Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty Retrospective

It is a point of great irritation for me that, during my research for this article, I found out that ‘Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty’ was the first Metal Gear game to run at sixty frames a second. This sounds amazing, until you stop to realise that it was released so long ago I did not have a TV that could properly take advantage of the frame rate when I first played the damn thing. ‘Sons of Liberty’ is entirely composed of these small contradictions. Something amazing and innovative that is fantastic when you are first introduced to it but then you realise that the game never capitalizes on it the way it should.

Continuing our movie links from the last article, if ‘Metal Gear Solid’ was ‘Die Hard’ then ‘Sons of Liberty’ would be ‘Under Siege’, in that it is trying to capture the same magic of the previous game but in a different environment. Again on paper this sounds ideal, in Metal Gear games the moment of just evading a guard by pressing up against a wall in an alcove as they walk by and then legging it the moment said guard looks the other way are some of the most exciting moments.  Setting the new ‘Sons of Liberty’ in the more confined environments of a tanker and an offshore platform should manufacture more of those events.

This would have been fine if the game had a way of limiting the player’s arsenal early on but having Snake start the game with a tranquilizer pistol meant that only the very beginning of Raiden’s portion of the game has any of that tension and difficulty.  It swiftly becomes easy to clear a room of guards with very few problems.

On the positive side, this did make it easier to mess with the guards; sadistically messing with the guards is a mechanic from ‘Sons of Liberty’ without which we would have poorer Metal Gear games going forward. This included damaging the guards’ equipment, including their radios. Now, the alert phase was not so instantaneous and punishing as it was in games past, aside from the enjoyable confusion that occurs when an enemy tries to use their radio only to find it useless. But it is only really in the alert and caution phases that the improved enemy AI shows how much they have improved since the previous game. The well-equipped and efficient clearing teams are a tough fight…so it incentivises player to just run away or reload a recent save rather than have a go at fighting them thus few ever really see these teams.

Sons of Liberty’ gets a lot of flak for its story and for switching the player character over to Raiden, who is a poor man’s Grey Fox. The basic story is not really as messy as people would have you believe, the real problem is that needless complications are draped over the story in order to fit everyone’s motivations into the small geographical area of the game. There was really no reason to add the secret Patriots to act as a kind of secret all-American illuminati when the greed of those in power works just as well. Keeping the Patriots would act as the first death knell to the rough eighties action movie patina that covered the first three Metal Gear games to be replaced with this early twenty-first century cyber conspiracy.

If you are completely new to Metal Gear as a series, ‘Sons of Liberty’ is a good game to try, provided you play on hard mode or higher. But if you have played any of the Metal Gear games that were produced later, there is no need to bother. ‘Sons of Liberty’ forms the bones of all of the games to come after it, particularly the next Metal Gear game on the Playstation 2, ‘Snake Eater’.