Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – Kojima Productions – PS2, PS3, PSVita, Xbox, 360 – 2001
Throughout the months I have been writing the posts in my biggest Best Of list to date there have been a few phrases I have used to describe multiple games. I have said that certain titles are perfect in their genre, or define what is great about the series. Most of these statements come from the journalist in me, someone who has been reviewing games for the past 5 years and has to take a step back and see just how ‘good’ these experiences actually are. As we headed towards the final two games though, the only thing I could think about was how these final two entries don’t reflect that way of thinking at all. If nothing else, the last two games in this list are here on a completely personal level, my own experience and adoration for these games going way past the usual measures of the quality of a game. Instead they are things in my life that from somewhere deep within me I just know haven’t been bettered. Both are not the typical choices from their respective series, but this is my list, and I couldn’t complete it any other way.
I have completed Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty more times than any other game on this list. Counting the time I’ve played the original, Substance edition and the HD PS3 version I must have played it from start to finish upwards close to 20 times. When most of the games on this list have been completed just the once this is a ridiculous amount of time spent with such a narrative driven game, but I know my next playthrough is just a few months away. For the last 10 years of my life MGS2 has been there and though it sounds quite sad to refer to Snake, Otacon and Raiden as some of my most dependable friends, I can’t find another way to describe it.
The orignal Metal Gear Solid was mad, but could still be taken serious enough for casual fans to appreciate it. MGS2 took the ridiculous to an all time high, with a narrative that made little sense until explanations in 2008’s Guns of The Patriots. It’s full of deception, quadruple crossing, political drama, secret organisations and enough fake ‘truths’ to make a fan of Lost feel helpless. The first time through Sons of Liberty you literally have no idea what is really happening, the fact that it takes 3 different conflicting explanations of the events in the final few cutscenes shows how complicated the plot becomes. There are complicated ideas going on though, the concept of a set of AI’s that run America with the ‘elected’ President merely a pawn in their game is amazing and would form the majority of the story in MGS4. The Patriots are one of the greatest creations by Hideo Kojima, a videogame designer who consistently defies expectations and makes the games that he knows will leave the biggest lasting impression.
And the most obvious example of this in Metal Gear Solid 2? Trailer after trailer was released prior to the release of the game and every one featured Solid Snake in a starring role. Fans didn’t know that an hour into Sons of Liberty they would lose control of their hero and play as newcomer Raiden, a bait and switch that no other game has managed so perfectly. Suddenly you are a rookie soldier with flowing blonde hair and a soppy Titanic based love story over the codec, far from the grunts of Snake and his signature mullet.
Many fans were devastated that they had to go back to square one at the start of the Tanker chapter, the codec conversations ‘teaching’ you the controls all over again ending up as a plot device once the credits rolled around 6 hours later. There has never been anything like it before, and I personally love my time playing as Raiden. He may not have become a badass ninja until the the sequel 7 years later, but it allows you to see Otacon, Ocelot and most importantly Snake from a completely different perspective. You see how Snake is struggling to come to terms with his ‘role’ in life, his twin clone brother now appearing to occupy a space in Ocelot’s mind, which allows him to become a much more well rounded character. The risk payed off in spades, one of the many reasons I feel that MGS2 is the best entry in the series.
Outside of the bonkers story and cast, Sons of Liberty is the most straightforward game of the three sequels. In terms of gameplay this has none of the camouflage or stamina indicators seen in 3 and 4, but it does have something left out of both of those games. I prefer my Metal Gear games with a radar, because it allows me to actually sneak when I would usually run in guns blazing. In MGS4 especially I found it near impossible to use stealth effectively, not because I am a bad player, it was just easier to shoot my way through situations. Here you don’t have that luxury, and my experience is all the better for it. Peering around corners, waiting out an alarm in a cardboard box, hiding the bodies of tranquillised guards in lockers, it’s the simple pleasures that define MGS2. I feel like the confident, skilled and well trained operative I should do when playing Sons of Liberty; I feel at home.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is a confusing, often repetitive, short and chaotic experience. And every single one of those things becomes a positive as soon as the game boots up. There are so many things that the other games in the series do more proficiently, and yet MGS2 is the one I continue to return to. As a series, Metal Gear is undoubtedly my favourite in any field, whether that be films, books or games. This marked the high point in my favourite saga and I can see myself in 10 more years sneaking around the Big Shell still. Sons of Liberty is an incredible experience, and there’s only one game worthy of beating it on my list.
How can I play it? – The PS2 original is easy to find preowned, the Substance version less so. You’d be better off picking up the HD Collection on PS3, 360 and more recently Vita to get this along with 3 and Peace Walker. Just make sure you own it somehow.