Leaving the soul of an era to the future.
These the words used by Kojima to introduce the fundamental theme of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of liberty, in absolute the most awaited game scheduled for this year, together with Final Fantasy X. The first Metal Gear hit the shelves long time ago in 1987 on NES; it was followed by a sequel, with Solid Snake, a special agent from an anti-terrorist group, always acting as the main character. Ten years later Metal Gear Solid came out on Playstation 1, featuring fully 3d graphics and a cinematic attitude.
It's difficult to explain to the ones who has never played Metal Gear Solid why this game has become such a legend, often reaching the first place in the "What's the best game ever?" charts. We'll see what will happen in our own special survey about our readers' favourite PsOne games.
Metal Gear Solid was released in 1997; after a few months the sales had skyrocketed and an aura of legend surrounded the development team, led by the ingenious Hideo Kojima. The story at the base of the game was, seemingly, very simple: a man, skilled more than Bruce Willis with guns and martial arts, had to foil the attempt of a group of terrorists to use a terrible deadly weapon, the so-called Metal Gear.
In fact this was only the most superficial side of Metal Gear Solid. As the game proceeded a deep storyline, able to emotionally involve the player, revealed itself. Good and Evil were each other confused and the hero, Solid Snake, had to make many difficult choices; like in the previous episodes, the game experience was not based on direct clashes, anyhow present in the game, but on the sniping abilities of the main character. Intelligence was the first requisite needed to beat this game. In comparison to titles like Tomb Rider or Syphon Filter, Metal Gear Solid really was on a higher level; if you haven't played this game yet, I suggest you to go out now and buy yourself a copy of this masterpiece.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty
The great expectations aroused by this new instalment of the series have been generated mostly by the marvellous trailer of the game. This small movie was shown the very first time in a pre-E3 conference at Universal Studios in Los Angeles and has travelled around the world thanks to several specialized publications and Web sites.
According to Mr. Kojima's words, the game has been first introduced in the United States rather than in Japan because the first Metal Gear Solid had great part of its success in the western countries. The game will hit the shelves in United States towards the end of 2001 and making a rash anticipation (God bless me!), I would dare to say that it will arrive in Europe for Christmas 2001.
More realistically, because of the various conversion problems for the Pal version, the Old World's players will have this game in March next year. But for all the fans who can't bear this painfully long waiting, there are good news. A playable demo of the game is included in the disk of another great Konami's title, Zone Of The Enders, which has been released on March in U.S. and Europe.
Kojima stated that to complete the part of the game in the demo is needed half an hour, but he has added that to explore all the locations it could also take two hours. In this demo the player is able to perform all the movements of Solid Snake; Snake can run, climb, hide, crawl and show off something of his abilities in martial arts. It is possible to use the first person view in order to aim with more accuracy at your enemies. Besides, at the end of your performance, you receive a special code that you can insert in a site created by Konami. In this way your name could be shown in the world's best players list.
About 30 people have worked and are still working on this new episode. It seems that the teams behind Metal Gear Solid 2 and ZoE have been helping each other even though Mr Kojima, who is the director of Metal Gear Solid 2 and the producer of Zone Of The Enders, has underlined the fact that all those elements that could have been used in common have not been inserted in Zone Of The Enders.
Hideo Kojima asserted that Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, as long as its development proceeds, is coming near to perfection. And these words, spoken by one of the greatest artist in the industry of videogames, gifted usually with a proverbial modesty, make us hope for the best.
Story and Environments
The original Metal Gear was a terrible and futuristic armed tank provided with nuclear missiles designed by a little yet dangerous military nation called Outer Heaven. During the various episodes of the series the plans of this terrible weapon have changed. In Metal Gear Solid Snake succeeds in foiling the plans of Liquid Snake and the Metal Gear Rex, the last deadly version of the Metal Gear, was destroyed. Unfortunately the projects of this weapon have been stolen and delivered in the wrong hands.
In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty Solid Snake will have to prevent the destructive power of a new Metal Gear, called Metal Gear Ray, from being used for bad purposes.
Hideo Kojima has been sibylline with regard to the plot of Sons of Liberty, that however has not yet been defined in all its details. The few things that we know derive from the trailer and from the demo of the game.
First of all, it seems that the Metal Gear Ray will be a sort of gigantic robot that resembles a mech version of Godzilla and that Revolver Ocelot is back, obviously with a new hand. He was the only one to survive the terrible accident that killed all the members of the group leaded by Liquid Snake. In the demo and in the trailer is present a female character, called Olga Gurlukovich, the daughter of the officer leading the group that's after the Metal Gear Ray.
It seems too, that Liquid Snake could have survived the Shadow Moses incident ( "Long time no see, brother" are the words that's possible to hear in the trailer of the game ) and that another mysterious character somehow connected to Solid Snake and Liquid Snake, called "Solidus", will be present. All the characters have been designed by Yoji Shinkawa, the master that was behind the characters of the first Metal Gear Solid and that has recently worked as designer of the magnificent mechs of Z.O.E.
The message of this new game, assured Mr. Kojima, will complete the one subtended to the plot of the original Metal Gear Solid. These are his words:
"MGS2 will include the other half of the grand message that we introduced in MGS. The original MGS talked about passing things on through your genes, like heredity. This time around, it's about what's not included in your genes - things that are passed down culturally or verbally, like ideology, how you think, music. If you play both of the games, you'll get the whole picture. " (Hideo Kojima, source: ign.com)
As regards the scenarios of this new game, in the trailer is possible to see a gigantic merchant ship which probably contains the Metal Gear Ray. The demo takes place on this ship. We know, from the words of Kojima, that the game will develop, partly, in another area, probably a secret base in the Atlantic ocean.
