If you listen to The Bitcast (thank you, if you answered ‘yes’. If you answered ‘no’, then by all means follow the link!), you’ll know that Sam, Editor and Big Boss (suitably fitting nickname) for The Bit, challenged me to complete the Metal Gear series within the months of Summer. So, on June 21st, I started my very first playthrough. Beginning with Metal Gear Solid 1, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the series as I go on, hopefully having finished by the last day of Summer.
If you fancy reading my thoughts on the first Metal Gear Solid, click here.
I won’t dwell on the switch between protagonists, everyone has their own opinions on that, but I’ll come right out and say it, I like Raiden. Yes, he’s oh-so-whiny, and no, he is most definitely not Snake, but he has something endearing about him. Maybe, because I enjoyed Metal Gear Rising, my opinion is swayed, but I never outwardly hated playing as him. A few people I’ve talked to, when speaking about Sons of Liberty, started with ‘Goddamn Raiden man.’ Needless to say, my expectations were super low going in to the game. But, yep, like the guy.
Or perhaps I’m just wrong?
Anyway. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. My second game completion in as many weeks (I, too, am surprised). Two years after the Shadow Moses Incident, I was thrown back into Snakes’ shoes as he infiltrated a tanker that is transporting a new kind of Metal Gear. Russians, led by Colonel Gurlukovich, attack, Ocelot returns (now with Liquid’s arm replacing his severed one) to steal Metal Gear RAY and Snake, now working with Otacon as part of ‘Philanthropy’, is seemingly killed in the aftermath.
Playing that first mission, immediately it was apparent how different this game was going to play. Shooting was no longer limited to ‘hold down Square to fire’. Instead, a First Person View was introduced, giving a whole new spin on the action. Mechanics such as hanging from ledges, and shooting out enemies’ radios in order to separate them from their team, allowed me to feel much more powerful than before and provided me with so many different options to choose from when I entered a room full of guards.
The game is completely different to Metal Gear Solid, but exactly the same. Yep, I really did type that. Even though I went straight into this on the back of the previous game, I appreciated the call backs to their full extent, and I can only dream of the excitement everyone had when, after three years of waiting for a new Metal Gear game, they walked into that room and saw the Raven shadow on the wall. So good.
Sons of Liberty is, however, vastly different where story is concerned. Metal Gear Solid was very much a story of setting out to stop the villains from taking over and wreaking havoc. The story here deals with such heavy subjects that at some points I forgot I was playing a stealth action game. The plot deals with political conspiracies, social engineering and even sociological topics, to name but a few. Many critics upon release called it the ‘first post modern video game’ and they would be correct. We even get a taste of Kojima’s much-discussed taboo subjects, he has said that The Phantom Pain would deal with many of these and was worried ‘it wouldn’t be allowed a release’, with Sons of Liberty exploring the topics of incest (lightly) and child soldiers (heavily, within the second half).
It also had moments of pure ‘What the….what exactly am I playing’ too;
Something that has immediately become one of my favourite aspects of this series, is the characters. Metal Gear Solid’s roster threw out some amazing personalities; from the truly awesome Cyborg Ninja, to the Gatling Gun-weilding Raven, they all stick with you long after the game has ended. Metal Gear Solid 2 is no different, with Vamp and Solidus Snake two of my personal highlights this time round. But my stand out character for this game (it was almost Olga as Cyborg, just because) has to be Ocelot. Man, he’s so evil. When he turns back up in the second half of the game, watching the monitors, everything starts coming together. The stuff with Liquid’s arm and his consciousness within Ocelot really gave me that ‘OH DAMN’ feeling that I love to have when playing games, something that has been sorely missed among the many FPS’s and Explosion 67 Games recently.
This game also shone a new light on Otacon. Once his sister was introduced, and *that* was revealed, the character changed for me instantly. Suddenly we have this guy, someone who we had formed a bond with over the past two games, who has this dark (and disturbing) past. The characters in this series are characters who have real gravitas, stories you want to know more about. It’s something I look forward to finding out as I go along.
Maybe it’s just me getting used to how these games play, but I didn’t find the boss fights as challenging this time over. I never ran into the same trouble I had when trying to take down Metal Gear REX. The only time I got remotely stuck was during the Naked Raiden segment, trying to get past the Tengu Guards. I could not do it. Out of the fights though, Fatman and Solidus stole the show for me. Fatman’s fight was just a lot of fun. It was fast paced, which seems a weird thing to single out in a predominantly stealth orientated game, but it gave a good dose of variety to the proceedings. Solidus’ was a sword fight in Wall Street. Yes.
I was able to speak about the graphical quaility of the first game fairly easily last time, due to the fact I was playing a straight digital port. Unfortunately, from here on in, my views on the visual side of things is void as I am now into the HD Collections. What I can say though, is that as an HD port, this game was beautiful. The sequence of Raiden and Emma climbing down the ladder set against the backdrop of a sunset was breathtaking and I can only imagine the reaction it received when it debuted on PS2.
Overall, Sons of Liberty didn’t quite top Metal Gear Solid for me. It may have just been the novelty of my starting of the series, and the retro aspect, but MGS just had something about it that seems untouchable. Don’t get me wrong, Metal Gear Solid 2 is wonderful. It’s certainly got more to it as a video game.
Alas, there’s simply too much to talk about in this one article. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty did a lot for me in terms of my growing admiration for the series. It showed me how much there is to these games, these characters and how I can’t go into any of these games expecting a similar experience to the one I just had.
Snake Eater is calling for me, and from what I hear, I’m in for one hell of a ride.