Backloggery Game Club – Metal Gear Solid 2

[The Backloggery Game Club selection for November 2012 was Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the 2001 sequel to the PS1 classic.  It’s a well-received game and a great sequel, though certain aspects (or rather, characters) make fans a little less than happy with it.
I myself played the original Metal Gear Solid 2 back in 2006, and while I was terrible at it, I found it quite the enjoyable experience, even if the story got a little incomprehensible near the end.  Now, over six years later, I’m tackling the game again, hoping to remember plot intricacies and trying out the ‘Substance’ version.  This is my very in-depth, spoiler filled chronicles.  If you’re looking for something spoiler-free and more concise, go ahead and click me.  Now, let’s get to good stuff!]

For this playthrough, I decided to play on Very Easy mode.  Many gamers will shake their heads at me in shame, but here me out.  I’ve never been good at stealth games, and MGS2’s somewhat complicated control scheme make me even less confident at my abilities.  I wanted to make sure I had fun with this playthrough, and it not feel like a slog, so I figured going for the easiest mode was my safest bet.

Of course, I decide to play both the Tanker and Plant missions.  The Plant mission is the main game, of course, but the Tanker mission provides both the opportunity to learn the controls and to play as Snake… and how could I pass that up?

The game starts with a nice CG scene, and gets wordy for quite a bit afterwards.  I’m not going to go into it, since it’s quite the information dump. So, right before Snake starts his reconnaissance mission, however, the party’s crashed by soldiers attacking and quietly taking over the ship.  After more chit-chat, it’s figured that they are Russian soldiers.

Finally, I gain control and can begin the game for real.  Such lengthy expositions could bother some, but I play JRPGs, so I have no problem with it (yet).  Anyway, the game explains a few controls, but it’s better to check the game’s controls area in the main menu to figure out the more advanced maneuvers.  I struggled with the controls for a bit, but not as long as I thought I would be.  Soon enough, I snuck up on the first soldier and held him up.  It took a couple more tries to not tranq the man immediately, but I finally got a dog tag from him… and so begun the insanity.  I never tried for (or didn’t know about) dog tags the first time through, so I figured this would be a fun thing to do.  I’m certainly not going to get every tag I can, and I won’t put myself in danger, but I want to see how many I’ll get.

Anyway, the tanker mission is a pretty quick, linear area; perfect for learning the game’s controls and to learns the tricks of stealth.  My first death resulted in running haphazardly into a bomb after being told NOT to run into it, so it was a quick lesson learned.  Olga was also a kind of annoying boss fight, but I got through it with time.  Eventually, I get to the part where you have to sneak past a bunch of soldiers listening to a speech on a time limit.  I failed many times, mainly because I was too hasty, but I got through it was it being too painful.  Unfortunately, I missed out on seeing the Marines in underwear, or so my roommate tells me.

Before beginning the ever-important mission of taking pictures of a giant robot, however, I uploaded the pictures I took throughout my tour of the tanker to Otacon.  He was mainly unresponsive, though that picture I took of the woman excited him.  He was… less than happy about the muscle man, though.  After getting the pictures, though, the story got pretty crazy:  Ocelot did his whole usual “I betray everyone!” ordeal, steals the new Metal Gear model… then his arm gets funny.  Of course, in the first game Ocelot lost his arm, so him having two again was a little weird… but it’s even weirder that it’s Liquid Snake’s arm, and that the arm starts possessing him.  Anyway, Ocelot (or Liquid, or Liquid Ocelot) steals the Gear and leaves the Tanker, and Snake, to sink.

The game shifts forward two years, with the familiar voice of the Colonel giving Snake his mission objective:  The terrorist group Dead Cell has taken over the clean-up facility Big Shell, and Snake has to neutralize the threat.  Snake sounds… a little off, however.  Almost like someone trying to imitate the man… which was the case, as when the Colonel alerts Snake of his codename change, the voice almost sounds… whinier.

