Let me just say one thing right off the bat: Metal Gear Solid 2 HD is a strange game. Not necessarily in a bad way, but there were several times when I was playing that I wasn’t sure if Kojima actually expected me to take it seriously. How am I supposed to react when one of the NPCs says, “You’re from the Lalilulelo?” I know it’s meant to be a gibberish term, but seriously? But I guess I can’t fault a game developer for not taking his craft too seriously.
The HD remake of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is set up as two different storylines in one game. In the first part, you play as Solid Snake. Now working for a private anti-Metal Gear organization, he infiltrates a tanker supposedly transporting a new Metal Gear down the Manhattan River. But what was supposed to be simple recon mission quickly escalates when a Russian paramilitary group takes control of the ship. The second part starts several years after the Tanker portion, when you control a rookie agent named Raiden to infiltrate an off-shore facility that’s been taken control of by terrorist who have the President hostage as well as having nuclear capabilities if their demands aren’t met.
As is indicated on the game case, Metal Gear has always been a “tactical espionage action” game. This means that stealth is key. A top-down view helps you see enemies in the area & devise ways to overcome them without resorting to a shoot out. Being spotted by the enemy can cause major problems, as they’ll call more guards in to take you out. To this end, you’ll find lots of items to help you be sneaky. This includes tranquilizer pistols, chaff grenades & the ever-comical cardboard box. But you’ll also come across items that help you wreck things, like rocket launchers & AKs.
Narrative: What can I say about the story? I had to research the previous Metal Gear games to give me the best chance of having a clue what was going on. It’s definitely interesting. It’s full of unique characters. Snake & Otacon are always fun to watch, & it probably has some of the most well-rounded villains I’ve seen in a game. I like it when the bad guys are just “evil” for the sake of being evil. And it’s a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream. But towards the end it really starts to lose me. Especially the cutscene before the final boss fight. Everything up until then made sense, even if it was a bit convoluted, but the final chat with the Patriots made my head hurt. I got it, but I’ve just never really gotten behind the idea of Illuminati-style secret societies. But the game does tackle a lot of relevant topics. It touches on things like cloning, the effects of social media on society, censorship by the government & free will. The game also has a sense of humor sometimes, with lots of hidden easter eggs. And then there are the cutscenes… I used to think people exaggerated when they talked about Kojima’s mega-long cutscenes, but now I know better. I don’t necessarily mind the cutscenes, but they do get a bit excessive towards the end. In the last big scene my controller turned itself off twice. I honestly started getting up & doing squats during the cutscenes. And the nagging girlfriend… It’s too much! And that’s coming from a woman! I kept thinking, I’m on a dangerous mission where I could be killed & you want to yell at me for forgetting a date? But the small headaches don’t really take away from what was overall a very interesting story. Also, naked Raiden. Score: 4
Mechanics: MGS2 has some complicated controls, which normally I wouldn’t have a problem with except they don’t explain anything in the beginning. Why do they wait until the Plant chapter to give a tutorial for the controls when you start in the Tanker? I get that narratively speaking it makes sense, as Snake would know the “controls” while they rookie wouldn’t. But I don’t know the controls. And the VR tutorial is useless. Also, while the controls work great for stealth, they’re not really suited for the action sections. The main problem is you can’t be in first-person & move, which makes some of the boss fights a pain. But it’s not all bad. The boss fights all require a different strategy, & actually have different ways to handle them. You also have wide variety of objectives during the game. One time you’ll be using a radar to hunt down bombs to freeze, then you’ll be impersonating an enemy soldier & using a listening device to heart which hostage has a pacemaker, then you’re sniping at drones while an NPC traverses a floating bridge. Also, while the game space is pretty open, it does a good job of letting you know where you need to go next. So minor control issues aside, it works well. Score: 4
Aesthetics: I wouldn’t say the game’s pretty, per say, as you’ll spend most of your time inside ships. But the characters are nicely detailed & animated. And the rooms have different layouts so you won’t get lost. I didn’t really notice the music that much, so I’d say it’s average (not bad but not memorable). The voice acting was good, though, with a few exceptions. Cam Clarke as Liquid Snake is wondrously hammy in the few scenes he’s in, but if you’ve played MGS you were expecting that. Score: 3
Replay Value: The various easter eggs, secrets & unlockable content put the replay value pretty high. They mostly just give you extra items or abilities (like infinite ammo) without changing the game itself. But there are also bonus stages to complete. Score: 5
Overall Score: 4
Final Word: Despite some obscenely long cutscenes & confusing conspiracies, Metal Gear Solid 2 HD was a fun game. I’d recommend every gamer at least check it out, but if it’s your first taste of the Metal Gear series I’d recommend reading up on the previous games to avoid some confusion.
Title: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD
Console: PS2, XBox, PC (original), PS3, 360, PS Vita (HD)
Developers: KCEJ, BluePoint Games
Release Date: November 8, 2011