Metal Gear Solid is considered a classic. The game, the way it was presented, and its cinematic approach came together to create an experience unseen in the gaming world at the time. The 1998 game was met with fantastic reviews and cemented Hideo Kojima as a name many gamers will remember.
Fans waited three years for a sequel. The original version of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was for the PlayStation 2, and took advantage of the new consoles increased capabilities to take the series to the next level. However, over ten years later, does MGS2 stand the test of time?
Let's be honest, the hit that it was, the original MGS has not aged too gracefully. Sure, the story still stands well, but the gameplay can be stiff and the graphics are far from pretty. While the Gamecube remake The Twin Snakes exists, the mechanics can sometimes feel a bit dated.
Thankfully, Metal Gear Solid 2 does not suffer the same problem. The transition to the PlayStation 2 gave the game a huge advantage over the original, and while it's an earlier PS2 game, it still looks smooth and plays well on the original hardware. While I was playing the Substance version, I don't believe it has anything significant in terms of of the core gameplay.
Moving along, though, Metal Gear Solid 2 is much like the original in that it provides a cinematic experience. In fact, you'll likely spend more time in cutscenes and codec conversations than playing the game itself. Even so, it weaves an interesting, albeit complicated, story. The choice to use Raiden, as opposed Snake, was mostly met with outcry by fans. It's understandable, since Raiden is far from the man that Solid Snake is, but it fits well in a narrative standpoint.
The problem is with the story is that there is a bit too much of it. Even I, an avid RPG fan, got sick of all the expositions and just wanted to play the game. It gets especially bad near the end of the game, but overall it's more of a minor issue, as it seems all the explanations were needed to wrap one's head around what's going on.
Mechanically, the game plays well. It took me a while to get used to the controls, but after fiddling around and playing the Tanker mission, it became second nature. The game honestly doesn't explain the more advanced moves, but the controls menu in the main menu helps to explain everything else. MGS2 also makes little tweaks, like not having to have the key cards equipped to open doors, that help make the game easier to play.
The core game of Metal Gear Solid 2 lasts about ten to twelve hours for one playthrough, but the Substance version adds tons of goodies to play afterwards, including a ton of VR Missions, the 'Snake Tales' mode that has you playing as Solid Snake during points in the story, and even a skateboarding game. If you want to play one version of this game, you'll want to play the Substance version (which is usually the one re-released and ported).
So, Metal Gear Solid 2 stands the test of time. It improves a bit on the original Metal Gear Solid, even if it can get a bit too wordy and ambitious with the story. Many people complain about Raiden, but just think about how awesome he becomes in MGS4 and it makes the sting go away. MGS2 has a nice mix of everything you want in a Kojima game, and while it's not my favorite of the series, it's still a great game.
[i played, or rather replayed Metal Gear Solid 2 as The Backloggery Game Club game for November. You can check out stuff about the game club here. Also, for the club I wrote a very lengthy post detailing my adventures through Big Shell, which you can check out here. Careful, there's spoilers.]