Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

released on Nov 13, 2001

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is the sequel to the espionage action game Metal Gear Solid. Much of the gameplay remains the same, as the game's protagonist has to sneak past guards, outsmart them using various gadgets and defeat the tricky boss enemies. The game expanded its predecessor's cover mechanic, with Solid Snake or Raiden able to take cover behind walls or objects and pop out to shoot at enemies, while the improved enemy AI allowed enemies to also take cover from the player. Metal Gear Solid 2 is considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time, as well as a leading example of artistic expression in video games.


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This review contains spoilers

Even though it tricked people with the main character, I thought it was for the best, I love Raidens character and the huge plot twist at the end. That is some next level game stuff that is barely seen even today. One of the best games ever made, right under its sequel Metal gear solid 3

People love to say this game predicted the future and then proceed to ignore what it was trying to say about video games, people, and politics

Pretty amazing how Kojima can write such prolific stuff like the Patriots but at the same time have Liquid mind control Ocelot with his severed hand, a gay vampire run on water, and some weird step mom incest shit with Otacon be a core character plot point.
Bravo Kojimbo

MGS2 was audacious in every sense. Coming off the rollicking success of the first game, Hideo Kojima was well-aware of fan expectations and the feverish hype surrounding the title's release. The tanker chapter, a prologue of sorts to the game, was also released as a demo in the Kojima-produced Zone of the Enders. This demo promised an incredible follow-up that would build on everything that made the first game great in a traditional sort of sequel.
Traditional is not what this game was. It's not long before we learn that we won't be playing as Solid Snake through this adventure but instead as Raiden, an intentionally grating agent who is far from the perfect soldier. Raiden lacks the immediate cool charisma of Snake, and to really drive things home is story opens up with a tedious assortment of CODEC calls and tutorials for things we already proved we could know how to do by completing the tanker chapter.
Sons of Liberty is Kojima's stubborn deeper dive into postmodernism. While deconstruction of genre had been floating around the edges of his previous games, here he makes it the point of the storytelling for better or worse. The narrative is a tough pill to swallow, only getting weirder as it goes on, taking you down a sort of conspiracy rabbit hole to explore themes of control vs. free will. None of it is subtle and at times I definitely thought Kojima pushs things a bit far with this one to the point I felt less absorbed by the storytelling.
When the game isn't messing with us, we can appreciate some of the excellent mechanics that make the actual gameplay a showstopper on the PS2. Sneaking around the base is extremely fun, and enemy AI is impressively advanced for the time. The first-person aiming feels so much better than the automatic firing of the first game and you overall feel more mobile this time out.
I enjoyed playing through this one but it definitely gets a little too far up its own a-- at times. MGS2 is probably my least favorite of the mainline series but is bolstered by excellent gameplay and at the very least I was never bored.