So, Raiden.  Oh, Raiden.  I… don’t mind him too much, really, but I can understand the outcry.  The game gives very little indication of this new character at all, let alone that you’re going to play through the bulk of the game as him.  He’s a stark contrast to Snake: A rookie (though he’s had TONS of VR training, whoop-de-do) pretty boy, he really doesn’t stand up to the badass that is Solid Snake.

The game then spends a fair amount of time introducing characters.  Rose is Raiden’s girlfriend that pretty much nags and brings up relationship issues in the middle of this important mission, and the so-obviously-not-Snake Pliskin is a man with a few secrets of his sleeves (not of them being him being Snake, of course).  The members of Dead Cell are… odd, to say the least, much like the members of FOXHOUND once were.

Eventually, I get to the point where you have to diffuse bombs.  I suppose it’s a decent way to make someone go to all the struts and possibly collect goodies, but I found it tedious, especially since after every other bomb there’s another scene from Peter Stillman about the damn things.  Eventually, though, there’s a point where it’s revealed that the bombs were decoys and that the real bomb is elsewhere, and Stillman sacrifices himself to stop the explosion from destroying Big Shell.  While honorable and a way for the man to repent for his past sins, I cannot completely understand why he had to die, as the second bomb in the set was easily neutralized with the coolant.  Maybe I misunderstood something.

So then Fatman plants yet another bomb and you have a limited time to get to him… but first you have to ‘fight’ Fortune.  She’s known by that name, and also ‘Lady Luck’ because no bullet can ever hit her.  Basically you get to run around for a couple minutes trying not to get killed until Vamp shows up.  Raiden ‘kills’ Vamp with a bullet that ricocheted from Fortune’s… anti-bullet field or whatever it is, but the player quickly learns that Vamp NEVER dies… and is a massive pain in the ass.

Back to Fatman, once you get to him he’s the game’s first real boss.  This is the first time I notice that my aim and general playstyle is a lot calmer than the last time I played a Metal Gear Solid game.  My skills are nothing to really brag about, but it’s leagues better than how I used to play.  Considering that, I was able to tranq Fatman to death easily enough.

After that, it’s time to infiltrate the core of Shell 1 to find Ames.  The cyborg ninja gave me the outfit, but I have to find a certain gum myself, which is far from difficult.  The hard part is figuring out who Ames is–luckily, I found the man with the first man I used the directional mic on.  After more cutscenes, Ames dies (of a heart attack, how familar), Ocelot discovers and almost kills Raiden, but the ninja saves the day and I waltz away unharmed.

And… I almost forgot what happened after that.  We meet Solidus for the first time, who seems to recognize Raiden, and also identifies Pliskin as Solid Snake (le gasp), then I fight a plane.  Then I save the President, who grabs Raiden’s junk and is surprise that he’s a man, gives us information and then gets killed.  More cutscenes happen, eventually the player learns that Big Shell is only a front for Arsenal Gear, a huge Gear that houses a lot of weapons and the Patriots’ AI or something, and Otacon (who was introduced a little earlier) reveals that his sister is needed to stop the Gear from activating.  To be honest, a lot of this became a blur, as the info dumps happened often and the information was hard to piece together.  It’s fairly obvious from the start that something’s fishy about the mission, but it’s at this point that things are barely starting to reveal themselves.

So, getting to Emma (Otacon’s sister) is a problem, seeing as the bottom of Shell 2 is flooded from the explosion from earlier.  This introduces swimming to the game… while not terrible, I had a lot of trouble swimming through tight areas, which made things all the more stressful when taking Emma back through the area.  Otacon reveals that she’s been afraid of water ever since she almost drowned (reasonable enough), but that makes taking her through the flooded area less than easy.  Emma herself is a nice enough girl… even if she follows in her brother’s footsteps a little too closely for comfort (peeing herself, wearing glasses when she doesn’t need them, and other stuff).

