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Metal Gear Solid 2: cutscenes and craziness

Back in March, Luke from Hundstrasse and I decided to take part in a game-swap. Our objective was to find the most bizarre retro titles for each other and, in return for my gift of Realm of the Dead, he sent me Whiplash – a platforming adventure that caused come controversy when it was released in 2004.

It was a fun experience so, when Athena from AmbiGaming asked if I wanted to do another game-swap, I agreed straight away. This time the requirement would be different though: instead of searching for titles the other had never played before, we instead challenged each other to try one of our favourite releases. This explains why she completed Fable on stream recently, something I can only apologise to her for; I might love this game but the controls and camera do feel awfully clunky nowadays.

She nominated me to play Metal Gear Solid in return but it didn’t quite work out as planned. Thanks to the original being rather expensive to purchase and a code donated by Ellen from Ace Asunder not working due to regional lockout, I didn’t get the chance. Athena agreed I could play Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty instead, so a copy was ordered for my PlayStation 2; but ultimately I installed it on our Xbox One after realising it was available via Game Pass as it would enable the use of a modern controller.

This would be the first Hideo Kojima title I’d ever tried so I felt a little apprehensive for a couple of reasons. Although I can enjoy action releases, poor coordination means I’m not that great at them and I wondered how long it would take me to complete the game. In addition, my opinion of Kojima had been influenced by articles I’d read in the past – about the way he viewed women, his eccentricity, his sense of ego – so I wasn’t sure whether I’d feel comfortable with what I was about to see.

I usually give a story overview of the game at this point in posts but I’ve struggled to write one for MGS2. There are so many plot-twists thrown at the player, particularly within the last couple of hours, that I’m not entirely sure I fully understand what happened. There was something about virtual-reality (VR) simulations, several terrorist organisations, a president being taken hostage, huge metal machines which behave like animals and artificial intelligence (AI) – and this is only a start.

And there are cutscenes. Lots and lots of cutscenes, some so lengthy that our Xbox decided to put itself on standby while we were watching. I found this infographic online which shows they averaged 05:30 minutes each, with the longest being 20:15 minutes. I’m not adverse to such moments in video games because I usually play them for the narrative, but at times it was excessive: it felt like the control was taken away from us each time we were starting to get into the gameplay.

Metal Gear Solid 2, MGS2, Sons of Liberty, video game, man, Solid Snake, face, gun

Luke was watching while Pete and I streamed the game on Twitch, and kindly sent me an email last week to try and explain it all. I can’t deny that I’m still confused though. There are so many plot elements, not all of which seem completely relevant or necessary, and there are far too many names for someone who struggles to remember the characters are like I do. There was the impact of streaming too: sometimes it was hard to follow what was happening in-game at the same time as trying to keep up with chat.

Luke also told me about the controversy surrounding MGS2 at the time of its release. The tanker section, where you play as Solid Snake, was released as a prologue so fans were understandably annoyed when they got their hands on the full release and realised they’d be spending a lot of time with Raiden. I’ve also read that Kojima came up with the idea of this new protagonist to appeal to female players, after hearing female debuggers working on the original Metal Gear Solid say that it wasn’t appealing to them. More about this later.

I agreed with Athena before starting that I could attempt the title on the easiest mode and I’m glad I took this option. I had to pass the controller to Pete on several occasions because there were sections I struggled to get to grips with. My main issue was the way the camera angle changed whenever you entered a new scene so I never knew which direction I’d be moving in (the main reason I’ve never felt totally comfortable with classic point-and-click series that make the transition from 2D to 3D).

The thing is though, for all the things I found confusing or frustrating about MGS2, there’s a part of me that enjoyed playing it. After our stream of the last section of the game, my other-half and I both admitted to each other that we’d actually had quite a lot of fun. Maybe it was the fact that we could finally say we’d experienced a Metal Gear title, or that we’d played while discussing it with friends over Twitch, or that we just never knew what the plot was going to throw at us next. It’s difficult to put my finger on it.

