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THPS 2

1995-2000
GamesFirst! Magazine

Preview

mgs2_logo.gif (4419 bytes)

Due Fall 2001 for PlayStation 2

 

mgs2-1-01.jpg (2758 bytes)I have played Metal Gear Solid 2, and I have seen the future of the gaming industry. Upon its release, MGS2 will effectively set new standards for game play, design, and presentation. Hell, after only playing the demo, my standards have changed.

mgs2-11-01.jpg (2829 bytes)The demo opens with a grand movie sequence: a hooded figure walks the rain-drenched George Washington Bridge in New York. He takes to a run, tosses aside his raincoat, and dives over the edge. The camera follows his fall. He is digitally cloaked to be nearly invisible, but as the bungee cord snaps taught, the equipment glitches to reveal a glimpse of Solid Snake, hero of the Metal Gear series. Snake lands on the deck of a military freighter, damaging his cloaking device. And so the story begins. Two years have passed since the previous game. Ocelot has sold the Metal Gear technology to the world, and an arms race has begun. Snake has been sent to discover what new technology lies on board this freighter, hopefully without being seen, and without causing the Marines on board any permanent harm. But before he can begin, a helicopter passes overhead, and he observes as a well-trained group of Russian assassins slaughter the Marines, and move in to find the technology for themselves. Now Snake must get by them, armed with only a tranquilizer gun and his fists, equipped with only a few supplies, including his trademark cigarettes.

mgs2-13-01.jpg (4194 bytes)Sound exciting? It is. The level of storytelling—the set-up, the dialogue, the plot twist that turns the humanitarian use of a tranquilizer gun into a major inhibition as he now faces eighteen heavily armed assassins—surpasses what we have come to expect from our video games. And this is merely a demo, one level of the game as a whole.

mgs2-15-01.jpg (3008 bytes)Aside from the captivating story, the first things to make an impression are the graphics, and they are certainly impressive. The movie scenes are flawless—rich, detailed backdrops; incredible lighting effects; convincing movement; and Snake’s fall, his invisible body rippling through the scenery, is simply beautiful. Perhaps most astounding are the weather effects. Rain falls from multiple directions, bounces off of objects, is carried by the wind. Puddles slosh across the deck, waves roll, lightning erupts. And the in-game graphics don’t disappoint either. What am I saying? The screen shots speak volumes, don’t they? Honestly, there is little discrepancy between the game and movie graphics: one just seems to be an extension of the other. The frame-rate is constant, with no occurrence of slow-down regardless of how much is going on. There is no aliasing, and only the occasional collision problem, particularly when you drag an unconscious body down stairs and the body sort of melds with the stairs for a moment. The movie-to-game transitions are perfect, and so is the balance between watching the game and playing the game (eat your heart out, Bouncer).

mgs2-18-01.jpg (4040 bytes)With such attention given to the look of the game, it is no surprise that the sound is phenomenal as well. The sound effects are dynamic and dead-on; the music is subtle and effective. I cannot comment on the voice-acting, as the demo disc is in Japanese, with English subtitles. I can’t say that I am worried, though.

mgs2-19-01.jpg (3018 bytes)In terms of game play, MGS 2 is a true evolutionary step from its predecessor: it is much the same, only better suited to a new environment. Solid Snake continues his reign as the sneakiest character in the virtual world, ducking, crouching, crawling, inching along walls, strangling his opponents and dragging their bodies out of view. Only now he can slowly peek around corners (a God send), step out and aim, and, in a touch of programming genius, leap over ledges and hang on for a limited period of time, measured by a grip meter. This allows for some truly creative improvisation, as when an enemy is about to detect you, and you run and leap over a railing and hang just out of view until he passes by, where you promptly hop up and knock him out. But, most importantly, a 1st-person view has been added to help Snake examine his environs and aim at his targets. This view is easily accessible and the transition back and forth is smooth.

mgs2-2-01.jpg (3676 bytes)The level of background interactivity is unparalleled. If you don’t want to leave the deck of the boat littered with unconscious bodies to be discovered, throw them overboard. When you walk in out of the rain, or through puddles, you leave wet footprints that can be detected. When you are injured you leave a blood trail. You can shoot out lights and hide in the cover of darkness. Hell, you can shoot all kinds of stuff—a firefight in certain areas will leave broken windows, bullet-riddled magazines, exploded ketchup bottles, not to mention bleeding carcasses. You can nicely open and search lockers, or rip the doors off and take what’s inside. And the little things add up, too. The cardboard box is back, only now, if it gets wet in the rain, your opponents will notice. You can use cigarette smoke to detect laser alarms, or shoot a fire extinguisher, causing it to erupt and illuminate them. When an enemy comes across an unconscious comrade, he kicks the guy to wake him up. Everything seems to come alive due to details like these, allowing the player to truly enter the world of Solid Snake.

mgs2-22-01.jpg (3463 bytes)All of this and the control system, though sensitive, and tricky in the beginning, is manageable, and even intuitive after a little practice. And there is a visual tutorial available that shows Snake performing each of his moves. In fact, there is only one real complaint I have with this game. At one point, I entered a room and managed to fire tranquilizers into two cautious guards without being detected. After that moment of grace, I accidentally moved in the wrong direction, moving through a door. When I returned the situation had reset itself and the guards were in awake and in their original positions. This is definitely going to be a problem if the entire game works that way. However, I suspect it was a glitch, or an oversight specific to the situation, because there are so many situations which do not right themselves—most of the time when you strangle a guy and throw him overboard, he stays strangled and thrown overboard.

mgs2-23-01.jpg (3135 bytes)I have little doubt that MGS 2 will be the game of the year. I have been playing the demo for days, and I still don’t think I have uncovered everything that this one level has to offer. In truth, the MGS 2 demo disc overshadows the game that it is packaged with. Though Zone of the Enders is a decent game in its own right, I have to wonder if it isn’t susceptible to the Phantom Menace trailer syndrome, where fans would pay full ticket price just to view the trailer and walk out of the movie that followed. Whether it be through rentals or sales, I can imagine gamers saying "Zone of the Enders? Oh yeah, that’s the game that came with my Metal Gear Solid 2 demo."

Jeremy Kauffman

 

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