Metal Gear Solid 2: Classic Stealth Action at Its Prime

Metal Gear Solid 2: Classic Stealth Action at Its Prime

Raiden had some big shoes to fill

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Retrospectives on

When it comes to Hideo Kojima's renowned espionage series, Sons of Liberty is often rejected due to its deceptive nature. However, many fans like me regard it as one of the best titles in the franchise. Slip into your Sneaking Suit and let's infiltrate this masterpiece.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD screenshot 1
Don't mind me; I'm just doing a little tidying up

My history with Sons of Liberty

I'm a big fan of all things Metal Gear Solid, but I realised recently that I haven't written that much about the series. Therefore, I decided to play through Sons of Liberty again to see if it still holds up and thankfully, it does. Anyway, like many gamers, I was first introduced to Metal Gear Solid 2 back in early 2001 via a demo disc that came with Zone of the Enders. I was only 15 at the time, but luckily my parents didn't pay attention to ESRB ratings. Now that I think about it, I was about 12 or 13 when I first played through the original Metal Gear Solid, but I digress. I absolutely loved Zone of the Enders yet the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo probably got just as much play time. Being able to play as Solid Snake with more featured gameplay in a much prettier package blew my mind. I couldn't believe that I could now shoot in a first person perspective, hold guards up at gunpoint, and use the environment in creative ways. Months later, the full game came out which consisted of the demo as the first chapter and a new expansive chapter that took place in a marine decontamination facility and starred... Raiden? Wait, where's Snake?

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD screenshot 2
Oh, it isn't, but you'll be surprised what he's capable of

Tactical Espionage Action will never be the same

As I've already touched on, the gameplay of Metal Gear Solid 2 is a dramatic improvement over the original. New mechanics allow you to expand on your strategy to slip by unnoticed and take guards out with pure efficiency. These guards are no Genome Soldiers as they'll work together relentlessly to end your life. However, if you carefully shoot out their radio from a safe distance then purposely get spotted, the resulting desperation of the lone guard is nothing short of hilarious.

Although Sons of Liberty has such phenomenal gameplay, the series had to move in a new direction. Hence, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was less contained as it took a more open-world approach. When I first played it, I was disappointed. I missed the intimate confined spaces where sneaking around was an inherent challenge. Over the years, I grew to love Snake Eater's camo-based stealth gameplay and now I can gladly say that it's one of my favourite installments in the series. Either way you look at it, it's safe to say that Metal Gear Solid 2 was the last classic-style entry when it comes to core gameplay and it did a fantastic job of perfecting every aspect of it.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD screenshot 3
Now you get to see way more of him than you would've expected

Raiden is actually quite the badass

Countless gamers were devastated when they found out that they couldn't play as Solid Snake during the majority of Sons of Liberty. Instead, you play as an arguably effeminate fellow named Raiden. Even though it's true that he comes across as a sissy compared to Snake at first, you'll realise that there's much more to him once his past is revealed. He was a former child soldier who ruthlessly slaughtered his enemies and thus was granted the nickname "Jack the Ripper". After intense therapy, he'd slowly learn to integrate into society and therefore becomes the blank slate that gamers can now relate to. Of course, it took until Metal Gear Solid 4 and Revengeance for his badass nature to truly shine, but the backstory in Sons of Liberty makes him all the more awesome.

The story: convoluted or ahead of its time?

I could write about Metal Gear Solid 2's plot for hours, but let's keep this brief. After completing the game, most players felt deceived, confused, and manipulated. Ironically, these emotions are what the story is all about. Raiden faced the same circumstances since The Patriots were using him as a test subject for their S3 Plan all along. Personally, I find the fact that the plot isn't afraid to break the fourth wall and make us question what we're doing with our lives very refreshing. Also, the theme of the information age rapidly taking over society couldn't be more evident than today. Anyway, the plot didn't come to a satisfactory conclusion until Guns of the Patriots released over six years later which tied a lot of loose ends up nicely. Talk about leaving gamers in suspense!

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Just battling 20 Metal Gear RAYs... no big deal...

What about the bosses?

Admittedly, Metal Gear Solid 2 features some of the least memorable boss fights in the series (besides The Phantom Pain, but I won't get into that now). The first game had the incredible FOXHOUND unit containing Revolver Ocelot, Vulcan Raven, Sniper Wolf, and Psycho Mantis who acted as possibly the best cast of bosses in video game history. Sons of Liberty only really had Dead Cell members Fatman and Vamp. I don't count Fortune because you don't actually fight her and the Harrier boss is too similar to the first game's Hind D battle. That being said, the first time I faced multiple Metal Gear RAYs simultaneously, my jaw dropped. Years later, I was grateful that Snake Eater made the bosses exciting again with the spectacular Cobra Unit. The Beauty and the Beast Unit is nothing to sneeze at, either.

Indulging the perfectionists

One aspect of Metal Gear Solid 2 that's frequently overlooked is its addictive dog tag system. Trying to hold up every single enemy guard across each difficulty and obtain all 300+ dog tags is no small feat. The rewards are pretty sweet, too. Having infinite ammo and stealth camouflage not only helps make things easier, they're also a ton of fun to play around with. Then again, who'd ever care about infinite grip when you're hanging from a ledge or endless oxygen when you dive underwater? I guess those two items at least make for interesting collectables. When Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance arrived, it included over 500 alternative and VR missions. I already spent hours mastering 1999's Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions so you can imagine how excited I was to tackle even more in the sequel.

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Get used to that sword, Raiden, I have a feeling it'll come in handy down the road

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty remains one of my favourite video games of all time and I hope you enjoyed reading through my take on it. Whether you did or not, leave a comment below and let me know what you think of Metal Gear Solid 2.

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