Memories of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

I’ve written about my history with the original Metal Gear Solid game that came out on the first PlayStation. I mentioned how I really didn’t know anything about it nor was I even aware of it in the first place. However, when I played it, I immediately became a fan. Hideo Kojima managed to craft a game that was serious yet incredibly enjoyable. It mixed together movie-like qualities, really great action sequences, tight controls, trippy game mechanics that forced you to think outside the box and high-quality voice acting.

So, when Hideo Kojima and Konami released the first trailer for its sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, you can bet I was super excited for it. The trailer didn’t only show the huge graphical upgrade as it used the then super-advanced PlayStation 2, but Solid Snake’s new bag of tricks, like aiming in first person to target weak spots, hanging off ledges to avoid detection, holding up enemies to get extra gear and information and a whole lot more! That trailer, as well as my experience with the first game, sold me on getting Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty as early as possible! In fact, I was incredibly hyped for it that, no joke, I had a friend of a friend buy it in the United States send it here to the Philippines even though I didn’t own a PlayStation 2 yet! That’s how much I wanted it!

It may seem silly to get a game for something you can’t play but I really wanted to experience what Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty had in store, even if it was just perusing through the manual. And that’s what I actually did while waiting for my PlayStation 2. I read that manual from back to forth, reviewing the pages so I would be very familiar with the controls. However, even before I even got a chance to look through Metal Gear Solid 2’s manual, my friend who got the game already spoiled one of the biggest twists it had in store: you don’t control Solid Snake here. I’ll talk a little more about that in a bit.

I eventually got my own PlayStation 2 as a gift for Christmas a couple of weeks later. It did save me a lot of money as I was saving up to buy one as my Christmas gift to myself. Even though I was relieved for getting it and I could buy more games with the money I saved, that was mostly in the back of my mind because all I could really think about was I was finally able to play Metal Gear Solid 2!

I remember really taking my time throughout the first part of the game, the Tanker Chapter. I really went through every nook and cranny. Not just to discover any particular new items or anything like that. But rather I did it to just really familiar myself with how to play. I would go around holding up each and every soldier I could as well as plot my route throughout the ship so I could go through it without a single alert. I even took the time to max out my grip strength that early in the game. I must have spend a good two hours just on the Tanker Chapter. That’s how much I was into it.

By this time I started playing, unfortunately, the Internet has ran amok with the biggest spoiler of how Hideo Kojima pulled off one of the greatest bait-and-switches in gaming history. My friend already mentioned you didn’t control Solid Snake. The manual, the one I was reading before I got my PlayStation 2, showed a couple of pictures of some blonde-haired, frilly boy hanging from railings, swimming underwater and escorting some girl. So I wasn’t exactly surprised when I finished the Tanker Chapter and moved on to the Plant Chapter, I wasn’t in control of Solid Snake but Raiden.

I guess this is a good a time to talk about Raiden, easily the most controversial element of Metal Gear Solid 2. Now, I will admit, I didn’t like Raiden all that much at the start. He just seemed like a cocky prick, always spouting off on how good he was due to all the VR training he had. I also didn’t like his voice. No insult to Quinton Flynn, who did his voice in the game. He actually does more than a decent job. In fact, I think he did too good of a job, in retrospect. Raiden always seemed like he was supposed to be a young hotshot on his first real mission. Quinton Flynn did a good job in getting that across and that kind of led me to disliking Raiden’s personality more.

It also didn’t help that, by the time you do get to controlling Raiden in the Plant Chapter, you run into probably one of the biggest issues of Metal Gear Solid 2: the number of cutscenes and CODEC calls. Now, I love me some well executed cutscenes and Metal Gear Solid 2 has them in spades. But I do think Hideo Kojima really went overboard with all of this. I get he wanted to use the increased storage space of a DVD and utilize every bit of data he could squeeze into it. But it did affect how the overall story flowed. There were times when I would just walk down a hallway, I’ll get a CODEC call and then, after I get to the end of the hallway, I’ll get another CODEC call! And some of these CODEC calls would last for around 5 minutes or longer! I’m just at the start of the Plant Chapter! Let me breathe a little!

The other huge issue I had with Metal Gear Solid 2 is how convoluted the story is, especially by the end. It’s not like the first Metal Gear Solid didn’t have its twists and turns. But Hideo Kojima turned the craziness settings all the way to 11 for Metal Gear Solid 2. Not only does he throw in concepts like nuclear war and how VR can be used to train soldiers, he also goes ham on things like a secret group of people controlling all the governments in the world, using the Internet to brainwash people, child soldiers and many more concepts I’m probably forgetting now. I will say how eerily frightening Hideo Kojima was when he made this game way back in 2001 as he somehow knew how seriously some people take to things like using the Internet to brainwash people and secret cabals controlling governments today. It’s like he saw how people would think two decades ago!

Hideo Kojima also kind of breaks the fourth wall as it turns out the events that have been playing out was more like a proof of concept that anyone, in this case, Raiden, can be trained to be as good as Solid Snake. This is why a lot of the events during the Plant Chapter plays a whole lot like the events of the Shadow Moses Incident of Metal Gear Solid. Basically, what the player has been doing in playing a simulation of Metal Gear Solid! It’s very trippy but not in a good way. All of this would be okay but it’s like they try to cram all of this information into the final hours of the game. It’s a lot to absorb and sort out.

It does sound like I’m bashing Metal Gear Solid 2 a whole lot. To be frank, it’s my least favorite of all the canonical Metal Gear games. However, that doesn’t mean I hate it. It’s the opposite, actually. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is still one of the best games I played on the PlayStation 2. Sure, it can be jarring to switch from the ultra cool Solid Snake to pretty boy Raiden but they still control pretty much the same. The only real difference is Solid Snake does a forward roll while Raiden does a prissy looking cartwheel, further proving how much cooler Solid Snake is. Besides that, they’re virtually control the same.

And, oh, how tight are the controls for Metal Gear Solid 2! I mentioned that I played the Tanker Chapter for a couple of hours. But by the time I finally finished it and moved on to the Plant Chapter, the controls felt like second nature to me. I was doing all sorts of crazy things to go through the Plant Chapter, like sniping people in the head from distances away with my tiny little tranquilizer gun. I actually got so good at it, I would clear entire catwalks without having to sneak around!

I do recall the boss fights not coming off as all that fun, though. If the game was aping Metal Gear Solid, they sure didn’t do a good job in recruiting how good the boss fights there! I did like the extra challenge you can give yourself by trying to subdue them instead of killing them, which is what I did. However, some of the bosses, like the roller-skating, bomb-deploying Fatman, were just okay.

I guess, ultimately, I do have some fun memories with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The only real travesty is it just wasn’t as good as the first Metal Gear Solid for me. It may be a mixture of me setting too high expectations for it, an incredibly convoluted story and somewhat lackluster bosses. However, it did set up the backstory for future Metal Gear Solid games, such as the entire Patriots thing, which would become integral to its overarching history. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is still incredibly good in my mind. Just not as good as it should have been.

What do you think of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty? What about Hideo Kojima switching up the main protagonist to Raiden? Let me know in the comment section below!

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