The return of Solid Snake? Say it isn’t so! One of the most intriguing games of the Playstation era has now come to the Playstation 2. Full of conspiracy and plot twists, Metal Gear Solid was the continuation of a long running series as a new, more storyline driven action adventure game. Metal Gear Solid 2 continues on this style and brings a whole new meaning to conspiracy theory.
MGS2 is basically broken down into two separate episodes. The first is a shorter one that continues the story of Solid Snake as he and Octacon return as a small anti-Metal Gear outfit that has been tipped off to a new Metal Gear being shipped on a tanker to a destination unknown. This short episode allows the veterans of MGS1 to familiarize themselves with the minor changes to the controls in MGS2 and to give newbies a feel for the game. This also sets the stage for the new Metal Gear and the conspiracies surrounding it.
The second episode introduces a new character, Raiden, and the newly restarted FOXHOUND team. Throughout the rest of the game, you play as Raiden and will cross paths with Solid Snake numerous times in your journeys through the depths of the Big Shell. Upon reaching the Big Shell, where all of the second episode will take place, you get a little bit of a training session to get you familiar with the controls. I don’t really understand why they waited until the second episode to do a tutorial since the controls for Raiden are nearly identical to Solid Snake (the only real difference is Solid Snake does a somersault dive and Raiden does a cartwheel flip). Raiden starts out armed only with a tranquilizer pistol (which, even as weak as it sounds, is probably the most utilized gun in the game) and his operation is to free hostages from the terrorists that have taken over the Big Shell (the Big Shell is an offshore toxic cleanup plant). Like MGS1, your original objectives only last so long and your mission promptly changes from rescuing hostages to removal of explosives from all over the ship.
If anyone thought that the conspiracies and cover-ups of the first MGS1 were confusing, welcome to the even more convoluted world of unanswered questions, plot twists, and betrayals of MGS2. Throughout the game, the phrases “You never asked” and “We told only what you needed to know” will become commonplace among the lies and deceptions told throughout the game. MGS1 made trust a very difficult concept. Each side seems to have members siding with other factions as knowledge about Metal Gear and Big Shell come out.
This game is a fantastic mix of cutscene storytelling and secretive action. Covert operations are once again the centerpiece of gameplay. Silenced weapons and the ability to hide from the enemy are keys to survival. The controls are well done, especially for the number of them. Every button on the PS2 controller is well utilized. Peaking around corners allows camera changes and the targeting is also a matter of holding multiple buttons and directional controls. This is one of the first games that I’ve played on PS2 that really makes good use of the analog buttons found on PS2. The harder you press the buttons, the more abruptly you’ll move. It’s usually a better course of action to gently lean out from behind cover to prevent from bumping into something and causing noise. While MGS2 is certainly not overly realistic, the sneaking and hiding give it a realistic feel and help involve the gamer in the story.
Much of the story is told through cutscenes and as there’s quite a bit of storyline, there’s quite a bit of cutscenes. It seems as if a quarter to a third of the game is cutscene. To me, this makes MGS2 almost a movie that you have control over. While these interludes can get a little long at times, they’re quite entertaining and allow the plot to unfold in a way that keeps you wanting to play more and uncover the next big piece of the puzzle.
Overall, Metal Gear Solid 2 is a testosterone soaked soap opera. With a storyline that will keep you deciding who to trust and what really is going on right up until the end, it’s a great bit of entertainment. It’s not a particularly long game though, most of what slows you down is the tedious action of cat and mouse you play with the enemy, spending a lot of time hiding or running away instead of getting to business on objectives. This really doesn’t take away from the game though, its more of an interesting way of getting the gamer involved by keeping them on their toes. For veterans of MGS1 (or the even older MG1 and MG2), a lot of questions will be cleared up and a lot of new ones will be created. I, myself, am already pondering the questions that remain unanswered and could be explained in a yet unannounced sequel. MGS3 anyone? I’m definitely ready and waiting.