Let me pause for a minute here to just emphasize my hate for Rose.  Really now, all of the conversations between her and Raiden talk about their relationship… and the poor guy has to deal with it all in the middle of a very important, possibly world-changing mission.  It all comes to a head when Raiden is escorting Emma, with Rose getting more than a little jealous of the weapons specialist.  The girl’s afraid of water and was injected with something that numbed her legs, and Rose is going to get upset that Raiden holds her hand to guide her along?  I don’t really feel any sympathy for Rose here.

Back to the story, we learn a little about Emma and the GW AI that she built, but it’s really more important to get her to the computer room to stop Arsenal Gear, since Otacon can’t break through the system.  After sniping enemies so Emma can cross an unstable bridge, Vamp in his annoying immortality appears and starts choking the poor girl.  After pumping even more lead (or tranquilizers) into the guy, he falls and stabs Emma.  Obviously not being as badass as our heroes, she’s not going to live, but she does make it long enough to install the virus into the AI… even if it only gets to 90%.  Emma’s death is really quite heartbreaking, and especially so when Otacon doesn’t honor the girl’s final wish until it’s too late.  However, there’s little time for grief, as the Big Shell is sinking with the activation of Arsenal Gear, and the hostages from earlier still need saving.

Otacon goes to save the hostages while Raiden and Snake figure out how to get into Arsenal Gear.  This is a great time to reveal that the ninja helping out Raiden this whole time was Olga, and… well, Snake may not actually be on Raiden’s side.  When Raiden comes to, he’s in the enemy’s hands, and Solidus reveals to the imprisoned man his forgotten past:  That he was actually a child soldier, and apparently one of the best, too.  The details are pretty gruesome, and the conversation with Rose afterwards is rife with emotion.  The twist is pretty surprising, and acted out well.  You can’t help to feel the intensity of the whole scene.

Of course, then you traipse around arsenal Gear naked while the Colonel calls with utter nonsense every five seconds to equal out the seriousness.

After meeting back up with Snake, I finally get to the final push.  It’s revealed that Rose is pregnant and a spy, the Colonel’s just part of the GW AI, and about five or six revelations that cancel the previous twist out.  You get to fight alongside Snake, which would have been cooler had I actually used my sword and Snake wasn’t such a good shot.  You can to fight a bunch of Metal Gear RAYs at the same time, which was pretty epic, Fortune runs out of luck (but not without using some psychic powers), and everything was just a test by the Patriots, those that rule everything behind the scenes of America.  I’ll admit I didn’t understand everything my first time through, and on the replay I caught on to a lot more, though I still feel I missed some things.

All of this accumulates to a final sword fight with Solidus.  It’s pretty epic… well, if I was using the sword.  I wasn’t going to have a single death on my record, dammit, even if it meant punching Solidus to death.  The ending was pretty neat, and dropped a pretty big bombshell after the credits rolled.

——

Playing through the game in general, I think I should have played on a higher difficulty mode.  I was terrible at this game when I first played it, but I guess I’m good enough at games in general that I probably could play through the game well enough on Easy mode… or if I’m ambitious Normal mode.  I spent the majority of the game being haphazard during gunfights and boss battles, which is something that a stealth game doesn’t really promote.  Still, I was able to fully enjoy the game, so it was still worth playing for me.  All the neat secrets are fun to find, too, and playing on a easier difficulty allows me to explore and see a lot of them.

Stat wise, in the twelve hours I played, I never killed a single guy, earning me the ‘Pigeon’ codename.  I got about twenty dogtags, which isn’t much, but it’s a nice start to a collection I’ll probably never complete.  I didn’t get a bandanna or anything, though.  No infinite ammo for me I guess.

I’m surprised with how well the game’s held up, really.  While it’s ten years old, I didn’t really feel it was that dated.  I had a good time remembering this and that and being surprised at what I didn’t remember, too.  Metal Gear Solid 3 is still my favorite of the series, but Sons of Liberty is no means a bad game.  A great first month for the Backloggery Game Club!

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