Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance (PS2)

Metal Gear Solid 2 substance title screen playstation 2 PAL
Developer:Konami|Release Date:2003 (Sons of Liberty 2001)|Systems:PS2, PS3, Vita, Xbox, Xbox 360, Windows

March 4th, 2000, two decades ago, the second and most popular of the sixth-generation consoles was released in Japan. That means that today is the PlayStation 2's 20th birthday!

My first idea was that I could play one of its original launch titles to celebrate, but then I looked at what they were and decided that I could do better. So this week on Super Adventures, I'm playing Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty! Actually to be precise I'm playing the re-released Substance edition (PAL version) but really it's the same thing. They were just getting people to double dip for a handful of special missions. Well okay, lots of handfuls of special missions.

I actually beat this game once, many years ago, on PC. So I'll have a vague idea of what I'm doing but not what buttons to press to do it. Though one thing I definitely haven't forgotten, is how great the opening theme by Harry Gregson-Williams is. I think it sounds even better the original Metal Gear Solid theme by TAPPY, which sounds better than "The Winter Road" by Russian composer Georgy Sviridov. Unfortunately it also sounds kind of similar, and the other song was written back in the 70s, so Konami had to stop using their own MGS theme in the MGS games. This means they won't get to use it in the movie either!

Okay, I'm going to be playing the game up to a little bit into the Plant chapter, so there'll be SPOILERS for the first two hours or so. I might also mention at some point that the story becomes a bit of a confusing mess by the end and the game left a lot of questions that weren't answered for seven years.

I love how slick and stylish the menu is. You can tell right away that this is a proper video game. A proper video game with a skateboarding mode (but only in the Substance edition).

The original Metal Gear Solid menu was all about the rectangles, but this menu's obsessed with hexagons. They're not just random shapes though: that grey pattern in the bottom left is basically the layout of the Big Shell complex, and the red pattern is the skeletal formula for a molecule.

Wait, who's this guy? You're not the man on the box! Oh hang on, yes he is. I'm playing the Substance version so he's there on the cover right next to Snake.

My memory's telling me that Konami actually did a decent job of keeping Raiden a secret all the way up to the point the game came out and players realised to their horror that he was the true protagonist and they were going to be stuck with him (and his girlfriend) for the majority of the gameplay. He did okay for himself afterwards though, getting a spin-off of his own: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, in 2013.

Substance features a new option to play Snake's Tanker chapter, Raiden's Plant chapter, or both of them in order. In the original US release it's both chapters or nothing, and the original European and Japanese versions include a questionnaire that sets the chapter you start on, along with the difficulty.

I'll be playing on 'Normal' by the way (which is two higher than 'Very Easy' and one below 'Hard'). I'm going to pass on 'European Extreme' difficulty, because I'm not insane and I'd have to beat the game to unlock it anyway.

There's no briefing at the start of this game, instead Snake's just going for a walk in the rain. They're really showing off with all the effects in this shot and it's left it looking a bit of a blurry abstract mess. I thought the headlight glow in GTA: Vice City was a bit much, but this is ridiculous.

Snake suddenly breaks into a run and disappears into a Predator invisibility effect. Then he bungee jumps off the bridge like James Bond and lands in a storm of electricity like the Terminator. So much for the stealth camouflage. I guess this is why he usually gets his weapons and equipment on site, as he wrecks everything he takes with him.

Hey, shouldn't that say Substance instead of Sons of Liberty?

So now Snake's on a boat, step one complete. He should stop posing in the rain though or else someone's going to spot him. Damn, too late; it turns out that Revolver Ocelot is spying on him from a helicopter. The jerk. 

These cutscenes are all skippable by the way, which I wasn't expecting. I can even fast-forward through codec calls, like the long ass one that starts here.

Turns out that Snake is getting support over the radio from his buddy Otacon. Well, he's his buddy now anyway, they weren't so close in the last game.

They're both working for an anti-Metal Gear group called Philanthropy these days, and that's what brought Snake to this tanker. The good news is that it's officially recognised by the UN. The bad news is that they have a price on their heads for some reason. Man I wish I could casually drop exposition into conversations like Otacon does, he makes it all sound so natural.

The codec screen is just like in the last game, with one major difference: I can drag the characters around in their little windows by using the analogue sticks and make Snake say random things that Otacon either can't hear or chooses to ignore. Also the portraits are 3D now, as the PS2 is powerful enough to render faces! With mouths that move!

