sunnuntai 22. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 2001
Available on: PS2
Developer(s): Konami
Publisher(s): Konami
Players: 1

The production of Metal Gear Solid 2 was announced a while after the PlayStation 2’s launch, and it immediately became the most anticipated video game in the world. Although it is still criticized for its overtly ambitious, dystopian storyline and Kojima’s bold decision to replace Solid Snake with a new primary protagonist – which was a well hidden fact all the way to the game’s final release – the fact is that Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is a marvellous, cinematic stealth action experience that did its own notable part in the redefinition of the Metal Gear franchise.

Exit Snake, enter worm – but don’t pretend it’s not great

David Hayter : Solid Snake / Iroquois Pliskin, Lt. JG
Quinton Flynn : Raiden
Christopher Randolph : Hal “Otacon” Emmerich
Lara Cody : Rosemary
Vanessa Marshall : Olga Gurlukovich
Paul Eiding : Col. Roy Campbell
John Cygan : Solidus Snake
Maula Gale : Fortune
Phil LaMarr : Vamp
Barry Dennen : Fatman

In 2007, two years after the Shadow Moses incident, Solid Snake – now branded a terrorist – infiltrates a navy tanker cruising along the Hudson River on the behalf of Philanthropy, an anti-Metal Gear organization. An anonymous source has informed the organization of a whole new, amphibious Metal Gear model being stored in the tanker. Snake indeed finds Metal Gear, but the doomsday machine ends up stolen, and the tanker on the other hand ends up in the bottom of the sea. Snake’s fate remains unknown, but the blame for everyone else’s fate is placed on him.

Another two years later, a rookie operative for the reformed FOXHOUND – codenamed Raiden – is sent to infiltrate Big Shell, a facility constructed to filter the polluted waters on the New York shoreline after the tanker’s destruction. The facility has been taken over by a terrorist group comprising of unique individuals formerly in the U.S. government’s service – the Sons of Liberty. Among their several hostages is the President of the United States, who holds the keys to a full-on nuclear attack. The leader of the terrorists claims to be none other than Solid Snake. It’s going to be the longest day in Raiden’s life.

Visually, the game is outstanding. Just compare it to the first game to get a taste of the PS2’s power. There’s a huge focus on making every detail a notable part of the game, and the blood effects look simply excellent – better than in some games today. The cutscenes, the cinematic effects, plus the FMV of course, truly make you feel like you’re watching a good, philosophic sci-fi action movie. It was known in the very beginning, though, that visually this game was merely a trial of the PS2’s actual capabilities, which was proven by Metal Gear Solid 3 a few years later. The environments look a little flat, and the characters are graphically quite unrefined.

The sound is still comparable to actress Julianna Guill’s breasts: stupendous. In English, just about perfect. The music is mainly composed by none other than Harry Gregson-Williams, the brilliant man responsible for the original scores in such movies as The Rock, Armageddon, Shrek, Phone Booth and Team America: World Police. The voice acting is so good that it makes one cry. The reasons for that emotional display vary, since there are a couple of characters who I don’t personally like at all, in this particular game anyway. Let’s just blurt it out, of course I mean Raiden and Rosemary – who else? The actors certainly do their parts, but all the sugar and syrup, all the pointless flapping squeezed in between these lovebirds isn’t easy to listen to. I usually skip the random conversations between the two, until one certain part in the game in which I think Raiden becomes a little more bearable. I know what some of you are thinking, that I’m just pissed ‘cause they moved my hero Solid Snake to the sidelines on the behalf of this sissy, but I’m not – actually I’m quite pleased that Kojima kept his head and developed a whole new character for the fans of the first game(s) to take and sink in. Raiden’s a very interesting character in himself, especially after some light is shed on his past, but Snake and Meryl had a subtle, much more bearable and better romance going on than Raiden and Rose. That’s just my opinion, of course. Enough with the off-topic. I’ll sum this chapter up by saying that, um... David Hayter is king. Enough said.

It's Snake! Enjoy it while you can.
If you’re taking your first trip into the Metal Gear universe, you’re going to some far away places here. The gameplay has improved from the first game in every possible sense, and it’s also way more realistic than the first one. Yeah, yeah, the Codec conversations are longer and the longest cutscenes last for about three years, but at the very least on the first playthrough the plot will really blow you away and just following how it develops takes focus away from its long procession. I mean: how positively fucked up can a video game storyline get? I’ll bet you’ll watch and listen everything in the game on at least two more playthroughs to get everything there is to get about the plot. It’s so politically twisted, weird and nihilistic that you can’t get everything just by playing the game – you have to study it a bit – but that’s the magic of it. The futuristic cyberpunk and fantasy elements only add to the excitement and naturally, allow a lot of diverse things to be done with both the plot and gameplay. If Metal Gear Solid didn’t already do it, then Sons of Liberty created the actual Metal Gear universe, where there are no rules and absolutely everything’s possible – and it’s still all kind of realistic. Still, it’s a place no one likes to live in, it’s just great to visit as often as we fans can.

The game progresses quite interestingly: it’s divided up into two parts. We start off with Solid Snake in a rainy New York City and do the tanker mission, which takes time from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on your tactics and will to explore and collect stuff. Then, we start the main party. What you’ll probably notice first is that you can use the analog stick to move at different speeds, which makes sneaking past enemies notably easier. You can also peek behind corners to get a better look at everything going on, and hang from railings as long as your grip lasts, as indicated by a grip meter which works in the same way as your oxygen meter underwater. Yeah, there are some mandatory underwater sequences this time, quite intense ones at that. Snake and Raiden play out identically, only Raiden has a more martial arts-type of moveset.

