4.5/5 ★ – theebigbamtheory's review of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is not a flawless game, especially in the context of modern gameplay advancements. Fortunately, those flaws are utterly overshadowed by the strengths of the game, like an ant nonchalantly getting stepped on by a man running errands. MGS2 is a smart, ambitious, and extravagant sequel that manages to achieve so many of it loafty goals, and in the process, it not only deepens the quality of itself, but also its predecessor. It can be said that the game is split to two parts: one shorter section on the Tanker, and one meaty section on the Plant (also known as the Big Shell). The reason for this is not only you'll play as different characters tackling different objectives in each part, but also the design of the sections themselves are distinct. The Tanker section is linear and claustrophobic, not unlike many of the first game's environments. Meanwhile, the Plant feels like a haphazardly interconnected set of rooms, for better and for worse. The dark, rainy atmosphere of the Tanker feels in tune with the blizzard stricken Shadow Moses, while the Plant's clear day time setting almost feels like a spit in the face of a stealth operative. It's clear that both of these sections aim to achieve different things, and they do so in flying colors. The Tanker section will ease in players into the kind of vibe and mood that is fitting for a stealth game, while the Plant section will have them be surprised and tested at every turn. The biggest, and perhaps most controversial aspect of MGS2 is Raiden, the playable protagonist of the Plant section. Unlike Solid Snake, he's no veteran. He's seen plenty of virtual action, but his personality and self is far from the mature soldier that is Snake. He is a competent person, but he also can barely talk to his girlfriend like a normal person. All of this builds a sense of relatability to Raiden, which Snake never had. It can even be seen as if he's the actual in-game representation of the players themselves. He mentions that he is proficient in many VR simulation missions, including the simulated version of the Shadow Moses incident. Surely this is not unlike players going through and beating MGS1, then playing MGS2 as Raiden, is it? Raiden's almost meta nature goes hand in hand with many of the game's qualities, and it is a stroke of genius to have him written in such a way. The game's narrative is definitely the star of the show. It is a surreal, almost trippy story, that weaponizes the player's familiarity of MGS1, and uses it to help drive home various philosophical ideas, while still being a fantastic espionage thriller in its own right. The game likes to hint things far earlier than expected, which also builds this sense of uneasiness that the game aimed for in the Plant section. Snake's familiar already with all of the lying and hiding, but Raiden? He's out of his element here, and as he uncovers more and more of the truth, you will be just as emotional as he is. It is definitely headache inducing, and you won't able to look away. Being a game sequel, it's expected that the gameplay has some improvements compared to the predecessor, and it does. Movement generally feels more fluid, especially with the analog sticks, and features like first person aiming not only helps in hard times, but it also helps to ground you even more into the game, making you feel much closer to the character you're playing as. The game also likes to keep the objectives varied by incorporating new and old gameplay mechanics into the mix, which makes every aspect of the gameplay feel connected and in tune with one another. For example, having to look around and shoot control panels in first person, or using a disguise to get through a tightly patrolled area. Still, the controls feels as clunky as ever, making simple things like aiming and shooting feel like a multi-step endeavor, and it will take a while to get a hang of things. But once you do, it will make the game much more satisfying to play. In short, MGS2 set the standard of what a video game sequel should be, and even to this day, not many games can say that they met it, let alone surpass it. If MGS1 didn't make a legend out of Hideo Kojima, this certainly did.