2 was in seeing the promising gameplay foundation of the PS1 classic really blossom here. Its a game that is best experienced right after the original. Enemy AI is much more fleshed out, the tranq gun and first person aiming allows the player to be much more proactive, new mechanics like rolling, hold ups, dick slaps and the hundreds of other new features make it a much more deep and engaging stealth experience. When I last played, I had tried some of the VR missions for the first time, and it was then that I realized how damn good this game actually is, and I feel eager to comeback and complete them all. The new music is fantastic, the final boss theme in particular being probably the most underrated track in the series. Graphically Metal Gear has always been ahead of the curve, not just in fidelity, but also its style. MGS1's and 2's industrial futuristic settings and UI will forever look great. In particular, Arsenal Gear is the best looking part of the game, having a clean yet ominous look. Later entries might have better cutscene direction and even deeper gameplay mechanics, but many of the mechanics that define 3 and 5 can be traced back to 2.

Metal Gear Solid 2 isn't the most impressive abstract work ever made. Many of its cutscenes and codecs feel super awkward and stiff, with voice direction even from characters meant to be sympathetic feeling unnatural. All of the new characters aside from Solidus are at best forgettable and at worst melodramatic. It lacks a lot of finesse that makes it hard for me to fully believe that it's a work of high art that should be put in the Smithsonian. That said, I don't believe this should take away from the achievements of this game. Kojima and the team made a blockbuster that defined the PS1, and then proceeded to immediately take the franchise in a completely different direction story-wise. It said, "fuck the canon we've built up for over a decade", and ended on a completely nonsensical note, a puzzle with hundreds of missing pieces that later games could not properly complete. Games like Resident Evil 4 or Breath of the Wild are highly praised for their complete subversions of their respective franchises, but an important thing to note is how those games came after a dozen sequels and when those franchises had stagnated badly. Metal Gear Solid 2 did this at the height of the franchises' popularity for no real reason, a ballsy move that I really can't help but applaud. Bravo Mr. Kojima, just maybe don't ruin your games with awful gimmick sections in the future.

If Hideo Kojima isn't a genius for leading the development of a game that completely nailed what society would be like in the decades following its release, then he's at the very least a genius for, in the very same game, having a sequence where a grunt pisses all over your head from on high.