One had to be there to appreciate Metal Gear Solid 2: The Sons of Liberty's impact on gaming. It wasn't a launch title, but it was one of the first games on the PS2 to truly showcase the system's capabilities. Games have a knack for aging, however, and what was once considered revolutionary is now quaint.
It is still a masterpiece, but some don't realize the innovations Hideo Kojima's 2001 sequel to Metal Gear Solid brought to the medium. To that effect, the following list will present five landmark achievements from MGS2 that people take for granted, and five that are still breathtaking to witness today.
10 Take For Granted: Graphics
Graphics are usually the first thing to age in a game. Even with this in mind, it took several years for other titles to start looking better than The Sons of Liberty. These days, however, every game on the market looks better from a technological standpoint.
It still manages to shine in its artistic direction and character design, which was done by the masterful Yoji Shinkawa. Fortunately, graphics aren't everything, and the gameplay still holds up. It also by no means looks bad today, either.
9 Still Breathtaking: Narrative
The story is a unique tale that is simply impossible to replicate today. The narrative deals with the new millennium and the then-burgeoning internet. One could write a similar story today, and Thomas Pynchon's Bleeding Edge from 2013 does bear some familiar themes, but it wouldn't have the same impact as a story from 2001.
People have already seen and felt the consequences of the digital media age and the controlling of mass information. Metal Gear Solid 2, on the other hand, was speculating on the future, giving viewers both a pessimistic outlook and something positive to hope for and hold on to.
8 Take For Granted: First-Person Aiming
These days, third-person games usually play like first-person shooters where aiming is concerned. A select few still eschew this concept, like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Grand Theft Auto V, but for the most part, shooting is as easy as moving the stick and pressing a single button.
Because of this standard, first-person aiming in the 2001 title won't seem like anything special, but it was a revelation coming off of MGS1. Lining up headshots and aiming for other specific parts of the body changed the gameplay entirely.
7 Still Breathtaking: Shooting Radios
In the first game, getting spotted by a guard immediately triggered an alert phase. In the sequel, however, enemies had to radio in to trigger the status. Clever players with steady hands could disable an enemy's means of communication by shooting the radio around their hip.
Not only would it prevent an alert, but it would also buy Snake or Raiden time to incapacitate the guard as he tries to call for backup and realizes the radio is broken. This type of interactivity with guards is still rare in today's gaming landscape.
6 Take For Granted: Hiding In Lockers
The whole series is based around this cat and mouse game of hiding from guards who usually outnumber and the protagonist. The player must use every tool at their disposal to avoid detection. In MGS1, this typically involved careful movements and the occasional use of a cardboard box.
In the sequel, the player could hide in a locker. A guard could look straight at it without realizing their intruder was inside. While this mechanic was one of the many new things players could do almost twenty years ago, it is just one tool most stealth games provide players with these days.
5 Still Breathtaking: The Ending
The whole game is great, but the last act, starting from Raiden's imprisonment on Arsenal Gear, is an especially iconic part. All the major revelations come to light, with twists that are still mind-boggling after the tenth playthrough.
The final codec conversation before the final boss is especially spine-tingling. Despite the many plot threads left hanging by the time the credits roll, Kojima intended for MGS2 to be the series' finale. The plot was arguably unfinished, but the themes, messages, and closing dialogue have a sense of finality to them.
4 Take For Granted: Shooting Around The Corner
To be fair, this mechanic wasn't too useful in the 2001 game, but it was still a new feature for the medium. Any modern shooter worth its weight in gunpowder lets shoot from behind cover.
MGS2 allows this as well, but it is far from the most efficient tool in the player's move set. It's too slow in intense firefights and is liable to get someone spotted when sneaking around.
3 Still Breathtaking: Holding Up Guards
Interaction with the enemy was taken to a whole new level with The Sons of Liberty. A key mechanic was holding up guards at gunpoint in order to get items. Most enemies also carried collectible dog tags.
More sadistic players could also shoot limbs, and the poor victim will react accordingly, either hopping on one foot after being shot in the leg or having a limp arm if the bullet goes through the hand. This mechanic was also the foundation for the interrogation which would play a larger role in the sequels.
2 Take For Granted: The Raiden Switcheroo
Most people know of the early game twist where Raiden becomes the playable character and Snake is put into a supporting role, but it was a massive shocker at the time. People fully expected to play as Solid Snake for the whole game, and many didn't appreciate the surprise.
Because it's and such an iconic moment in gaming, few people will ever relive the bewilderment fans felt back in 2001. It also helps relieve some frustration, too, since few will expect to play as Snake for the whole game.
1 Breathtaking: All The Little Details
Despite its linear corridors and modestly sized map, Metal Gear Solid 2 is still a veritable sandbox filled with silly diversions. From a bucket of ice that melts in real-time to the plethora of bonus codec conversations that spur from optional moments, all the details add up to create a truly immersive experience.
It is a pleasant reminder that a game doesn't need a vast open-world in order to feel alive. A big map means nothing if it feels barren. Instead, a smaller play area usually consisting of a straight line ends up feeling more believable and like a real place because of its dedication to detail and realism.