I can see why the series is one of Athena’s favourites. Certain elements might come across over-the-top or not aging well, but it must have been pretty amazing to experience a release that like that on the PlayStation 2 when it was originally released back in 2001. As Nathan from Gaming Omnivore and Phil explained to us, there was nothing on the market 19 years ago which was as cinematic or ambitious in what it was trying to deliver, so I can imagine it was something truly spectacular for players at the time.

I’m afraid I can’t end this post without saying something about the game’s depiction of women though, and I’m not sure what it is that annoyed me the most. Maybe it was that Emma both looks and behaves like a 12-year old girl despite being 18, and Raiden has a good long look at her butt as she climbs down a ladder above him. Or perhaps it was that girlfriend Rose feels the need to call him regularly and constantly brings up their relationship every time he wants to save, even though he’s on an important mission.

As Kevin from The Lawful Geek said in chat: Kojima can’t write a female character to save his life. But my annoyance could also come from the designer creating the protagonist for female players, as if a hunky blonde hero is the only thing we’re interested in when it comes to playing video games. It almost feels like he treats a person’s view of the opposite sex as something that’s purely sexual; his characters’ interactions are very voyeuristic and it’s as if people are measured in terms of their sexual worth.

I might not like all the characters. I might think the cutscenes are excessive. I might feel that MGS2 is incredibly self-indulgent and as Brandon from That Green Dude said, could have benefited from an editor going through it and telling Kojima ‘No’. But playing this game has definitely been an experience and one I’m glad I’ve had. In the very least, it gave me the opportunity to play something I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise and be more open to the idea of further game-swaps in the future.

Metal Gear Solid 2, MGS2, Sons of Liberty, video game, man, Raiden

Speaking of which, my next collaboration is lined up already. I’ve shared before that I really dislike turn-based combat so Ellen is going to try and convince me otherwise with her gift of Final Fantasy XIII. In return I’ve gifted her both Her Story and The Madness of Doctor Dekker, to help cure her of her aversion to full-motion video (FMV) after she watched us play Dark Nights with Poe and Munro in May (perhaps not the greatest example of the genre).

Thanks so much to Athena from slogging through Fable and for giving me the chance to experience my first Metal Gear game. Here’s to more game-swaps!

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

20 thoughts on “Metal Gear Solid 2: cutscenes and craziness Leave a comment

  1. I remember that cutscene towards the end that just went on and on… And Rose was atrocious, I agree that she was terribly written! It’s not a bad game by any stretch but didn’t live up to MGS at the time

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    • After a few hours in, we were yelling at the screen every time Rose appeared just because we wanted her to shut-up ha ha! It just seemed incredibly strange that she kept wanting to phone Raiden and talk about their relationship while he was supposedly on this urgent mission. 😆

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly, it was never the right time haha. It was enough to put you off saving the game altogether 😄 As for the switch in characters, although I didn’t like playing as Raiden, it was cool getting to see Snake operate through the eyes of another character. While I can’t look back too fondly on MGS2, this aspect of it (along with the brilliant opening score) was one of the few parts that did stand out.

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        • I guess I had it easier in some ways because I’d never played MGS and so had no idea of what to expect. Playing as Raiden therefore wasn’t a surprise, if that makes sense. I can’t say I warmed to him entirely though; I know it was supposed to be his first real mission, but some of the questions he asked just seemed so naive. 😆

          Liked by 1 person

          • Very true, it may be his first mission but Raiden was meant to have done something like 300 VR missions I think I remember him saying? Some of his dialogue just made him sound ridiculous though, like when the Colonel had to explain to him what a node was 🤔

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            • Yes! I know it was a way of explaining things to the player but it just felt heavy-handed and unconvincing, making Raiden seem as though he was completely green behind the ears. Saying that though, the game is almost 20 years old so maybe I’m being a bit critical!

