Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty for Playstation 2 – What a game

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty for Playstation 2 – What a game

There is very little I could tell you about Metal Gear Solid 2 without including spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

MGS 2 Box Cover Art Work

Hideo Kojima, the brains behind this game is a genius. Look at the back of the box art for this game, it includes screen shots with Solid Snake in them. On the front of the box we have a bad ass potrait of Snake too. Everything is geared to make you believe that you are going into this game as the hero protagonist of the previous installment, your character is even referred to as ‘Snake’ during the first few minutes of the opening movie. The aquatic suit mask and respirator hide the true identity of the main character, even after you’re told that your codename is being changed from Snake to Raiden for this mission. And then comes the big reveal: you’re not playing as Solid Snake at all, you’re a rookie by the name of Jack.

The greatest bluff in video games?

The greatest bluff in video games?

The rest of the game is surprise after surprise, I’ve never seen so many plot twists and double-crosses in a game in my life. The storyline is complicated to say the least, and draws heavily from Hollywood movies of the 80s and 90s. This is combined with a charm and sense of surreal humour that you would normally find in JRPGs. Metal Gear Solid 2 will have you single-handedly taking down a mysterious foreign organisation, and along the way you will be urinated on, pooped on by seaguls, have your balls groped by the President of America and fight a Harrier Jump-Jet as a boss battle. This game fuses the two traditions of heroic Hollywood storylines and Japanese video game charm. In fact, the cutscene sections are often so long that it would be fairly accurate to describe MGS 2 as more of video game-movie hybrid.

Just a quick note about this game compared to Zone of the Enders, which I wrote about a few weeks ago and for which Hideo Kojima was producer. Dispite these two games being worlds apart in terms of quality, there is one thing common to both of them: awesome boss fights. Metal Gear Solid 2 and Zone of the Enders do boss fights like how they should be done: frustrating, gruelling battles of wits and timing. From the aformentioned Harrier, to Fatman, Vamp, Solidus and the Metal Gear Rays, MGS 2 has a great line-up of infuriating bosses to get stuck in to. Also if you look closely downstairs inside Strut E you will notice the Z.O.E. insignia on some of the boxes there, a nice touch, but I feel as though that works as a metaphor for the development of the two games: MGS 2 taking centre stage, while Z.O.E. lies forgotten in a box in the basement.

Anyway, I came at Metal Gear Solid 2 as a complete novice, never having played any form of Metal Gear game before. As such, the initial impact of the switch in protagonist was somewhat lost on me. It was only after playing through the after-mission – where you actually do take control of Solid Snake – that the full significance of what they had pulled off hit me.

What had stopped me from playing this game and other games in the series before was the knowledge that I am awful at these games (the fact that I died 78 times during the main campaign on Normal mode can easily testify to my lack of ‘Tactical Espionage Action’ skills). I made the wrong assumption that MGS would be like a run of the mill shooter game: heavy on the action with little in the way of storyline. I could not have been further from the truth, and was pleasantly surprised by the depth of story and enjoyability of gameplay that I found. I became immersed in the lore of the MGS world.

Luckily for me, the game includes an entire novel explaining the backstory of MGS 2. It’s basically the storyline to the first Metal Gear Solid game told from the perspective of Natasha Romanenko – who was apparently one of the supporting characters in the first game – and it’s long. But what a brilliant and brave idea to include something like that in a game. It adds a lot to the mythology that this game works to culitvate, as I am sure the other games do too. It’s addition also meant that I did not feel excluded from some of the finer points of the plot, especially towards the end of the game. For example, whenever someone spoke about Shadow Moses, had I not read the material I would have been like “Who?”

Although still accessible as a stand-alone game, you undoubtedly get more out of it if you have some prior knowledge of the series. However, far from being an excluding factor, the game clearly wants you to know this information, it wants to include you in the world that has been built up around it.

Metal Gear Solid 2 gets a little crazy towards the end. But it does have a clear message: you are able to choose for yourself who you are, it doesn’t matter about what genes you have, or how you were brought up, you can still choose to be the best you can be. Snake was able to escape his genetics, whilst Jack was able to move beyond his uprbringing. And that is what this game does; born a Japenese video game it was brought up on a diet of Hollywood films, but it chose to try and be more than just a game, and more than just a movie, it chose to tell a great and entertaining story, to try and be the best that it can be. Obviously it is neither better than a lot of video games nor better than a lot of movies, but at least it tried.

Kind regards,

Lefthumbstick

I’m not the best at playing games that are in a series in the correct order. Did you play MGS 2 after having played the first one? Did you feel as though you were conned at all? I think that I probably would have.