Metal Gear Solid showed that when given the chance, the powers that be will prefer to keep you as a pawn until you outstrip your usefulness. It was a story where the main character found himself manipulated by all sides, fighting for no cause whatsoever, and he ultimately reached the other side a liberated man.
So, Metal Gear Solid 2 starts us with a man being blatantly manipulated from all sides, who is sick of the vagueness of his orders from the very early phases of the mission, and only receives orders that parrot the people he was told "Aren't part of the simulation" or ones that feel a little two NWO for Jack's tastes.
The ultimate reveal of Metal Gear Solid 2 is not that you were being manipulated again- that much is obvious. Everyone in the story acknowledges it, and it's never raised as a point against Jack. The reveal is that the antagonists were being manipulated as well, and the true antagonists were never there in the first place.
The elusive Patriots, controlling all aspects of the mission and dictating how the mission will go through various men on the inside are just a phantom. The post-credits codec call isn't a hook, it's the answer. The Patriots were dead, what is left is what they passed on, their memetic legacy that formed in the White House since its inception. All they are is a series of AIs that send out orders, ensuring an automated system of constant control is maintained, but the cracks are even starting to show here.
In the final confrontation between Jack and Solidus, a confrontation of two men molded by the Patriots AI (as a point of contrast to the "embarrassment from the 70s" that were Solid and Liquid), the AI is almost desperate in its attempts to appeal to Jack's pathos. Reminding him of Rose, who it has also tried to convince him is fake, destroying his life and trying to build it back up with ideas of saving Olga's child, they create a complete mess of Jack's mind in a way similar to what the player will feel when watching their 15 minute long spiel of contradictory information repeated ad nauseum.
Jack throwing his identity away at the end is a sign of throwing away that control that the Patriots had. He was molded by artificial values and made to feel ashamed of a past he never tries to remember, so his solution is to walk a different path from Snake. While Snake took his experiences and went on to form Philanthropy, an attempt to find meaning for himself, Jack throws away those experiences and personality. Upon meeting with Rose in the finale, his actions aren't to dodge her romantic pursuits like in the codec calls throughout the game, but to instead confront the looming issue of marriage, and how his former self, how "Raiden", could never imagine that idea.
The conclusion of the game is only the tip though. A lot of the ideas I mentioned are the base text, told to you by the characters or the Patriots AI. A few things to clear up would be that everything that happened was real though. There was no VR simulation, we just see a cleanup crew pop in to assess Arsenal's damage to New York while people go on with their day. It's cheap, but that's because the original ending was scrapped late into development due to the incident that happened earlier in the year.
To move on from that though, the game raises some interesting ideas. The parallels to MGS1 are this very clear surface level text, but the point of the game is not to show us the similarities, but instead for the player to notice the differences. Shadow Moses was an isolated island, a piece of land created by nature, with a facility that nature is constantly reclaiming through the snow or that forces the player to wander through nature's hallways, caves. Compare to the Plant, a completely man made "island", one that is almost entirely this sterile orange colour, an "island" where you'll never encounter rain or snow, let alone vegetation growing out of the floor. Where Metal Gear Solid was the "Gene", the natural idea of passing the torch, 2 is the "Meme", the uniquely human way of passing it down, and this contrast is shown in the environments.
How about the mysterious ninja? In the original Japanese, he uses Grey Fox voice clips instead of just Olga's voice through a modifier, using a "Meme" of the Deepthroat of Shadow Moses. The opening of Metal Gear Solid 2, the self-indulgent Tanker chapter, also cashes in on this meme idea. Lines from the first game will repeat themselves, Ocelot repeating Liquid regarding how much he cares for Russia, and Ocelot (fully as Liquid) repeats a line from Grey Fox, "You haven't aged well?"
Nuances like these, which add to a full reading of the duology that is Metal Gear Solid 1 and 2 are lost with a dub only localization, that also has two different translators (and a second one that is significantly less likely to be fluent). Metal Gear Solid 2 actively preys on familiarity with 1, expecting the average player to immediately catch onto what's going on, before pulling the rug out from under them with the game itself breaking down under the tremendous weight of recreating Shadow Moses.
To end another rather rambly series of notes, I'd like to highlight the 3 novellas you receive in the game, which convey the information age ideas of the title. You essentially read an interpretation of an interpretation of an interpretation, to unlock an interpretation of an interpretation. Even the original file itself is just Nastasha interpreting (sick of this word yet?) the events of Shadow Moses and her relationship with Richard Ames, and this document highlights how flimsy loyalty to the Patriots really is for a lot of these people.
At the end of the game, I found myself seeing the Patriots as a washed up group, desperately clinging to some semblance of control that they were losing as the game kept going. Everyone in their employ appears to be there unwillingly or due to their own lack of knowledge, and the sole committed member, Revolver Ocelot, has been compromised. It's a rather optimistic note to end on, that these people controlling society can't wrestle their hands around the throat of an information age much longer. They've resorted to their own subjects, trying to influence them to filter the information and only accept the Patriot approved truths, but Snake gives Raiden the words needed to see past that.
"Find the meaning behind the words, then decide."
Oddly, this game doesn't follow on from 1's anti-nuke critique with a similar series of endcards. Perhaps the information age itself is the "nuke" of this new and unfolding world, and we should be wary of the consequences of letting people decide what information is important for us.