This is a personal retrospective of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty !General spoilers for the Metal Gear Solid franchise below!
It’s weird to think that it’s been 15 years since the release of MGS 2 here in the states, and weirder still to see how much of an effect the game has had on me in that time. For those of you who aren’t in the know with the la-li-lu-le-lo, the Metal Gear series is a long running franchise made by Konami and headed by the legendary Hideo Kojima: the visionary director who would go on to change the very landscape of the video game industry. Metal Gear is a peculiar series, as the game articulately preaches the dangers of nuclear proliferation and government censorship one minute, and the next it has players doing naked cartwheels through a secret paramilitary mech carrier and having a sick katana battle with the president of the united states on top of the federal hall building. It’s this insane story and breakneck tone shifting that has me so endeared to the series, but oddly enough, it was a mistake that brought me to find Metal Gear in the first place. See, Metal Gear Solid 2 was actually my first Metal Gear, being a Nintendo kid in my prehistoric youth, I had no real jumping on point for MGS till I picked up a used PlayStation 2 towards the end of its life cycle, and a friend had made a recommendation. Funny thing was, he had sold me on the idea of Metal Gear Solid 3, telling me about the amazing sniper boss battle, and all the kinds of tension and mind games that he experienced during. I was immediately sold, and ran to my nearest Game Crazy to pick up a copy. (Look it up, kids. R.I.P.) So, here I am: young, naive and looking to play some video games. When I go up to the counter and ask for a copy of “Metal Gear Solid for PS2”, not knowing any better. The guy then hands me MGS 2. I don’t remember at what point during the game’s opening minutes I realized this wasn’t the game I had wanted, but by the end of the Tanker chapter, I didn’t care. I was hooked. Metal Gear had opened my eyes to what games could be, and I was all for what Kojima was trying to sell me. Till this point in my life, the games I liked were all about the mindless action, grand adventure and the couch co op, with just enough story to move the plot along, or outright no story at all. Metal Gear Solid 2 was the first game that I had come across that had wanted to teach me something, and had no qualms taking the control away from you to tell its story. MGS2 has roughly 5 hours of “cutscenes” by way of the characters having conversations via fully voiced Codec conversations, or with conventional non playable bits, and this is probably my favorite aspect of Metal Gear Solid 2, though highly controversial.
Without spoiling too much for those still unacquainted to the Metal Gear Series,* the game has to do with the themes of control, and how everything from the mass public down to the very individual can be controlled, through manipulation of events and information. Picture this: a single entity has control over the internet, and they took some key pointers from how China managed public information about Tiananmen square. They have complete control of public information, and are looking to see if they can manipulate an individual to to what they want all the while maintaining the illusion that he is acting of his own free will. Now, I know us classy intellectuals, sitting high and mighty here at the tail end of 2016, know that there IS in fact an organization keeping tabs on the internet and what you do with it, but back in 2001, that was nightmarish, borderline unthinkable territory. This was Hideo Kojima’s dark look at the future, and it’s scary to think how close we have come to proving the man correct time and time again, but that’s a debate for another time. All of this conspiracy and sneaking had me gripped. As my eyes were opened by the conclusion of this masterfully told story. the credits rolled, and the sun was just making its way into my room. I had one shot marathoned Metal Gear Solid 2, completely by accident, zero kills. I distinctly remember putting down the controller, spent a few minutes just processing what just happened, then looked up everything I could on Metal Gear. I proceeded to blitz through MGS 3, then went back to MGS 1 because I had trouble tracking that sucker down. I was in love. I bought a PSP almost exclusively for Metal Gear Solid Acid** and the digital graphic novel, picked up a copy of the book and graphic novel and dove into every scrap of lore I could find. But Metal Gear sparked something more than just love for that one game, it broadened my horizons and made me realize that video games where not just brain dead shoot em ups or fighting games, that they could convey a story, inspire a new way of thinking, or shine a spotlight on an otherwise overlooked topic.
Because of Metal Gear Solid 2, I found out more about the internet than I had ever thought of it before, I’d realized the horrors of child soldiers (I will admit, this was on me. I had no idea this was a thing at the time, but I was raised by hippies, so…) and then there’s the fact that a if a massive mech spewing supercarrier blows through southern Manhattan, not a goddamn soul will talk about it ever again, for whatever reason. Seriously, Arsenal Gear ran through like 4 New York City blocks, pretty much all of Wall Street, and parked its massive ass on the Federal Building, and took out the Statue of Liberty. No one ever brings that up again, ever. Trust me, I checked. Also, Kojima meant this game (like pretty much every Metal Gear game he has made) to be the “last in the series”, so the ending of 2 does not make a whole lot of sense when put into the whole lexicon of Metal Gear, with an Inception kind of “wait, what?” vibe for the ending, but playing this game in isolation, or directly after MGS1 is the best way to enjoy it. Well gents, that’s my spiel on Metal Gear Solid 2. I HIGHLY recommend picking this up and giving it a run through, it’s an absolute head trip, and if you have played it before, play it again. The game has aged like a fine wine, with the exception of the mouth flap animations, that still looks like garbage.
Well, that’s it for me. Remember kiddos, always wear your tinfoil hat, never trust a man named after a gun AND a cat, and for fucks sake, if a nurse says she’s going to give you a syringe full of nano-machines that will boost your stamina and make you breathe underwater or some crap, just say no. Trust me.
Seriously? Nobody talks about this?
*I recommend dusting off the PlayStation 3 and picking up the Legacy Collection. It has all the major Metal Gear games plus some cool extras! 35 Bucks on Amazon! Buy it now, I’ll wait.
** I would sooner count MGS Acid 2 as a main series game than consider 5 to be canon. Metal Gear is the MSX games, Solid 1,2,3 and 4. Peace Walker is a fun distraction, but it ends on a cliffhanger that was butchered by 5, so ultimately not worth it. Also, don’t care if Revengeance is canon or not, it’s fun as shit, go play it at least twice. Ghost Babel was cool, and portable ops was… alright. Fuck Survive. Fight me.