Metal Gear Solid (PSX)
The animation's still very primitive, but it's a pretty huge leap in detail over Metal Gear Solid.

Anyway, it seems like the US Marine Corps have been building a secret Metal Gear mech and have it stashed on this ship somewhere. My job is to go to the bridge, find out where the boat is headed, then go down to the cargo hold to check if there's really a walking nuclear tank down there. Fortunately the Marines guarding the ship don't seem to be carrying guns, so this shouldn't be too difficult.

Unfortunately the Marines just got killed off by a boarding party of Russians and now I have to sneak past them instead!

Alright now I'm finally free to run around and admire the pretty visuals. All the fancy effects like the rain, the reflections, and the way the ends of Snake's bandana keep getting blown up over his head.

The camera's still very similar to Metal Gear Solid, which was very similar to the original MSX game. It's pulled pretty far back and typically faces in this one direction. The controls are similarly old school, as I walk around with the left stick and do nothing at all with the right.

Alright I'm going to try to sneak up on someone, and I'm hoping that I manage to see them before they see me. I'm also hoping they can't hear me when I run around, because I'm impatient.

Awesome, I actually managed a hold-up without anyone setting off the alarm or shooting me! It helps that the game was kind enough to start me off with pistol this time. It's a Beretta M9 customised to fire harmless tranq rounds, but these guys don't know that.

Non-lethal attacks are brand new for MGS2 and so is the hold-up move, but unfortunately it makes use of another innovation: the PlayStation 2's pressure sensitive buttons. The controls are a little strange anyway, as you press the weapon button to raise the gun and release it to fire, but you can only lower the gun without firing if you're very careful with the pressure you're putting on the button. There's a good reason that pressure sensitivity never caught on for other controllers. Incidentally, ports for systems with those other controllers just have a 'lower gun' button, which really helps avoid accidents.

By the way you can see the enemy's view cone on the radar up there on the top left, which is good because the radar can see more of the level than the game camera and I'd rather not walk right into them. The cone's yellow right now because he's been alerted, but there's not much he can do about that at the moment.

Once I've got a guard to put their hands up I can lower the pistol for a moment to step in front of them. Then I can switch to First Person View and aim at body parts they'd like to keep in order to scare them into giving up their dog tags!

Wait, why do I want dog tags? Why am I even doing this? I should just put a dart in their back and get it over with. The tags do serve a purpose though, as each of them features a unique name, presumably one of the Kickstarter backers. Actually the names come from contest winners, game designers and the occasional J-Rock star. Collect enough of them and you can unlock special items for New Game+! (I will never collect enough of them)

Okay I've tranq'd all three guards out here on the deck, plus I've done a bit of OSP (on-site procurement) and scavenged all the pentazemin, rations, bandages, chaff grenades and ammo just lying around, so I guess I should try one of the doors and see what's inside.

Okay, I've messed this up.

I was trying to hold someone up, but I was standing a little too close and they turned around. But they didn't shoot me right away, no they ran off to radio all their friends. It's possible to interrupt them a call for backup by wrapping your arms around their throat or applying a few smacks to the head, but the person on the other end of the radio call will likely find that suspicious. Then the backup unit will come, search everywhere, kick all the unconscious enemies awake, and kick your ass.

Snake's good at fighting, but it seems to take more than my three hit combo to put an enemy down, and while I'm busy punching one enemy, the others are all shooting me. They're carrying video game guns that take a while to really kill you, but they get the job done eventually. Oh plus when the enemies are alerted like this I lose my radar, because of reasons.

Still, it's kinder than Metal Gear Solid 1, where if you're detected the message goes out psychically and the backup squad is on your ass in an instant. They never discover bodies though, as you can't knock people out in MGS1, and dead people evaporate.

I love all the ridiculous little features in this game, like the melting ice. They actually programmed ice cubes to melt slowly, just in case someone shot the bucket and then stood around to watch. Each area is pretty small but there's usually something in it to make it special. In this Tanker chapter at least.

It took me a while to sort this room out, as the enemies kept kicking their mates awake as fast as I could tranq them, but I got there in the end! Oh damn, I just noticed my health: so that's why I'm leaving a blood trail. Otacon called to say that I can lie down or use a bandage to stop the bleeding, and that'll get my health bar to regenerate instead of degenerate (at least up to a third). I should probably equip my rations as well, so Snake will automatically heals himself if it comes to that.


