Next up on the Metal Gear marathon is, of course, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
This was so much better than I remember it being. Yes, there are still some clunky controls (particularly the super awkward first person view), and yes there is an unbelievable amount of dialogue and exposition that can be a bit annoying when you’re really getting into the game and you have to keep being forced to stop and watch 10 minutes of conversation in what feels like every other room sometimes, but when the game actually lets you play it, it is ridiculously fun.
The graphics hold up pretty well, especially under the HD treatment, and the stealth mechanics have been further improved, adding the ability to hide bodies and more detail to the enemy AI like radio check ins, which if missed can lead to reinforcements showing up, or if you are foolish enough to take an enemy out while they are in the middle of a call, the alarm will be sounded. This mechanic seemed a bit off though, as it seemed to only be in effect at completely random times. A lot of times if you take a single enemy out, even if you don’t interrupt any radio calls or get detected at all, he’ll still get radio calls and they’ll send reinforcements to search the area when they get no answer. If this happens you’d have been better off just sneaking through without attacking anyone. Some areas are completely devoid of this mechanic though and you can just wipe out everyone without any calls ever coming in. There was no indication or reason for these differences that I could see so you never really knew what was going to happen in each area, which I guess is kind of nice in a way in terms of building tension, but I kind of prefer the approach of stealthily slaughtering everyone so I can search the place and find all the hidden items that I’ll probably never even end up using. This minor frustration didn’t stop it from being a hard game to put down though.
Now, let’s talk about the plot. The story here far exceeds the bizarreness and level of convolution of any of the past games. For example, we have things like the completely unnecessary subplot about Otacon and his estranged stepsister. Otacon’s stepsister is apparently secretly in love with him, but they were separated long ago when Otacon left after their father drowned and the stepsister almost drowned with him. It turns out that this was actually not an accident and that the father purposely drowned himself to death (and I guess somehow made the stepsister almost drown with him somehow?) because he found out that the stepmother was seducing Otacon on the side. What does any of this have to do with anything? Not a thing. Forget that though, let’s talk about the main plot.
So Raiden, the character you play as for most of the game, is sent in to stop terrorists, who have kidnapped the president on this super oil rig place and are demanding money. They are led by someone calling himself Solid Snake, who is actually Solidus Snake, the 3rd
clone of Big Boss and ex-president of the US. Also working for Solidus is Ocelot Revolver who had his arm that was chopped off in 1 replaced with the arm from Liquid Snake’s corpse for some reason which somehow means Liquid Snake is still alive in Ocelot’s body and can control him sometimes. It turns out though, that this oil rig is really a disguise for a secret super metal gear base with a super AI program that was all going to be used by the Patriots, who are the super secret shadow government who are really controlling everything. Solidus used to be one of them, but they tried to kill him so this is his plan to take over their plan so that he can destroy the Patriots and take over everything for himself. Also, the Colonel Campbell who has been feeding you intel the whole time has actually just been the patriots AI pretending to be Colonel Campbell and you are secretly an agent of the Patriots. Except it turns out that Ocelot has secretly been working for the Patriots the whole time and they knew everything and have just been manipulating Solidus and everyone else in order to put you through their program to recreate the events of the first game and mold you in the image of Solid Snake so that they can create a bunch of Solid Snakes of their own, except wait, Liquid Snake takes over Ocelot again and says he has been influencing him the whole time and really this is all still a plan to steal the Patriots’ identities and destroy them again, but WAIT, then the Patriot AI tells you that all the previously told purposes of the AI are bullshit and that this was all really about testing its program for mind and data manipulation with the idea being that if it could manipulate everyone into partaking in this complicated mission and manipulate your rookie ass into Solid Snaking your way through it, then it must be working properly and be able to manipulate anyone. You are then told that you and Solidus have to face each other in a final battle, even though you have no real reason to be fighting each other anymore after all these revelations, but the AI wants it finished and it wants Solidus taken care of, so even though you win and are given a strangely happy-toned ending where you become “free” to do what you want with your life now that it’s all over, you still were manipulated to the very end and the AI and the Patriots got everything that they wanted out of their plans and so basically they totally won and you didn’t really accomplish anything in the end. Hooray! Follow all that? I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to repeat that all back to you if I hadn’t written it down right after I finished the game.