              Liked by 1 person

              • It was a pretty heavy-handed tutorial and not all that necessary, considering the players had just navigated the tanker and would have been over an hour into the game as it was. Nah I think you’re being fair, the writing felt cringy back then too 😄

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  2. Metal Gear Solid 2 was actually the first Metal Gear Solid game I ever played. I remember watching the final cutscene(s) of the game at a friend’s house one time and not having ANY idea what was going on. I was 15 or so and probably a bit conflicted as to whether or not I actually liked the game that much at that time. It wasn’t until a couple years later that MGS: Twin Snakes came out on the Gamecube that the series finally start to click for me. There were a few time that, while watching you and Pete play through the game I even had to laugh and say “what a stupid game”. Kojima games tend to be a pairing some really intriguing stories that just happen to have some utterly dumb writing(MGS 2&4 are typically considered the most self-indulgent of the series). The representation of female characters in the games are…subpar for the most part…

    I’d definitely be up for a game swap if you’re still interested after you get done with Final Fantasy 13, I’ve never played any of the Monkey Island games for example…

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    • I can understand why Athena likes this series, and could also see some really good themes in the MGS2 storyline. I guess they just didn’t ultimately come together for me because I didn’t understand what was happening (but I attribute that in part to streaming the game and not giving it 100% concentration as a result). If I can get my hands on the first MGS one day, I’d definitely be intrigued to play it so you never know.

      Looks like that’s my next game-swap lined up then! I’m intrigued to hear what you’ll suggest… 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It was an experience watching you both play through this. I can safely say I didn’t understand the story but I’m glad I saw it played. I don’t think I’ll be jumping in to play it myself, as I don’t think I’d cope with the controls or following the story, but I’m glad you streamed it. I’m also glad you did enjoy the experience even if putting why into words isn’t the easiest.

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    • I think if we’d played it off-stream, we probably would have understood more what was going on because our concentration wouldn’t have been split between the game and chat. But there was something about being able to play it with everyone there; I think it definitely added to the experience and I really enjoyed our conversations! 😄

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  4. This was a fun game swap! I was just a cranky-pants during Fable, there really is no need to apologize, unless you’ll let me apologize for subjecting you to Metal Gear Solid 😛

    Your criticisms are valid. I think, like Fable, it’s a product of its times, and to have played it when it came out (or not) definitely colors a person’s enjoyment of it now. It definitely has some pacing issues (to say the least), and ham-hands in values at the end. The games become increasingly over-the-top as the series progresses, and I agree that Kojima couldn’t write a good female character if his life depended on it. BUT having said that, I’ve always found them to be a fun romp, like playing through a comic book and letting myself get wrapped up in the goofiness of some of the elements.

    At any rate, I’m glad we swapped games!! This was a lot of fun and I’d be open to swapping more in the future!

    (Also, let me know if you still have questions about the characters/story and I’ll try my best haha)

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    • Oh no, I really *do* need to apologise… I started playing Fable again a few weeks ago and was reminded just how bad the controls are. I’m so sorry for putting you through that awful control scheme. 😆

      MGS2 probably wouldn’t have been something I’d have picked up if it wasn’t for game-swapping and I’m glad I’ve had the chance to play it. As much as I had some issues with it, I can’t deny that we had fun and it had some really interesting themes; plus it was great getting to hear about everyone’s memories of the series! I’m going to continue keeping an eye out for a copy of MGS because I’d still like to go back to the start, and hopefully understand more about what was happening. I think I might still need that diagram. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. MGS2 was the only metal Gear game I ever completed, honestly I do prefer the Raiden games over the Solid Snake once, gameplay wise but that cutscene at the end.. I remember playing this as a kid and a show I wanted to watch was on, then I got trapped in a cutscene that lasted the ENTIRE show..but it was my last rental day so I had to finish, very frustrating

    I also vividly remember being near the final Boss and Rose called super upset that Raiden had nothing personal like pictures in his house.. that made zero sense to me.
    They are close enough she calls him constanyly and talks like they arw married but she never saw his appartment? Plus she complains on this during a mission? Girl that is not something you video phone to a man on a stealth mission.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was exactly our impression of Rose. She came across as being incredibly needy with all her calls to Raiden and constant requests for him to remember what day it was… and during stealth sections or fights too. I’m still rolling my eyes at how bad the character was. 😆

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