Okay, the trouble with this ship is that it's full of doors and I don't know where they go, so I keep finding myself in the same rooms over and over again, filled with the same guards I put asleep earlier, now walking around again. Maybe if I put this one in a locker he won't reset when I leave the area.

You know, I can't tell if that's a cigarette sticking out of his balaclava or a tranq dart (I try to aim for the head because the drug works quicker that way). Though I can tell that he's armed with a perfectly good rifle that I'm not allowed to take from him, because of video game rules.

I wonder if I should call Otacon up for info on the tactical utility of that poster. Nah, it'd be better just to take a photo for him.

HD Edition (Xbox 360 version running on Xbox One)
Here's a shot of the high-res HD Edition for you. I wouldn't say it looks substantially different, except for being in widescreen.

Alright, I have gone upstairs and I'm fairly sure that's put me closer to the ship's bridge, plus I've found a box so I can roam around incognito and spy on people through the hole. I've hit a slight snag though: there's lasers in front of me wired up to Semtex. I'm lucky I listened to Otacon's codec call or else I would've had no idea. Wait, how is he seeing this?

These are actual lasers, not sci-fi ones, so they're invisible, but Otacon has a solution for that. If I shoot the fire extinguisher the gas will make the beams visible! Then I can presumably find a way to slip through.

Oh crap.

Okay, this isn't a problem, I'm still outside of his vision cone and guards all have a set patrol route that they never deviate from. All I have to do is wait a moment for him to turn around, then I can stand up, run behind him, and yell "Freeze!"

Crap, Snake sneezed because I left him next to a busted fire extinguisher, and the guy heard it. Uh... fuck it, I'm just running past him to the next set of stairs!


So she's the one who's been planting bombs everywhere.

Snake decided he wanted to take over for this scene so all I can do is watch as he sneaks around the boxes to get closer and listen in on what she's saying to her boss, Sergei Gurlukovich, over the radio. Gurlukovich wants her to get on a helicopter and leave, on account of her being his daughter and also pregnant with his grandchild. But she wants to stay and fight with her comrades.

Once she's done talking, she takes her cap off and Snake suddenly realises something...

Dude, were you even listening to that conversation you were listening to? How are you the same person who can tell what model a helicopter is by the sound of its rotors?

Snake decides to do my stick up trick and pops out to surprise her with his gun drawn. But she's more stubborn than most of these soldiers and it's a real effort just to get her to throw her weapons away. The camera seems weirdly fixated on her unshaven armpits at this point, but fortunately Snake's paying attention to what she's doing with her knife and is able to dodge when it turns out to secretly be a gun. But this gives her a chance to draw her USP pistol and get behind cover.

This is going to turn into a boss fight... so of course Snake picks this moment to hand control back to me. Thanks man, that's really awesome, I appreciate it.

I feel like there must be a really sensible straightforward way to get bullets going in her direction without losing blood in the process, but I haven't figured it out yet.

To aim the gun properly I need to use first person view, but I also need a few moments to carefully line up my shot with the analogue stick, and she's way faster at it than I am. It wouldn't be so bad if I could walk around while aiming, but once I'm in first person the best I can do is dodge sideways a bit.

It's so awkward that I have to think I'm missing something.

This isn't helping! She's ducking behind boxes and doing cartwheels, and the only time she stops is when she's shooting me. I think she's supposed to do something with the searchlight and the tarp as well, but I shot them first to stop her because I least remember that much.

I managed to beat her in the end, but it was close. She got me down to my last automatically activating health ration and I fired something like 37 tranq shots at her. Man, that can't be good for her baby.

So it's over and I won, but she made me feel like I suck at video games, so who's the real winner here? It's me, because I got to keep her gun afterwards. USP OSP! It's just a shame she used up exactly all of her bullets during the fight, so now I need to go find a floating ammo box. Plus I gave the fight another try afterwards and did much better. Turns out that the trick is to use stealth! Radical idea I know, but I was able to confuse her, sneak around, and then aim my shot while she was facing the wrong way.

I'm not sure what fighting her actually achieved, but I did get the navigation data from the bridge before coming out here, so I suppose my next stop should be the cargo hold. Wherever that is. Back down where I came from I suppose.

The good thing about all this backtracking is that I get another chance to explore rooms I just ran past first time around. Not just to grab stuff that I missed, but also because I honestly don't know what door to go through, so I have to try them all.

That does mean sneaking past/taking down all the guards again, but that's fine. Even the surveillance camera in here wasn't a problem thanks to my handy chaff grenade! Man I hope it doesn't spot the body when the chaff wears off. I suppose I could drag him somewhere else.

