RETRO – Sneaking, crawling, and climbing. You cannot even notice him as he strikes you down, and he is already choking you, or puts a bullet in your head, maybe he’ll throw you down from atop of a building. While he saves the world a lot of times, he does not make it to the front pages. No this time we are not talking about Sam Fisher, the star of Splinter Cell, but its “colleague” Solid Snake, who was the central figure of the entire genre on the PS1, and the game Metal Gear Solid was released on the PC.
The sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2 was a smash hit on the consoles, and for the PC version, we only had to wait almost three years… If there is a company which the word weird would best fit, it would be Konami. In Japan it is one of the most popular companies: their products are mostly bought on the PS2 and Gameboy Advance (Castlevania series), while in the USA and Europe they made a considerable success with their Xbox games. For a long time, they did not even touch the PC market: although some of their games got released on PC (for example the first Metal Gear Solid), but these were mediocre ports at the time and did not even reach the quality of the console version. Konami has now started to advertise on how they will release some of their games for the PC, one of them was Silent Hill 2, and the other was Metal Gear Solid 2. Yet Konami besides the initial hype has treated the marketing of the PC versions of these games very minimalist, there is barely any ads from the publisher. Yet MGS2 did not drop out of the heavens suddenly…
Metal Gear Solid 2: from government agent to Anarchist
Console owners probably know or have heard of the series’ background story, but I think the rest of our readers need a little bit of background info. In the first half of MGS 2, we control Solid Snake an ex-government agent, who got tired of his old bosses – with a few of his other comrades – he left the agency and founded the organization called the Philantrophy. Snake’s most important task is to publicize the existence of “metal gear” mechs, in hopes of public outrage would cause the halt of their development. The other founding member is Hal “Otacon” Emmerich who was once the engineer of Metal Gear (back in MGS 1), who then realized that his bosses’ real goal is to develop nuclear weaponry he left the “Company”.
All of the Metal Gear’s game had one single objective, to stop the newest mecha robot from being fully built. These games’ story is usually linked together, however, those who are just joining in from the PC fan base, will still know what is going on – even if this is presented in an anime/manga style – which mixes up things a bit.
The other main distinctive feature of the series is the long and extravagant cut scenes, which will make it feel like we are the stars of an all night long anime. The interesting part of the PC version is that the Substance version was ported which is way more complex than the original Sons of Liberty. In the original version, we had to control the rookie commando Raiden (Jake). While the second half of the game was short, and not many liked the new hero this version was also a hit. Yet the developers listened to the fans and released a new version called Substance which provides new missions with Solid Snake.
The game is divided up to two chapters, which can be selected in a menu. In the Tanker chapter we control Solid Snake, and in Big Shell we control Raiden. On how the creators linked these two events in terms of the story let that be a secret (This is a game that is built on twists, so it would be a shame to spoil those for the reader).
Metal Gear Solid 2: before first Splinter Cell…
It is a little weird playing Metal Gear Solid 2, and analyze it since the original version was released before Splinter Cell 1, and it is true that Ubisoft’s action-commando stuff did a few things better than Konami’s game. Yet the excellent (sometimes a bit too mangaish) story and the fun gameplay is able to be up there with Splinter Cell in terms of quality. Both in SC and in MGS2 we can complete the mission the most successful if we do not rely on raw power, but rather kill quietly or complete the objectives silently. However unlike in SC, if the enemy sees us, they will not only call for help from nearby enemy units, but they will request reinforcements, and a squad of assault commandos will appear. If they see us then we get slaughtered pretty quickly.
The difference between the combat of MGS2 and Splinter Cell is that if we fire blindly into the world we will have less chance here than with Fisher. However, if we use the neat little tricks in the game (firing from cover, kung fu moves in close quarters) then there is hope, and you’ll be fighting John Woo style, plus we’ll also get to live. That is why MGS2 deserves a plus one over Splinter Cell, even if you can just run away to a different room and the enemy will not follow you… That is a bit LOL.
