Metal Gear Solid 2 piles on the story and sets the stage for the global enemy of everyone carrying Big Boss’ DNA.
The original Metal Gear Solid put into place a lot of cinematic and gameplay pieces that every subsequent entry refined in some way, but it also brought on oodles of excitement. Sons of Liberty, as a result, is still the highest selling title in the series with a little over 7 million units sold on PlayStation 2. As is discussed later though, not all fans came away happy with their purchases. There’s plenty to cover in this pivotal series entry, so let’s dig in with our spoiler goggles fastened tight and arise as Raiden in…
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001)
Of all the games Hideo Kojima and his team has put into circulation, this one may be the most divisive. Coming at the launch of the PlayStation 2, Sons of Liberty was an improvement over the original Solid in every sense of the word. Gameplay was chiseled out of the rough stone of the PlayStation original into an accessible, available starting point that was a graphical powerhouse full of details other games never cared to show at the time. See cubes of ice melting and seagull A.I. for examples.
One of the main leaps that Metal Gear Solid 2 made over its predecessor is first-person viewing and aiming. This brings in the idea of precision with your shots, which is encouraged with the dog tag collection mechanic, and brings in more of those intricate details (shooting the head for a quicker take down, shooting the radio etc.). An expanded arsenal is also benefited by this toggle, giving you options to satisfy your shooting comfort. Swordplay even feels adequate, although it’s intention is to serve more thematic themes rather than fill a gameplay check box.
There are two areas that seemed to split the player base over how much of an achievement this entry really was: the Raiden switch and the story. Pre-release build-up showed glamour shots and gameplay segments featuring Solid Snake, but the actual game only had the titular hero as a playable character for the tutorial level. Raiden didn’t necessarily have different controls or any other limiting factors but he also wasn’t who the public believed to be the hero of the series. The problem felt compounded, according to plenty of fan reviews, by his overall whinny tone and seeming inability to solve anything without an undercover Solid Snake’s help.
Then there’s the story, which is possibly the most present here, in terms of new concepts and never-before-heard names, out of any other entry. What’s actually happening is almost exclusively devoted to building up The Patriots: the global organization that controls every bit of the world’s actions and information. Solidus Snake, genetic duplicate to Big Boss and brother to both Solid and Liquid, is on a mission to bring down this organization by taking one of their prized computers, G.W.. It’s revealed that The Patriots planned this entire clash to bring Solidus out of hiding while pitting Raiden against the clone in a zero-sum game where killing him and helping the organization was his only option.
Because of this vast array of ability and power at The Patriots’ disposal, Metal Gear Solid 2 relates to The Phantom Pain as the beginning of the third act relates to the climax of act two. Their control is almost complete on a global scale; Major Zero has wormed and led the formless entity well into his original vision, but the system hasn’t quite run out of control yet. The one kink in their control, admitted in Sons of Liberty, has been the Big Boss bloodline with the exception of former-President Solidus. Liquid and Solid were the only variables that caused G.W. and The Patriots’ clean-up plan to fail, leaving them ever so slightly vulnerable for Guns of the Patriots.
The connection between the two entries, then, has a bittersweet tinge despite the decades between their respective events. Big Boss won’t see his vision come to pass and won’t keep his Outer Heaven sanctuary. Cipher has the world strangled in ways that aren’t even fully explored yet with his automated control of social data, and even taking down J.D. does little to nothing to slow this nearly-invincible mechanism down. Sons of Liberty ends on a somewhat sweet tone for Raiden with his lesson about identity, but the background story feels like a bitter switch from the norm made even more so by the evolution of Big Boss and the storm Metal Gear Solid V will see him weather.
Metal Gear Solid 2, despite how time seems to have shaped public opinion, stands as one of the best stealth-action games of all time with precise controls, detailed environments and vital information involving the Solid story arc. However, as much of a step-up as this title seemed to be over the original, next week will have us step that much further ahead while we fall back in time to Snake Eater: the origin of this whole sordid tale.