Dragging bodies around is a good idea in general, as they'll often drop an item when I drop them. In fact these guys are maybe my best source of tranq darts, which is funny, seeing as they don't seem to be shooting them at me.

Oh no! I've found the hold, but Vulcan Raven is down here guarding it!

I called up Otacon and we both had a very serious chat about it. This guy was dangerous enough in the last game and that was before I killed him. Now he'll be really mad!

PC version
Surprise, it's actually a tiny little toy Raven! Shoot it and it'll fire its little giant Gatling gun!

This raises a number of questions. First, why are they making figures of famous terrorists? Second, who brought him here and set up the flashlight: the Marines or the Russians? Third, why do I only cast a shadow on special occasions?

Right, I can see a guard standing behind the next door so I'm going to be very careful not to walk too close before I raise my gun this time so I don't alert them. I've got an actual gun now with actual bullets, so I could probably fight my way through, but I haven't killed anyone yet and I don't intend to start now.

Okay that was an accident.

I suppose I should go hide somewhere before his friends come and retaliate. By the way, I looked up what an actual tanker engine room looks like to see if they have bottomless pits in real life, and they don't.

Oh balls, they found me hiding under a box. I was actually being patient and doing it properly for once as well! They are surprisingly good at hide and seek.

I don't really see a non-lethal way out of this. I mean anything I try, they're gonna end up killing me! Unless...

Hah, they have no defence against my somersault roll! I'll smash right through them and make a break for the exit.

It must be really confusing for a lot of you to see someone struggling to get through the Tanker level on normal difficulty, as I feel like it hasn't been a problem for anyone since like 2005. But I can explain it: I suck at this game.

Though I've got four rations left, so I think I can make it to the next door, and safety.

HD Edition

Turns out I couldn't make it. Though I must have hit a checkpoint along the way, as when I chose to continue I reappeared in the room Snake had died in, not the entrance to the engine room. Works for me, I'm not complaining.

Also look, it's the game over screen from the first game! Just slightly higher resolution. In fact this is from the HD Edition so it's an even higher resolution... though I feel like the lines have ended up a bit wonky somehow.

I was about to carry on down to the door when Otacon called me up again to warn me about more lasers and more Semtex. Fortunately he also told me exactly what to do about them. Seems that there's a control box next to them with a green light on it, and if I put a round into that with my new USP it'll sort out the lasers.

Turns out he was right! I shot the box and I could hear the lasers powering down.

Oh for fuck's sake.

I tried it a few more times then eventually gave up and checked a walkthrough. Turns out that there's a separate control box for every set of lasers that needs shooting and the other two are hidden.

Worse, when I finally made it through there was an annoucement stating that the ship's reached the Verrazano Bridge. That means the boat's already passed the Statue of Liberty and I didn't get a chance to see it!


This is a good camera angle if they wanted to give away just how few polygons objects in this game really have, but not so good when it comes to spotting guards.

Oh crap, I got noticed by someone! I thought the radar was empty! You know what I have been seeing though? Boxes and boxes of USP ammo. It's like the level designer wants me to kill these guys instead of sneaking.

It wasn't long before I hit another cutscene, and once again the legendary Solid Snake got himself seen. For fuck's sake Snake, how are you worse at this than I am? Of course the moment he got into trouble he handed control back over to me and now I have to be the one to fight off all the enemies coming after him!

Or maybe I could use a stun grenade! Nope didn't work, guess I'll stick to shooting.

I like Metal Gear Solid's twin inventory menu system. L2 brings up a list of items to equip, R2 brings up a list of weapons, it's all very quick and convenient. Though I can only equip one type of item at a time and one of them is the rations that keep me alive in gunfights, so it kind of discourages me to use anything else.

Though I did give my thermal goggles a try to see if it helped. All it did was make it harder to see the grenade they threw over, so I didn't know where to run and got blown up.

You can tell it was an early PlayStation 2 game down here.

I think I really have to gun them all down on this bit, as it's locked me into this tiny section of corridor using invisible walls. It's just a shame I'm so bad at first person combat in this. Or any combat really.

Though I only got blown up two or three times before I realised how to deal with grenades. I have to stop everything and move when I hear the metal hitting the deck, unless they threw it too far, and I have to avoid rolling because it's not the best idea when there's walls on either side of me. Also having rations equipped, that helps.