However being stealthy here is also a requirement, and luckily there is a radar on the upper right corner of the screen that will always show where the enemy soldiers are standing. ( One interesting thing is though that in the Big Shell chapter we can only see the enemies on the radar if we have uploaded the necessary information from computers. This requirement is not in the Tanker Chapter). If the enemy sees us and raises the alarm, then the radar is immediately disabled, although in the main menu we can switch this off and have it be always on. The game is way easier to finish then so where is the challenge in that? Those who want to make the game more difficult for the sake of realism can even turn off the radar entirely, this is what the gamer community calls “masochism” : ) …
Silently, Metal Gear Solid 2 syle!
It is not the invention of Splinter Cell that the enemy does not only have eyes but also ears. If we are too noisy, then the soldier will go towards the source to check it out. If you walk too loudly, do not use silenced weapons, leave blood trails, or if you sneeze the enemy will find you quickly. Unfortunately, the soldiers do not hear running like in Splinter Cell, so you can safely run behind them and kill them easily, no need to sneak like Sam Fisher has to.
Leaving the corpses in the open does have its negative consequences just like in Ubisoft’s game: if the enemy starts to yell, he’ll call the patrol units, while our radar becomes disabled, and they’ll look for us. If we hide somewhere quietly then after a while they’ll stop with the search, however, one new feature compared to Splinter Cell is that a new guard will take place of the old’s position. So killing someone does not always result in the best situation. We also need to look out for the bodies of tranquillized soldiers, as we need to hide them. Otherwise, if they are left on the open, their comrades will come, kick them in the side, and they’ll wake, to continue on with their duty.
The way to hide the soldiers in Konami’s game is rather simple: put them in the lockers, or in the first Tanker chapter, from them overboard. The only annoying thing is that if you return to the location’s locker the enemy soldier will not be there anymore ( It seems Japan has a lot of hungry moths : ) this is not too realistic….. )
Snake and Raiden basically know the same moves that Sam Fischer: stick to the walls, peak from behind cover without the enemy seeing him. While our heroes cannot use objects like Sam Fisher, they can knock on objects to lure them to their position. When this happens the enemy will go near to the source of the knocks, and we can just move away to avoid the guard. We can also hang on to building’s ledges while we wait for the enemy soldiers to pass below us, then we can climb back up and continue.
This snake’s bite is deadly
Of course, I enjoyed the more drastic approaches and practised a bunch of deadly moves. While Sam Fischer knocks people out from behind, Snake or Raiden are not so gentle: They’ll choke someone to death with their hands from behind quietly. I used this most of the times, but with Snake, there are many other combos – real Kung Fu moves – can be done. Although there is not bullet time (that will be enough in Enter The Matrix) our heroes will be able to do the same acrobatic feats and kick ass among the enemy soldiers just like Trinity or Neo in the Matrix.
Of course, we need to be careful as to not get shot to pieces: we’ll need to practice all of the moves careful so that we barely get damaged by the bullets (We’ll get damaged somehow anyway).
Unfortunately, there is no extensive training part included, unlike in Splinter Cell, so we’ll have to dig up the proper combo moves from a small menu within the game itself.
Of course, we do not only just punch and kick, as our heroes are commandos so we get to use different weapons against the soldiers. We will not get too many weapons as this is not an FPS, and we cannot loot the enemy for weapons. We do get two types of pistols, a sniper rifle, a rocket launcher, a mine, and even a samurai sword can be used within the game. If we do not want to kill the enemy immediately we can hold them up with our weapon, and after a while, they’ll drop something (item, ammo), and then we can kill them.
The most useful consumable items in the game are of course the ammunition and the food: the later can be left on in an oddly console-ish way, so when we reach 0 the food is automatically used, and the character does not die (This is such a funny thing that, at that point the creators could have just diversified the food so in Japan it is ramen noodles and in Europe they are Mars chocolate bars : ) ) .
Besides the food and the ammo, there are other useful items that can be used: we can hide in cardboard boxes, we can distract soldiers with thrown away magazines, but we can also use night-vision goggles, and medicine, plus we can smoke a pack of cigarettes. The health ministry of Japan probably saw this and had some effect, as our hero’s health is reduced when smoking, and does not have any positive side effects….
Snake does not even need a Chatboard…
Snake and Raiden also have a Codec that is implanted in them, this allows them to communicate through radio just like in Splinter Cell with their connections: with their bosses or other important characters, that our heroes meet through the game. All of them have a specific frequency which we need to tune it to contact them, who usually provide us with more or less useful information.
