Developers: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan
Plot: A terrorist cell, claiming to be led by Solid Snake, captures the President and takes over a mysterious stronghold in the ocean.
Metal Gear Solid is an easy game to take for granted. It is one of those games we look back with fondness, one of the first Playstation games to get the gaming genre just right. With an intricate story and three-dimensional characters, Hideo Kojima seemed miles ahead of the gaming industry. However, the issue with being ahead of your time, is that in a modern age, looking back on gaming history, it can be easy to overlook just how vital Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was. A fresh lick of paint in the HD remasters have helped, but the real charms of the game were there with the original too. The gameplay still sticks to that stealth over action style, preferring for the player to sneak through the ranks rather than trying to take on the guards in the campaign mode. This is encouraged by extreme difficulties where the player loses the game if they are so much as spotted, let alone caught. However, there are also bonus points awarded for making your way throughout the game without killing a single enemy outside of the boss fights, sticking to your tranquilliser gun over the more impressive weapons and patiently allowing a patrolling guard to leave a room, rather than mowing him down on first sight. It makes for Metal Gear Solid to be a very patience-testing yet rewarding game that truly tests a gamer. There are neat features present too, like the ability to steal dog tags from the enemies by holding them at gun-points or a wider range of tactics. You can shoot an enemy’s radio out to avoid him calling for back-up before making your attack or stashing corpses in hiding places. However, as well as you getting more skills, the bad guys have got smarter as well. They work as an unit, so when you are spotted, they actively work together to track you down, covering the exits, flanking your position or routinely checking all of the hiding spots they are aware of. The environment is also a threat, with cold weather causing an untimely sneezing fit and creaky floors that can rumble your sneaking through a crowded room. All of these little tweaks of genius are lost in the modern age, as enemy AI has been improved tenfold with blockbuster games like Battlefield and Alien Isolation. But back then, they were outstanding, which is something that we shouldn’t take away from Kojima’s breakthrough gaming series.
But of course, the power that has stayed with us all of these years is the story, one of Kojima’s strong points. He has a refreshing knack for treating his games like movies, intent on crafting a thought-provoking piece that comes across as timeless. Very rarely do we look back on an early Playstation game without being subjected to Resident Evil levels of cheesiness. MGS has cemented itself into gaming history with its use of a powerful narrative. The original game shot itself in the foot by having too much story, reams of pointless dialogue that was desperate to earn respect. Sons of Liberty is better, but there is still a tad too much narrative to wade through. The gameplay hits the pause button several times to hit half an hour worth of cut-scenes. There are frustrating cut-aways to the lead hero’s relationship with his poorly-written love interest. There is once again an epilogue that discusses identity and morality a little too heavy-handedly. The story is also desperate to be Epic, taking a routine spy thriller and hitting terrifying levels of ridicule in the final act. However, the substance is there and it does create the sense of playing a game that treats you like an adult. Coming into Sons of Liberty cold can be a jarring experience as Kojima takes every risk in the book. It would have been easy and crowd-pleasing enough to just write up another adventure where Solid Snakes takes on another terrorist cell, but Kojima’s story-telling instinct refuses to take the easy option. What we get instead is a brilliant twisting plot that shocks and surprises at every angle. The side characters are developed just as well as the leading hero, introducing a bomb disposal expert with a dark past, a list of unusual villains with intriguing back-stories and expanding characters like Otacon, bring up interesting roads to go down. If Kojima loses control in the final chapter, it doesn’t take away from what came before, a gaming story that constantly gambles and, as a result, gives us a story that hooks as well as the gameplay.
Final Verdict: New gameplay, new story: Sons of Liberty does more than give us another outing with Solid Snake, but expands the Metal Gear Solid experience.