Anyway, the game also comes with a huge amount of bonus VR missions, which I spent WAY too much time playing, I mean about as long as it took to beat the main campaign and I was still only 2/3 of the way through them all, only to get stuck at an impossible sniper mission, which I’m told can only really be beaten by sheer luck through hours of repeat attempts AND that there’s another, even harder one still after that. I gave up then and decided to just skip any future optional VR missions for the rest of this marathon, because this is already taking up a lot of time as it is and I don’t need to waste countless more hours on pointlessly frustrating challenges that win me nothing. Plus I will probably break the controller completely if I throw it like that again…
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Alright, here comes the next one! This ought to answer some of the piles of dangling questions about the Patriots, right? Nope! This one is suddenly a prequel which details the origin of Big Boss and is almost all in the jungle! The game takes place during the Cold War and follows the typically bizarre and convoluted mission of a young Big Boss, then known as Naked Snake (yes, really). While we do learn a bit about the origins of the Patriots and Ocelot Revolver, this is primarily the story of how Big Boss became the ultimate soldier, lost his eye, got the name Big Boss, and began losing his faith in his country. It’s all tied together with the previous games in a complex manner, but not nearly on a level as hard to follow as 2 was. It was pretty interesting to see just how similar Big Boss and Solid Snake were before Big Boss was put on a different path by a big ultimate-soldier-making mission that took a much different and darker turn than Solid Snake’s did. While it didn’t advance the present day plot one bit, it was definitely still a story worth experiencing.
As for the gameplay, survival is suddenly the theme of the day. Sneaking around in the jungle requires some different tactics and mechanics than the previous games. These new additions seemed interesting and clever, but for the most part they were too underdeveloped and often ended up feeling a little pointless. The ability to change into different types of camouflage outfits to better blend into the surroundings, for instance, sounds like a nice idea, but with how many patches of tall grass there are all over the place, you really only ever need the forest type ones, with an occasional switch to an indoors type one for the few indoor areas, though in those cases you’re having to hide behind large objects like usual anyway so I don’t know that the camo even mattered anymore. It’s supposed to add realism, but having 15 different outfits magically stashed in your pouch that you can instantly change in and out of doesn’t really feel all that real. You also now have a stamina bar that drops as you move and needs to be replenished by eating. You will have to hunt for food and try out different kinds to find out how effective or what good or bad extra effects each type might have or your abilities like your aiming will become handicapped as your stamina drops. Again, this sounds nice in theory, but there is just so much damn food all over the place that I was never even a little bit low on stamina so it really just ends up being kind of pointless busywork in the end. I admit, they probably weren’t expecting most players to be slaughtering every guard around and searching every corner for every scrap of food and gear there is to find like I do though. Electronic gear also requires batteries that wear down if used too frequently and suppressors will break down forcing you to find new ones, but again, I never came close to being at all low on either. You also have to perform self-surgery when you get seriously wounded. Again, sounds good, but the process is so simplistic and the medical supplies so abundant, that it just ends up being another time waster. Oh well. They were nice ideas at least.
None of these things had any major negative impact on the game though, luckily. The gameplay is still very similar to the previous Solid games and even removed the radio check-in system from 2 so I could thoroughly annihilate everyone in sight. It was still a lot of fun being a sneaky asshole and fighting more oddly inexplicable, yet completely socially acceptable, supernaturally empowered villains. At this point I’m really looking forward to finally playing 4 and hopefully finally learning some of the big long-running mysteries…but one more thing first…
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops This one is not part of the Legacy Collection or made by Kojima himself, but it came out between 3 and 4 and continues telling some more details of Big Boss’ past, so I’m not about to skip it…or am I?
Now I remember why I never played this one. I couldn’t keep playing after the first 10 minutes because the controls are fucking horrible. There’s only one analog “stick” on PSP so the stick controls movement and the d-pad makes you look around and they’re both on the same side. It’s awful. You can change it so that the buttons control looking around, but then all the normal button actions have to be on the d-pad on the left side and it’s not much less awkward. I tried playing it on an emulator instead so I could configure all the controls in a playable manner on a proper controller, but then the game was too laggy to play comfortably, no matter what settings I tried. I guess PSP emulation still isn’t quite there yet. Oh well. I guess I’ll have to put this one off until it can be played properly on an emulator someday. WAH. Time for another Metal Gear intermission.
To be continued…