Saturday, December 8

Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance Review

Available on: PS2, Xbox, PC
The price I paid: £5 (CEX)
I played on: PS2
Notes: I’ve reviewed the standard edition of this game here

Subsistence is the collector’s edition of Metal Gear Solid 2: The Sons of Liberty. This version comes with lots of extras. This includes a bonus mode which allows Snake and Raiden to ride around the Big Shell pulling tricks on skateboards. Missions that allow players to take on simple extra missions with a number of characters including the Cyborg Ninja. The oddest mode, however, is Snake Tales which sees Solid Snake take on a number of strange missions around both the tanker and Big Shell. My personal favourite of these being a mission where you have to photograph and then take on a giant enemy soldier monster. While these are fun they lack any cutscenes as well as voice acting leaving all the plot to be delivered by a wall of text. This is not the most fun to read and does dampen the experience somewhat.

The skateboarding mode is plenty of fun feeling similar to the early Tony Hawk games. Pulling off tricks and hunting down collectables is a blast but the experience is not as deep as the games it’s inspired by. Still, I have to admit I find myself coming back to this mode more than the other modes included in the Subsistence edition. The missions mode is fun and offers bite-sized gameplay for the gamer hungry for that tactical espionage action with less of the plot. This feels very similar to the VR missions add-on for the original Metal Gear Solid.

Let’s move away from the extras included in the Subsistence edition and look at the main Metal Gear Solid 2 game. The story of Metal Gear Solid 2 picks up after the events of Metal Gear Solid 1. Playable character Solid Snake from the first game stars in the first chapter but is quickly moved into the background for most the experience. Newcomer Raiden stars as the lead for most of this story and some people don’t like this shift in focus. Honestly, I like Raiden and think the change in character allows us to see Solid Snake from a new and interesting perspective. Even forgetting about Solid Snake, however, Raiden has an interesting character. As an ex-child soldier, he suffers from a lot of repressed memories and PTSD. Metal Gear Solid has never been afraid to tackle controversial issues and the subject of child soldiers is something most media won’t touch. Here we not only get to talk about it but we get to see the effects it has on a person in their later life and it’s handled well in Raiden. This is why even before he became the over-the-top ninja he would become in later games I still loved him. If he had only appeared in Metal Gear Solid 2 and nothing else Raiden would still be one of my favourite characters throughout the series.

The plot of this game gets very confusing from about halfway through. I personally find the story interesting but poorly executed as most of the more complex and important moments are told through the codec screen. I found myself getting bored just watching two faces talk to each other and wished the plot could have been simpler or the delivery method better. When it comes down to it Metal Gear Solid 2 is one of the most important games in the canon series as it introduces not just the Patriots but the concept of AIs. This is why it’s a shame when this information is presented in an overly complex manner. Nothing is said simply here, it’s all over-explained making the whole thing hard to understand on a first or even second playthrough. There is no getting away from the fact that this plot is amazing but the method in which is relayed to the player is anything but. Before you call me out stating that I just don’t understand the ways in which this game is mirroring the first Metal Gear Solid not just with the S3 plan but with the player as well just know that I do. All I am saying is that this meta-narrative gets in the way of the wider Metal Gear plot. This could have worked if not for the missing scene and cut content due to the 9/11 attacks happening just a few months before release. As it stands the narrative is not easy to follow and I’ve had to play this game many times to understand all the details. Less obsessive people would be put off by this complexity and that’s a shame because this game and series are brilliant.

I’ve said this before in my Metal Gear Solid 4 review but I do love Otacon. He is a male character in a popular action game that wears his emotions on his sleeve, openly cries and is never belittled or mocked for it. The scene in this game when Solid Snake sees his best friend in distress and just does this geeky secret handshake before hugging him is amazing. This single moment shows more emotion than most male characters are allowed to show over an entire series in the gaming industry and I love Otacon for this. He is a tragic and loving character and will always be one of my personal favourites in gaming.

While the delivery method of the plot lacks polish and refinement the moments when you’re in control of the action are near perfect. The gameplay is similar to the first Metal Gear Solid, you have to sneak around enemies without being detected. You start the game with no equipment but shortly find yourself gaining access to a bunch of different gadgets and weapons. I love the addition of first-person shooting and aiming as it really gives you control over your actions and is the single biggest improvement to the gameplay. The action although being mostly the same as MGS1 does feel a bit more fluid and natural. You can tell that a lot of time went into taking the basic idea from the first 3 games and refining it until it has a level of polish most games lack even today. The attention to detail here is just jaw dropping at moments. You’re able to shoot individual bottles off a bar shelf in the tanker section, see the knives a boss throws at you stick into the walls they hit and remain there. Each shot you fire will leave a bullet casing on the floor and more. Honestly, this game is nothing short of groundbreaking when it comes to visual presentation.

I love Metal Gear Solid 2 as it introduced Raiden into the series and as previously mentioned he’s one of my favourite characters in the series. That being said however the game is far from flawless. I found the fixed camera locations to be annoying at times and the placement of enemies to be poorly thought out. There is one section where a guard is overlooking the entire bridge area and unless you have chaff or stun grenades on you it’s impossible to get past without being spotted. While not that bad for most players when you’re trying for a speed run or perfect stealth run things like this really start to hinder the game. When I first reviewed this game on my previous blog back in August of 2016 I gave it a 6 out of 10. When you take in to account all the extra modes and the behind the scenes disc which is very interesting this is an outstanding game even with its flaws. The extra content make it a much better expirence overall than the base game.

Recommendation Rating: 8 out of 10.

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