Turns out not all the Marines on the tanker were killed. Most of them are down here in the hold watching the Marine Commandant give a speech on the big screen. There's no chairs allowed though, they all have to be standing for this, and rifles are mandatory.

I have just seven minutes to slip through three of these rooms full of Marines, get photos of their Metal Gear, and get over to a terminal to upload them to Otacon. Shame I can't just photograph the screen up there and get it done now.


Oh come on, this can't be a surprise to you. This is the reason you came here, remember?

Though it's just occurred to me that this game seems to have less of the "Snake, have you heard of X?" "X!?!?" thing going on with its dialogue than the previous game.

It's just as packed full of plot twists and convoluted weirdness though, as Revolver Ocelot just has shown up and shot one of his own men. Snake doesn't know about that yet though, and none of the Marines have any idea that anything's going on. I was wondering why Snake's not telling anyone that their ship's been hijacked, and Snake's wondering too, but Otacon's convinced him to get the photos done first. It'll only take a couple of minutes, it'll be fine!

There it is, the prototype Metal Gear Ray, making its second appearance in a Metal Gear game (you get to see a sketch of it as a reward for getting 100% completion in the Special Missions expansion for MGS1)

They've gone with a sea monster design for this model, which means it's got huge useless wings that are only good for swimming. I'm not really a fan.

Though I can't hang around here staring at it as I've only got 3 minutes and 45 seconds left before the Marine Commandant's speech is over, and I'm currently surrounded by Marines. Sure they're all looking at their boss and not me, but the guy likes to stop occasionally and yell 'intruder to the left, intruder to the right' and get everyone looking where I don't need them to look. Plus time limits take all the fun out of things so I just want to get this done!

Yeah, I know I've actually got more time than it says I do, I'm still anxious.


Of course Otacon would go to the trouble of making little reaction animations for his photo upload app! I would've expected him to go with an anime girl though. I mean I love little pixel Otacon, but the dude's literally named himself after an anime convention.

I wonder what the "172x208 pixels" thing above his head is about, because that's pretty damn small for a photo (smaller even than the photo in the viewer). Does the ship only have a dial up internet connection?

Unfortunately getting all the photos done triggers the next cutscene, where Ocelot walks out in front of a boat full of Marines and somehow doesn't get shot by anyone! Then Gurlukovich sneaks out and takes the Commandant hostage while they're distracted!

But Ocelot reveals there's been a change of plans, as he's going to take Metal Gear Ray for the Patriots instead.

No, the Patriots. P-a-t-r-i-o-t-s. Never mind.

This is such a weird random thing for him to say but they actually did manage to explain it in a later game, so I'm satisfied now.

Anyways, Ocelot shoots Gurlukovich and the Commandant and a whole bunch of his own men! And yet he somehow still hasn't been shot dead by the cargo hold filled with Marines. Turns out that they really should've shot him though, as he triggers the Semtex planted around the ship and then goes to steal Metal Gear Ray for himself as the place blows up around him.

This is the point where Snake finally realises that he's a participant in this cutscene, and he steps out to confront Revolver Ocelot.

This is also the point where Ocelot reveals how he got his arm back after a Cyborg Ninja cut it off in the last game. Turns out he attached Liquid Snake's arm, because when a guy dies of an engineered virus targeting his cells, that makes him a perfect candidate to be a limb donor. Unfortunately he's also possessed Ocelot's mind a bit, and Liquid's voice actor makes a surprise appearance to mock Snake for suffering from accelerated ageing. Is that new information at this point? I feel like it might be.

Anyway Snake utterly fails to stop Ocelot, who leaps into Ray's cockpit and starts it up. The mech crushes a few Marines, then takes a big gulp of sea water and uses it to fuel its cutting beam so it can slice a hole in the hull. I've seen this cutscene a few times now, but this is the first time I've picked up on why it stuck its head underwater like that.

Otacon cries "Snake, SNAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!" and it looks like it's all over for our hero. Meanwhile Ocelot's on the phone to the person he's working for... the US president!

Man, that was a long cutscene. 15 minutes in fact. It's pretty impressive that it was all done in-engine I reckon. Could've done without all the controller vibration though. Shame I can't get back to the menu to turn that off.

Two years later and there's a huge offshore decontamination facility sitting where the tanker went down, built to clean up the oil spill. Which is weird, because it wasn't an oil tanker...

Anyway Colonel Campbell is sending Snake in on a one-man sneaking to deal with a hostage situation, weapons and equipment OSP. Terrorists have taken the US president prisoner, plus they're threatening to destroy the facility and cause the biggest environmental disaster in history. But no pressure Snake.