Graphics and Sounds
To have an idea of the 128 bit graphics of Sons of Liberty you should at least take a look to some of the screenshots of this revolutionary game. The trailer, that contains in great part actual gameplay actions and cinematic sequences rendered in real time, had a level of definition absolutely spectacular, confirmed by the playable demo.
The environmental effects, first of all, are amazing. The rain is rendered in real time by the game graphic engine: you will see the drops falling in the puddles and bouncing on the body of Solid Snake and of his enemies, just as it should happen in real life. You can break glasses, beer bottles (and you will obviously see the liquid squirting out) and you can interact with elements like steam pipes or extinguishers. For instance, it's possible to shoot on one of those pipes thus temporarily making your enemies blind.
The light effects are simply perfect: the illumination is completely dynamic. You see the characters casting shadows that lengthen and shorten themselves, according to the distance from the light sources, and this will obviously influence the gameplay. The enemies in Metal Gear Solid 2 are able to find out your hiding-place if you will unintentionally project your shadow on the floor, and you can obviously do the same in your turn.
The characters are realized with an unbelievable number of polygons; the bodies are built till the slightest detail. The faces of the characters are wonderfully expressive. In the trailer it is possible to see Olga, a character that will surely have some importance in the adventure; she is a beautiful woman wearing military clothes, with very short blonde hair, against whom Snake will have to harshly fight. The woman's body, the expressive face and the most complex movements are marvellous.
Also special effects like blood, boxes that bounce on the floor are simply perfect. It's hard to say anything else about the graphics of this game because everything is realized with such an incredible realism. There's no comparison between what we have seen in Metal Gear Solid 2 and other PsOne's titles with great graphics like, just to make some example, Dino Crisis 2 or Resident Evil 3.
For all those who are curious about, Kojima has assured that the game always runs at 60 (!) frames per second, in high resolution. And after we've played the demo we can say that's true.
Behind the soundtrack of the game there is Harry Gregson Williams, who has worked for many Hollywood's movies like The Rock or Enemy of the State. The game's main theme, the one that is possible to hear in the trailer, is the same of the first episode, rearranged in a magnificent orchestral version worthy of the greatest colossal in the history of cinema. Konami has realized many of the most beautiful soundtracks ever heard in a videogame ( Silent Hill's theme is still one of my favourites) and they want to continue this trend with their Ps2 games.
As usual for the series, Metal Gear Solid 2 is based on a gameplay focused on the silent action. Solid Snake has to infiltrate in places infested by hordes of enemies, using his sniping techniques. It's true that our hero has an I.Q. of 180 and that he is more cunning than Bruce Willis and Bill Gates put together, but if he will be encircled by an elevated number of terrorists, he will succeed in getting out of troubles with great difficulty.
Anyhow, also the action lovers will meet their match. Solid Snake will have to repeatedly fight against various types of adversaries and there will be many situations in which he will have to wield his gun with skill. Surrounded by a group of soldiers you can always decide to shoot the light bulb that illuminates the room and to slip off as fast as possible. Snake can obviously stay wounded during the various clashes: when his conditions will be serious he will start bleeding and the enemies will follow his traces with ease. In the game you will also have the possibility to use a first person view, like in Quake, but this will only serve for the purpose to aim at your opponents. Hideo Kojima has in fact declared to be tired of Doom's clones.
A first person view would lead many identification problems, too. In fact, just like what happens when we watch a movie, to identify ourselves in a character we have to look at him from the outside. Not by chance, some great films of the past, like Dark Passage (1946, a noir with Humphrey Bogart), which tried to use "subjective" shots, have not been successful and they have remained isolated cases, known only by cinema enthusiasts.
Speaking of Snake's opponents, Kojima has affirmed that 30% of the Emotion Engine's power is used to manage their AI (artificial intelligence). Obviously, to make the game amusing and not excessively frustrating, many limits have been set to the abilities of the various soldiers that will try to kill Snake. To make some example, the enemies will not always be able to find Snake's traces and they will never succeed in seeing the trace of the laser pointer that Snake uses to aim at them. Like it happens in the original Metal Gear Solid, close to the hostile soldiers some symbols will appear to underline their state of mind: exclamation points (alert mode) and question marks (noise mode). These symbols not only add greater depth to the game, but they also give an ironic touch that never spoils in a title focused on the use of weapons.
In Metal Gear Solid 2 the sodliers will work as a unit in order to get rid of Snake. If a guard will find you he will probably call his comrades using a walkie-talkie; anyhow, you have always the choice to aim at his hand in order to prevent this. The complexity of the AI of these guards was already evident in the trailer of Sons Of Liberty, but only after you've played the demo you can find out the greatness of Sond Of Liberty.
Speaking of weapons and violence, Kojima assured that skilled players will be able to beat the game without killing none of Snake's adversaries. One of the game's new weapons is in fact a Beretta M92 modified into a single-shot tranquillizer dart gun that will put to sleep instantly your enemies. That's the gun that you have at the beginning of the demo. Anyhow, during the game you'll be able to find many powerful, deadly weapons, like the Heckler & Koch USP semiautomatic pistol or the FAMAS automatic rifle
( that you can see in the trailer ).
In the trailer there is a beautiful scene in which Snake, armed with gun, surprises a hostile soldier who lifts his hands and begins to tremble as a leaf. Obviously our hero doesn't kill him: with a kick worthy of Bruce Lee, Snake knocks down the soldier and passes over. Good old Snake!