Over the last weekend I completed Metal Gear Solid 2, properly, for the first time. I say properly, but I actually did it in Easy mode. It was fine, I think I definitely could have pushed it up to Normal or even Hard without a whole lot more effort. Knowing the Metal Gear series however, Iím sometimes loathe to interrupt to beautiful cutscenes and conversations with unnecessary Ďactioní or Ďgameplayí.
I suppose itís worth mentioning that Iíve finished both Metal Gear Solid and MGS3 multiple times before, but for some reason avoided MGS2 until now. Itís probably to do with coming back to what in many ways feels like an archaic control scheme now after having played more modern games. It also probably has a lot to do with what I had heard about the story of MGS2: convoluted, confusing and overly ambitious. The storyline for the first MGS was just about right, with the right amount of twists and humour, and I felt much the same way about MGS3. MGS2 however just sounded too postmodern for itís own good, so I avoided it.
And I was probably right. The first tanker mission is great, itís straightforward and breathes the memory of Shadow Moses in a very tangible way. It has some great back and forth between Snake and Oticon, and the perfect amount of stealth. However, it all goes a little bit south once Raiden is introduced.
Donít get me wrong, I actually like Raiden, and to a certain extent I like the twist that (SPOILER ALERT) in many ways the mission he is on is a way to test the theory that under the right situations, anyone can become Solid Snake. I love how the mission very purposefully echoes the Shadow Moses incident, and the feeling that so much is being kept from you throughout the game.
What I didnít like was Raidenís constant whining and long, boring and drawn out conversations with his girlfriend. By the way, are we talking to an AI simulation of her all the way through, or some of the way through? This is one element of the plot that still fries my head.
The gameplay is very much standard MGS fare. Avoid the sight field of the guards, use tricks to distract and hide from them (thereís no shortage of cardboard boxes, though I didnít actually use any of them), and rethread old ground and locations with new and upgraded key cards. Itís all a little Metroidvania, and to be honest, I think that this is an area where the game letís itself down. Thereís only so many times you can run through the same room without getting bored of it.
The boss fights are pretty decent. Obviously the Vamp fights are a highlight, while Fatman is too easy, and we simply donít see enough of Fortune for us to care about her. The final boss fights, with the Metal Gear Rayís and Solidus are however a bloody mess. Solidus is a wimp. Yes, I know it was on Easy mode, but he is a wimp. I was expecting so much more from one of the sons of the boss.
Overall, Iíd give the game about a 7/10. I think itís an amazing exploration of the postmodern in gaming, and a really good gameplay sequel to MGS, however the story and constant rethreading of old locations is a real sore point.