Besides the chatter, we can also save here (this time anywhere anytime: finally!), and this time our heroes will talk to our “saviour” angel for a bit. These conversations can be a bit odd at times, and at times really annoying: Especially between Raiden and his girlfriend, as they always talk about their love life. Sadly these are not advised to be skipped as even these conversations have relevance to the plot…
VR simulator for trainees.
Those who do not want to get into the heat of the action so quickly, or have already completed the main game and need a bit of plus, they can try out the VR simulator. These are not linked to the main storyline in any way and are short missions to learn all the special moves and practice them, or use the weapons before going into the main game (So basically this can also be considered as the tutorial section of the game)
There are four mission categories: “Stealth”, “weapons”, “FPS”, and “varied” modes. The stealth category can be completed in two ways: either we need to get from point A to B, or we have to kill everyone but quietly without the others noticing. In weapon mode, we can use a bunch of different weapons, and (just with Raiden) the use of his sword. Honestly, I found this mode to be entirely boring, it was not fun to shoot at geometrical shapes…
In FPS mode unsurprisingly we get to practice the FPS view, however, the most exciting mode is the “varied” objectives, where we have to complete different and multiple objectives. There are some extreme ones: One of them is a mission where the enemy soldiers are Godzilla sized, and we have to avoid getting stomped while completing the level. Khmm well it is kind of silly when compared to Splinter Cell, but since we are talking about a Japanese game we can be a little more tolerable.
The VR missions can be completed with Raiden or Snake: We have tougher challenges with Snake, and the enemies are more varied and are in larger numbers. If we complete the VR missions successfully, our heroes get new suits, and the results can be posted on to Konami’s website.
Besides the VR missions, we can also try alternative missions, and Snake’s stories: the later ones have a story in them, but they are not like the main game with full cinematics. Basically these VR and additional missions are great, and it raises the value of the game, but in my opinion, only the most fanatic fans will appreciate it, mostly because we cannot use the radar in these missions which make these harder…
Time v. the latest PC technology.
Konami did not really mess around with the PC version (the use one converter for all PC versions), so basically we see on the PC what we saw three years ago on the PS2. The biggest difference is the resolution, which has been upgraded, so it looks better than on the console.
What is absolutely great is the detail of the characters, and their animation. The way Snake or Raiden sneaks around, stands next to a wall, chokes someone, kicks someone over the board, will even put Sam Fisher’s movement to shame.
The buildings and their textures are rather bleak, however as we are talking about a Tanker, and a giant oil rig, the lack of colour is not really annoying. All in all MGS2’s graphics are really good, but not the best when compared to other PC games.
What can be more annoying is the fact that if someone does not have a gamepad than the controls will be really difficult to master. As using a mouse and keyboard is really tedious to control our heroes. So for anyone who does not have a gamepad we recommend getting one, as just like Rayman 3, MGS2 also supports force feedback. There is nothing better than when the gamepad vibrates when there is a shootout, or dragging a corpse, or when we get shot. Also, the game provides even feedback when an enemy is near via the gamepad. All in all this is a game that requires a gamepad- otherwise, without it the controls are horrible.
It was a close call…
I guess for those that played Splinter Cell is very interested where the Solid Snake – Sam Fisher race stands. Well, Splinter Cell kinda one, but only by a small margin…
SC is more realistic and lifelike, the AI is smarter, and the graphics are better. However, Metal Gear Solid 2’s story is miles better, even if it is weird compared to other commando games – especially considering the manga/anime style of the storytelling. The close quarter combat is way better, and firearm usage is also top notch: Snake and Raiden do not get confused when many enemies surround them, and they use such kung-fu moves, that Fisher could only dream of.
Finally, if Splinter Cell fans are not annoyed by the Manga style, I recommend Metal Gear Solid 2, as it is a really great new experience.
+ Well-developed stealth gameplay
+ Great story
+ Good control with the gamepad
– Raiden was a bit lame here
– Weak control without Gamepad
– Low-resolution textures in the environment
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: IO Entertainment
Genres: sneaking, action, adventure, tactical
Publication: March 8, 2002