January 9, 2001
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty - Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Rating Players Price

Click To Enlarge Image
Taking aim at an enemies neck.
Does anyone here remember the original Metal Gear game? No, I'm not talking about the one that appeared on the PSOne a couple of years ago. In fact the first Metal Gear game appeared on the little known (in Australia at least) MSX over a decade ago now. The Playstation version released in 1998 remains one of the highest selling Playstation games to date and despite a training simulator spin off a full sequel has been held back for the Playstation 2. Fortunately it's been worth the wait as Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is quite possibly the best game ever created.

Click To Enlarge Image
Cut scenes are a delight to watch.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is littered with many gorgeous cut scenes to tell the story. The game begins with Snake (who you play for those of you who have never played the games) trying to infiltrate a tanker loaded with terrorists to discover if the new Metal Gear prototype, Metal Gear RAY is onboard. The game soon becomes a lot more involved as you soon meat new friends and enemies who guide you through a massive game full of twists and turns, and more then its fair share of surprises. Solid Snake is once again set to return the world to safety using any means possible.

Click To Enlarge Image
Avoiding the C4 laden laser beams.
According to Kojima, Metal Gear Solid 2 pushes the Emotion Engine to new limits. Even with the amazing graphics 30% of the Emotion Engine's time is used on artificial intelligence routines for the enemies, and it shows as they all act differently according to the situation. Injure some and they may run off to get help, other may stay and fight to the end. Many items and elements familiar from the first game such as the cardboard boxes to hide in and question/exclamation marks over the guards to show their emotions return in this game.

Click To Enlarge Image
Ahhh... doze Russians.
One major enhancement for this sequel is the accuracy of your weapons. Shooting a guard in the head will kill them instantly whereas shooting them in the leg may only disable them or send them running. Some of the enemies require that you hit them in a specific body part to stop them. The game also includes a tranquilizer gun, which will put the enemies to sleep, and, according to the developers, it will be possible to complete the game without killing a single person. The weapons are varied and range from the aforementioned tranquilizer gun, to pistols, shotguns, machine guns, C4 explosives, chaff grenades, normal grenades and a few more surprises.

It's likely to be the smallest touches that go a long way to making this game so enjoyable. At times you can open locker doors with some nice posters to look at on the back but if a guard walks past and sees the picture he can be distracted. In other areas seagull droppings are on the ground and if Snake runs through it he can slip over.

Click To Enlarge Image
Getting too close for comfort.
Graphically, this game is awesome. Even though there is a lack of anti-aliasing the game doesn't suffer as a result due to the amount of detail and action taking place on the screen. Animation, as you would expect, is extremely lifelike with complete facial expressions now in place for the characters. The environments are also richly detailed with everything that you would expect to find in the real world. Of course no game is complete these days without an array of weather effects which in Metal Gear 2 includes rain, lightning, sunshine and plenty of wind. It's the small touches that will likely make this game stand out however.

Click To Enlarge Image
The view from inside a locker.
However, it may be the games' use of shadows that enhances the gameplay above all else. Standing around the corner from a guard is useless if your shadow is cast on an area which is visible to the guard. Doing so will alert him to your presence. Similarly at night time if there is lightning a shadow can be cast which will alert nearby guards to your presence.

Konami have also gone all out in the sound department and hired film composer Harry Gregson-Williams (Armageddon, Enemy of the State, Shrek) to create the orchestral score for the game, and it's stunning. Sound effects are just as impressive with conversations between soldiers to be overheard, loud explosions and gunfire and some wonderful dialogue in the English translation.

Click To Enlarge Image
There is plenty of sneaking around.
Many people, myself included, believe that the original Metal Gear Solid on PSOne was, and still is, the best game on the system. It should have been impossible but it looks as if Hideo Kojima has actually surpassed that game with this sequel. It's not overly long apparently, with under 20 hours gameplay, but this could easily be doubled if you take time to explore the wonderfully detailed levels. You can open up all the lockers to look for some nice pictures, open up magazines to look at some centerfolds, make enemies surrender and collect their dog tags and it's even try to complete the game without killing a single person. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty will hit Australian shelves on March 8th with a bonus disc including plenty of behind the scenes information and documentaries.