HD Edition
"MetalGear2GunsOfPatriots" huh? That means that the main part of the game must be through this door!

Wait a minute, this is Sons of Liberty! Guns of the Patriots is the fourth game. Now I'm just confused.

Snake's got a new look now, and a new voice. In fact he's an entirely different person and Campbell has suddenly decided to change his codename as well, calling him 'Raiden'. He can't use his old codename, as the leader of the terrorists is Solid Snake... but not that one. The real Solid Snake died in the tanker incident, so this is a fake.

Campbell eventually stopped bombarding me with information and gave me a job to do: walk over to the nearby node and see how much of an electric shock I can get from it. Raiden's a little confused at first, because he thought he said 'nerd', but he eventually lets me get on with it.

After the painful and unnecessary electrocution, Raiden gets access to the Big Shell's computer (which looks identical to the game's UI). But before I can do anything it wants me to enter his details!

They haven't told me Raiden's real name so I'm going to assume that it's 'Hardgrit', and I guess he can be born in the default year of 1970. The game takes place in 2009 so he'd be 39; that's like a third of Revolver Ocelot's age, so it's fine!

After this they gave me a second chance to change my options, so I turned vibration off and inverted the first person camera controls.

Funnily enough they're also giving me a second chance to learn the basics, or a first chance actually seeing as Campbell's explaining things like the radar now. Apparently it's made from 'currently existing technology'. No shit, Colonel!

Why does that line seem so familiar though?

Metal Gear Solid (PSX)
Oh it was something my radar and save game expert Mei Ling said in the last game. Weird that.

I miss my awesome MGS1 support crew, I could always call them up to hear their thoughts on whatever it is I was doing. Now all I have is Colonel Campbell and he doesn't seem as friendly as he used to be. Though he does have a bombshell to drop on Raiden: his girlfriend Rose is going to be listening in to everything he does here and handling his save games. Surprise!

Well at least it's not his mum, but Rose would still make the shortlist of people he doesn't want listening in as he murders a bunch of people. Especially as she keeps pestering him to remember what's special about tomorrow.

The beginning of Raiden's mission is suspiciously similar to Snake's mission to infiltrate Shadow Moses Island, except I don't remember Snake slipping on bird shit and landing on his ass (which is now also covered in bird shit).

Also I got genuinely stuck here as I couldn't find a way out at all. You're supposed to crawl through the hole in the fence on the left (like how Snake crawls into the tank hangar in MGS1), but if you can spot the gap then you've got better eyesight than me.

I figured I had to get out by flipping over the railing and climbing around the edge. but unfortunately you can't get around that way. Plus I hadn't been improving my grip level by literally doing 100 pull ups, so I couldn't hang over the water for long...

At least this gives me a chance to talk about the new game over screen. It's full of secret stats you see.
ARMSTREN GTH0 - I've done zero pull ups.
PRUD ENCE9 - I've saved 9 times (in case I need to go back and get more screenshots!)
AMMOUS ED145 - I've fired 145 shots. Most of them in that corridor where they were throwing grenades at me.
ALRTNUM4 - I trigged the alert 4 times.

NUET10 - I've killed 10 enemies. One of them by accident (I still regret that).
DMGA MMOUNT1396 - I've suffered 14 health bars worth of damage.

CAMPOS - Raiden hit the water at coordinates X3106, Y14355 and Z -18449.
AREAMO VE - I've moved between areas 130 times.

VANISHED POINTW12a - Raiden died in W12a (Strut A Roof).
I eventually made it off the roof and soon found myself in another cutscene, watching all the SWAT team members get killed off by a vampire called Vamp. Though one guy made it!

His name is S... Plisken. Lieutenant J.G. Plisken. I guess this confirms that Snake has seen Escape from New York.

Not that this is Snake! In fact, Plisken is adamant that Snake died when the tanker went down two years ago. Dead and buried. Though the game gives us about seven different reasons to suspect he's lying in quick succession, including him removing his mask and revealing that he's Snake.

Raiden's not convinced about him, but he's not going to jump to any conclusions just yet, and the two of them have a chat about the mission. Turns out that this is actually kind of Raiden's first time out in the field. He's had plenty of practice though...

...playing Metal Gear Solid's VR special missions! No seriously, that's what he says. War as a video game to create the perfect soldier. You can't spell 'Metal Gear Solid' without 'meta'. Or 'ears', but I'm not sure that's relevant.