In addition to the new physical abilities, there are also some physical ailments you might sustain, all of which have some sort of cure to them. Any kind of physical abuse will make your character bleed. The trails of blood you leave behind while moving wounded will alert enemies. The chance to catch a cold is still present after a quite vague appearance in Metal Gear Solid – I never caught one in the first game – so don’t hang around in cold places too long or your sneezing will attract unwanted attention.

One of the coolest things (arguably!) is the chance to incapacitate enemies instead of killing them, or classically beating them unconscious. If you’re a nice guy going for the best possible rank, you might want to tone down on the killing. Adding to your chances to do that is the introduction of a tranquilizer gun. If you do kill them, you have the chance of disposing of their bodies in certain areas, but either way, avoid leaving bodies lying around. If there’s something like a locker nearby, you can use it to your advantage and hide the enemy in one, whether he’s dead or sleeping off a bad day. Also, you have access to several methods of distracting enemies. You can still knock on walls, but you can also use empty ammunition clips and dirty magazines (yep) to divert their attention.

Laws of detection have changed a bit. Previously, you were caught with your hands dirty only if you were seen or heard from a close distance. Now, enemies can spot you from afar and different ground levels, however they will attack you only after confirming what they saw was right. In these cases, you should find a hiding place fast. Also, if your shadow’s at the wrong place at the wrong time, you’re bleeding all over, you’re leaving an impressive trail of dead behind you or if you even sneeze in the wrong environment, you’re likely spotted. Of course, you’ll still have to be careful about making noise, too. If you fail to meet some of the criteria needed to not be detected, you can hide in lockers and bathrooms, just to mention a few alternatives. You can still be discovered from wherever you are if the alert mode’s level is high enough, and if your hiding place is kind of obvious in common sense.

The hero of the game. Or at least the character
you'll be controlling most of the time.
Take note of the fact that when you decide to begin a new game after beating the whole thing, you can choose whether or not you want to play the tanker mission again, or go straight to the main game. Don’t think for a second that the first mission would be pointless in any way. You might want to return to the tanker to collect dog tags, which unlock stuff upon completion of the game, depending on how much you’ve collected. Dog tags are acquired by sneaking up on certain strategically placed enemies and holding them up by pointing a gun at them at close range. Some of the enemies act all tough; this situation requires you to pack some real heat instead of a tranq and shoot one of their kneecaps to shit to prove your point... YES! So, collecting dog tags IS fun, but admittedly gets a bit boring when you find you have to collect a different set on each difficulty level to get everything in the game. They didn’t quite think this through.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is not a hard game, those enthusiastic enough might even fly through it; it takes about nine and a half hours to complete, cutscene and conversation length included. What’s hard, however, is to find everything in it, and to do that, you must beat it on each difficulty level. There are four of them in the European version, and European Extreme is a motherfucker – at the very least assuming you’re going for the dog tags.

What a game... some really minor, quite irrelevant complaints aside, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was Kojima’s final ticket to heaven for video game designers. To further solidify his status as one of the top guns of his business, he returned to the franchise another three years later with an even better game, and another one years after that, but even with those masterpieces around, Sons of Liberty remains regular content in my PS2 system.

Graphics : 9.1
Sound : 9.7
Playability : 9.5
Challenge : 9.2
Overall : 9.4


GameRankings: 94.94%

The game was re-released as Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance on PC, PS2 and Xbox with new features in 2002.

Like from many games released in late 2001 – such as Grand Theft Auto III – scenes and elements were removed or replaced due to the events of 9/11.

Major storyline elements in the game were inspired by the U.S. Government shutting down Napster, and George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Hideo Kojima and his team worked on a relentless schedule to have the game finished before the end of 2001, because in the Chinese calendar, it’s the year of the snake.

The game further references 2001: A Space Odyssey, in addition to the continuing “Dave and HAL” spoof from the previous game. The tanker Snake infiltrates is named the Discovery; it’s also the name of the spaceship in the movie.

Snake’s flashy arrival on the deck of the tanker – he’s surrounded by an electric field caused by stealth malfunction – is a reference to James Cameron’s 1991 movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Commander Scott Dolph is named after Konami’s main translator. The real Scott Dolph is largely responsible for the Metal Gear franchise’s success in the United States, and he makes a voiceover cameo in the game, as one of the hostages on Big Shell.

Raiden (a.k.a. Jack) and Rosemary (a.k.a. Rose) are named after the main characters in James Cameron’s 1997 movie Titanic. The movie also influenced the cinematic design of the tanker mission.

Some of the random dialogue between Raiden and Rosemary was inspired by Hideo Kojima’s usual conversations with his wife.

The Dead Cell unit is very loosely based on Red Cell, a real-life naval team.

In early drafts of the script, Vamp was a female character. His gender was changed when the character of Fortune was created.

Peter Stillman is named after a character in Paul Auster’s novel City of Glass.

Fatman is named after the Hiroshima bomb.

The pseudonym used by Solid Snake – Iroquois Pliskin – is a reference to Snake Plissken, the main character in John Carpenter’s 1981 movie Escape from New York.

Emma’s office is decorated with posters of the games Policenauts, Metal Gear: Ghost Babel and Zone of the Enders.

When Raiden first meets Emma, she wets herself. Otacon did the same thing in Metal Gear Solid when he was threatened by the Cyborg Ninja.

Doves flying over Solidus in the end of the game is a reference to John Woo’s movies, in which a swarm of doves signals a duel.

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