Zone of the Enders for Playstation 2 – A Beautiful Ending

Zone of the Enders for Playstation 2 – A Beautiful Ending

On the face of it, Zone of the Enders for Playstation 2 seemed awesome. I was like, “So you mean I can be a robot? And I can fight other robots? And I’m in space!? I’m sold.” This enthusiasm stayed with me all through the opening montage of the game and actually increased in magnitude once I reached the title screen and heard this song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdznoXlO5s0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

I sat listening to it, not even wanting to select New Game, that’s how beautiful it was.

I should have stayed at the title screen. The opening movie was actually pretty cool, right up to the point where Leo, the main character, finds Jehuty, the robot (or Orbital Frame, to use the game’s lingo), and climbs into what I can only describe as the genital region of the robot. Why the game designers thought that it would be a good idea to make the pilot’s seat in the penis of the robot I will never know, especially considering how the main character is a young boy. But I suppose it does bring a new meaning to the word cockpit.

From there, the game rapidly declined. The attacks are limited to two defaults for each long range and close up engagements, plus two additional burst attacks. Even the addition of secondary weapons falls flat as I often found myself opting for the default attacks which were both quicker and more powerful. The enemy robots have only two types, one skinny and one fat, which means that before long the battles become very formulaic.

The basic premise of the game is that you, Leo, seek refuge in a giant robot whilst your home colony in orbit around Jupiter is attacked by more giant robots. You quickly come ot terms with the controls of the robot with the help of ADA, an artificial intelligence designed to help the pilot of Jehuty, and then spend the rest of the game trying to reunite Jehuty with its rightful owners. The ‘world map’ (it’s pretty small) consists of numerous battle environments which you need to descend into and, once there, fulfill various mission objectives.

The battle environments are mostly uninteresting and very limited. What’s worse is that you are forced to travel back to several of them in order to complete your mission objectives. The environments do not become more exciting the second time around. There were some optional S.O.S. missions that you could engage in between mission objectives, during which you are supposed to clear the environment of enemy robots who are intent upon destroying the occupied buildings there. After getting a couple of 80% fatality rates in these, I decided it would probably be better for everyone if I didn’t do those missions anymore. I think at one point Leo’s girlfriend Celvice – whom we rescue at a point early in the game from outside of a church in a scene that for some reason gave me flashbacks of Final Fantasy VII – even says “Let’s not go to the towns anymore, okay Leo”.

But I stuck with the game, traipsing back and forth between uninteresting environments looking for weapons or passcodes or whatever I needed to get me past a certain objective. I’m glad that I did though, because during the last hour or so of the game it really steps up a gear and becomes the game that I wanted it to be from the very start.

Even though the combat system is very limited, the boss battles are pretty good. There’s only a few of them, and most of them are in the final hour of the game, but once you get to them Zone of the Enders becomes very fun, very quickly. Unlike the rest of the battles, the boss battles require strategy, skill and timing. Often you are facing up against enemies many times your size with huge arrays of long range weapons. Because of this you will have to clear yourself enough space to launch off a charged attack. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but I found these battles to be very long requiring patience and testing endurance – which is what good boss battles are about, right? During these battles, I would have to find small windows of opportunity in which to chip-away at the huge health of these giant robots, before being rewarded with a lightshow as they exploded into a thousand pieces.  In the final hour or so, there are three of these boss-battles pretty much back-to-back.

Up until the final hour of the game there is very little storyline. There is some character development, but not really enough to hold your interest during the first five hours. Then, all of a sudden, the storyline of the game becomes very dramatic, and as the moral structures out of which both Leo and the main enemy Viola are laid bare the story culminates in a climatic sequence that was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed in a video game. I won’t tell you exactly what happens, but I’ll just say that both Leo and Viola have had a lot of pain in their pasts, and they have become very different people because of it. Their distinct beliefs, although equally valid, are incompatible and it is within this gap between these two systems that the drama of the story unfolds.

And then the game ends. After nothing really happening for almost the entire length of the game, loads happens all at once, and then the game ends. Strangest of all, another villain is introduced right at the very end which leads to nothing. Because of this, I was left with the feeling that this game was almost like a intro, or even a demo, to a bigger and better game. Like the choice of location for the pilot seat in Jehuty, it seems as though some wrong decisions were made in putting this game together. There is a great game in there and we glimpse it only at the very end, but the rest of the game seemed like a wasted time. For example, I would have liked to have seen more character interactions, more boss battles, and a levelling system where you can actually upgrade things, perhaps. The feeling I take away from Zone of the Enders is that it was rushed, perhaps the guys at Konami had other things to do, I see on the back of the box that some game called ‘Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty’ was released at around the same time, I wonder what that’s like?

Zone of the Enders - Case (Back)

Kind regards,

Lefthumbstick

Oh, and one final thing, is it just me or is the design for Viola’s Orbital Frame, Neith, very similar to that of Face Nemesis from Xenoblade Chronicles?
See what you think and maybe leave a reply below:
Neith - Zone of the Enders
Neith from Zone of the Enders

Face Nemesis - Xenoblade Chronicles
Face Nemesis from Xenoblade Chronicles