Anyway, I carried on playing the Plant chapter for an hour or so and man this game loves to interrupt you with cutscenes. Every time I left a room, there's another cutscene! Or a codec call! Or both.

But there's been some gameplay too, and I have a few complaints about it.

My main complaint that I have to sneak through a room and find the node to activate my radar now, and even when it's active the range isn't enough for the scale of the rooms the game's putting me in. I can't keep track of all these enemies moving around on multiple levels off-screen. It's like the Plant's designed for first person view but I can't move in this mode.

I can shoot in this mode, but without a silenced pistol that plan would lead me nowhere but disaster. To be more accurate, it'd lead to me running out of the room again and waiting for the timer to go down before trying it again.

Anyway I'm suddenly bored of this game now. I wanna play the VR special missions added for the Substance release!

VR has had a makeover since the last game and looks very stylish.

Plus I said this before about the first Metal Gear Solid, but the game actually kind of works better like this, as it boils the gameplay down to its purest form. The graphics give away how boxy the game really is, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The time it takes to restart after each failure is a bad thing though, considering how all I do is screw up, over and over. Seems like I always get a silver medal when I finally reach the exit, but it takes a lot of trial and error to make it there.

There's tons of different kinds of sneaking, shooting, stick up, sniping etc. challenges available, so no matter part of the game you prefer there's something to frustrate everyone. As tutorials go, it's pretty damn extensive. But I guess the VR missions weren't a huge selling point, as the feature never made it to the later versions of the later sequels.

Here's another Substance feature you don't see in many MGS games:

Snake Tales!

These are regular MGS2 levels with new objectives and the original story replaced by literal pages of text. Plus there's also 150 'Alternative' missions without all the story. It's a nice feature for people who've beaten the game and want to play a remix.

It's nice of them to put a big reminder at the bottom of the screen that says 'SAVE', because guess what I forgot to do with all my progress in the VR missions.

But wait, there's more!

There's special one level version of Evolution Skateboarding where you get to skate around the Big Shell as Snake or Raiden!

I'm pretty terrible at skateboarding games so I can't tell if it's any good, but the impression I'm getting is that it is not (and Metacritic backs me up). Though I did manage to complete some of the challenges, like collecting all the dog tags and smashing all the drones, and it turns out they don't stick. You have to finish all six goals in one three minute run it seems, and 'fall off the board every time you hit a ramp and try a trick' isn't one of them.

Snakeboarding is missing from the HD Edition for Xbox 360, PS3 and PS3 Vita, but it's not a huge loss. Though the skate punk cover of the Metal Gear Solid theme is pretty great (YouTube link).

The European version of Substance also came with The Document of Metal Gear Solid 2 bundled in on a second disc, which documents the making of Metal Gear Solid 2. Lots of bonus content here, including a model viewer.

So if you ever wanted to a good look at what Rose looks like in person, here's your chance. Hey they even gave her a badge. I wonder if the texture's big enough for the writing to be legible.

Metal Gear Solid 2 Rose Marry badge
Uh... okay.

Plus if you finish the whole game (like I actually did once, somehow), you get to replay certain cutscenes with the characters playing different roles.

PC version
I was tempted to go with a shot of Revolver Otacon giving a speech while Raiden held Marine Commandant Snake hostage, but in the end I had to go with the sword fight.


Metal Gear Solid 2 is like the previous game except more so. I know that's been true of all the sequels up to this point, they're all basically remakes of each other, but this time it's extra true. The epic cutscenes are back except more sophisticated, the gameplay's similar but more complicated, it's got the same Hideo Kojima weirdness except dialled up from 11 to 12, and man it has a lot of words.

The story is clearly the work of an intelligent auteur with points to make, but the temptation to fast-forward through Codec calls became strong once I reached the Plant chapter, because the characters really love to talk and they interrupt what you're doing constantly. Like the first game, it's a cross between a sci-fi action thriller, a stealth game and an audio book, and only one out of the three has you doing anything yourself. Plus to be honest, I wasn't really hooked on the drama between Raiden and his girlfriend, and I rarely thought 'hey I'll call up Rose to see what she thinks about this!' I can definitely see why fans weren't keen on the surprise switch from the charismatic veteran Solid Snake to the whiny rookie Raiden. He's not even a Solid Raiden... whatever that means.

