Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is an action-adventure stealth game directed by Hideo Kojima, originally developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Japan and published by Konami for the PlayStation 2 in 2001. It is the fourth Metal Gear game produced and directed by Kojima and the direct sequel to Metal Gear Solid. Its release was followed by an expanded edition, Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance for Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Windows. A direct sequel was released in 2008, titled Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater being a prequel).
The story revolves around the "Big Shell", a massive offshore clean-up facility that has been seized by a group of terrorists that call themselves "Sons of Liberty". They demand a massive ransom in exchange for the life of the President of the United States, and threaten to destroy the facility and create a cataclysmic environmental disaster if their demands are not met. The motives and identities of many of the antagonists and allies change rapidly, as the protagonists discover a world-shaking conspiracy constructed by a powerful organization known as the Patriots.
While the game received universal acclaim for its gameplay, graphics, and its extreme attention to detail, both fans and critics were divided on the new protagonist, plus the philosophical nature and execution of the game's storyline, which explores themes such as memes, social engineering, political conspiracies, censorship, and artificial intelligence. Over the years, however, the game's reputation has improved dramatically and it is now considered to be one of the greatest video games ever made. The game has shipped over 7 million copies worldwide and scored an average Metacritic aggregate score of 96%, making it the fourth highest-rated game on the PlayStation 2, and tied for the sixth highest-rated game of all time. It has been considered an early example of a postmodern video game and has been cited as one of the most important examples of artistic expression in the medium.
The game opens with a flashback, two years after the Shadow Moses incident in the original Metal Gear Solid. On August 8, 2007, Solid Snake and Otacon, now members of the non-governmental organization Philanthropy, are investigating the development of a new Metal Gear by the United States Marine Corps. Snake arrives on the tanker transporting the weapon in the middle of an attack by Russian mercenaries, led by Colonel Gurlukovich, his daughter Olga and Snake's enemy Ocelot.
After Snake knocks Olga unconscious, he sneaks down to the hold in order to record pictures of the new Metal Gear RAY... In the disastrous aftermath, Snake is blamed for the disaster, and is believed to have perished. The Big Shell clean-up facility is later constructed, ostensibly to help clean the Hudson River after the major oil spill that occurred due to the tanker sinking.
On April 29, 2009, Raiden is operating under a reformed FOXHOUND. He has orders to infiltrate the Big Shell to rescue hostages, including the US president, from the terrorist group Sons of Liberty (whose leader claims to be Solid Snake), backed up by the rogue anti-terror training unit Dead Cell, who are also threatening to destroy the facility...
The protagonist of MGS2 is a young rookie agent named Raiden. He is supported by:
- the Colonel, his commanding officer
- and Rosemary, his girlfriend
Allies formed on the mission include:
- Lt. Junior Grade Iroquois Pliskin, a Navy SEAL of mysterious background who provides his knowledge of the facility
- Peter Stillman, a NYPD bomb-disposal expert
- Otacon, a computer security specialist
- and a cyborg ninja imitating Gray Fox's persona, first calling itself Deepthroat, then changing its name to Mr. X
The antagonists of peace are the Sons of Liberty, a group of terrorists who seize control of the Big Shell Disposal Facility, including anti-terror training unit Dead Cell, and a Russian mercenary force. The Dead Cell team members are:
- Vamp, an immortal man exhibiting vampire-like attributes
- Fatman, a rotund man with exceptional knowledge of bombs
- and Fortune, a woman capable of cheating death by apparent supernatural means
The leader of Sons of Liberty claims to be Solid Snake, previously declared dead after a terrorist attack. Assisting the Sons of Liberty are Olga Gurlukovich, commander of a rogue Russian mercenary army, and Revolver Ocelot, a disenfranchised Russian nationalist and former FOXHOUND agent, Solid Snake's old nemesis, and henchman of Solidus Snake.
Other characters include:
- Emma Emmerich, Otacon's stepsister and a computer wiz-kid
- Sergei Gurlukovich, Ocelot's former commanding officer and Olga's father
- President James Johnson, held hostage by the Sons of Liberty
- DIA operative Richard Ames
- Liquid Snake returns as ... no spoilers
Metal Gear Solid 2 carries the title of "Tactical Espionage Action," and most of the game involves the protagonist sneaking around avoiding being seen by the enemies. Most fundamental are the wider range of skills offered to the player. The new first-person aiming mode allows players to target specific points in the game, greatly expanding tactical options; guards can be blinded by steam, distracted by a flying piece of fruit or hit in weak spots. Players can now walk slowly, allowing them to sneak over noisy flooring without making a sound, or hang off walkways to slip past below guards' feet. The corner-press move from the original title, which allowed players a sneak peek around the next bend is expanded to allow players to fire from cover. Other new abilities included leaping over and hanging off of railings, opening and hiding in storage lockers, and sneaking up behind enemies to hold them at gunpoint for items and ammunition. Players are also able to shoot out the enemy's radio so they are unable to communicate with others on their team. The environment also had a greater impact on the stealth gameplay, taking into account factors such as weather, smell, atmosphere and temperature.
In Metal Gear Solid 2, the enemy guards were given more advanced AI "to prevent an imbalance of power," and unlike the original Metal Gear Solid, work in squads. They call on their radios for a strike team upon seeing the player, then attempt to flank him and cut off his escape while avoiding the player's attacks. Often strike teams will carry body armor and riot shields, making them an even greater threat. Even if the player escapes to a hiding place, a team will sweep in to check the area. The game has a collective enemy AI, where enemy guards work together in squads, can communicate with one another, and react in a more realistic manner towards the player. The game's enemy AI was considered one of the best in gaming for many years.
The game also expanded its predecessor's cover mechanic, with Solid Snake or Raiden now able to take cover behind walls or objects and pop out to shoot at enemies, while the improved enemy AI allowed enemies to also take cover from the player character. The enemies would often take cover to call for backup, but during battle, they would take cover then pop out and shoot at the player or blindly throw grenades from behind their cover. The game also features a laser sight mechanic, where a laser sight helps assist with manually aiming a gun, similar to WinBack (1999) and Resident Evil 4 (2005) but with first-person aiming rather than third-person. Boss battles and set-pieces remain a case of finding a strategy that bypasses the defenses of the enemy. However, in a major break from action game standards, it is also possible to clear the entire game, including boss fights, without causing a single deliberate death, through use of tranquilizer guns, stun grenades and melee attacks.