It's got the kind of ridiculously convoluted plot that inspires essays and pisses off fans, as it constantly misdirects, subverts expectations and drops twists on top of twists to the point where it's hard to stay on the ride. It's also incredibly anime, and it cares just as much about looking cool and ninja vampires as it does about any of its themes. It's a bit like the Matrix sequels in that way now that I think about it. Plus it's debatable whether anything actually makes sense by the end, and it doesn't help that it took seven years for the series to actually explain what was going on here. A lot of its problems are deliberate artistic choices, but it doesn't mean they're not problems.

On the plus side, it looks pretty damn good for a game that came out in 2001. Sure it's a bit of a low-res low-polygon blurry mess at times, but the art design, production values and attention to detail shine through. It makes a real difference for the characters to have actual faces, with lips that move along with their dialogue. Even if that dialogue comes off as the ramblings of a mad prophet sometimes. Plus I've always loved all the gimmicks and Easter eggs and little details you might never even know are there. Like how the plasma TV on the tanker breaks correctly if you damage it, or how Otacon saves your photos of the locker posters, or how you can shoot a guard's radio so they can't call for backup. It goes for an unusual level of realism while being shamelessly video gamey at the same time, with its floating pickups and exclamation marks above enemies' heads. The characters will go on a speech about social media and artificial intelligence, then tell you to press the 'action button' on a computer.

There's some gameplay in there too and it's alright at times! I remember back in the day I was frustrated I couldn't play it like Deus Ex and having to shoot things in first person view is still a pain, but once I accepted it for what it was I started to get into it. Until it suddenly became something else for a bit and I got frustrated again. The game likes to mix things up, and I never reached the level of aptitude with its unusual controls and systems where I could really have fun with it. I reckon it's well overdue for a ridiculous Twin Snakes-style remake that brings the gameplay up to date with The Phantom Pain. They could call it Three Snakes as there's at least that many of them in this game. At the very least Konami need to sort themselves out and get a PC version onto Steam. A good PC version.

Anyway, I started getting frustrated with it after the Tanker chapter, but I can't not give Metal Gear Solid 2 a 'Not Crap' award. It's too dumb and clever and bizarre and well produced and iconic.

But the PlayStation 2 definitely wins the prize. One of my favourite consoles, right up there with the Xbox and the GameCube (plus the other PlayStations). Happy 20th birthday PS2!

Thanks for reading! Seriously, I like people reading my words, that's why I keep writing them.

Good luck guessing the next game this time, it's kind of obscure. Though chances are you're reading this article days, weeks or months after it was published, so you're probably already too late! Fortunately it's never too late for you leave a comment and share your own thoughts on Metal Gear Solid 2 or the PlayStation 2.


  1. I haven't played MGS2. For some reason, I'm playing them in reverse,so I've played Phantom Pain (great but flawed), Revengeance (bonkers and fun), and MGS4 (quite fun in the brief moments of gameplay between cutscenes) so far. I did play MGS back when it first came out but I didn't get on with it, so I'm not looking forward to that. I think doing it in reverse was probably the wrong idea.

    1. Yeah, reverse order probably isn't the way to go with the MGS games, as they're always referencing earlier stories and the gameplay generally improves.

      In fact I'm not sure there's any series that works better if you play it in reverse order, though I'm going to be stuck thinking about it now.

    2. I can recommend playing MGS3 in reverse: put the controller down, take the disc out, put it back in its box, go to the shops, give it back in exchange for money.

    3. Sonic the Hedgehog, sort of? The series peaked with Sonic 2 and then got worse and worse, so if you played the series backwards and then didn't play the first one, that sort of works.

      (I haven't played Sonic Mania, but it probably throws my whole argument in the bin.)

  2. Call of duty?

    1. I'm afraid not - it's not a first person shooter. :)

      If you meant the first Call of Duty, I played that nine years ago.

  3. Cartwheeling pregnant lady? That's too much, Kojima!
    Anyway, congratulation on having the same name with Walking Nuclear Launcher.
    Such Fantastic luck that you have

  4. I'm a big fan of the Metal Gear series from 1 to 4. Behind the over-the-top story and characters, they actually sneak in realistic and surprisingly accurate analysis about the future. For example, if I remember correctly this MGS2 was all about the internet and social media, the virtual reality, and all those things that we now pretty much live with.

    But I didn't remember the thing about the ice melting - I probably never noticed it! And one thing I sure never knew about was that the gibberish in the game over screen had actually game stats hidden in it. Awesome!


Semi-Random Game Box