The development of the graphic engine of Metal Gear Solid 2 was completed months and months ago, but this game is definitely the best looking title of all times. I don't know exactly how many months the developers worked together to create all the incredibly detailed environments in the two major areas where Sons Of Liberty takes place. From the very beginning, this game is amazing. The ship deck, the rain falling in heavy sheets, the lighting effects all is so life-real and flawless that you just can't believe you are looking at a scene rendered in real time. You can keep on visiting the same room and you will always notice new details, and this adds a lot of replay value to the game. You can shoot at most of the things you see in the environments, and sometimes this will also help you to escape dangerous situations.
The terrific special effects give life to the environments. Light sources cast shadows in real time (and this affect the gameplay, since a guard can spot you looking at your shadow and vice versa), liquid squirts out of broken bottles just like it would happen in real life, steam and smoke look just amazing, and the water effects are the most incredible seen in a video game.
The characters look marvelous. They are built with an elevated number of polygons and highly detailed textures. Not only Snake, but also all other characters look like pre-rendered models. Hair, eyes, skin, muscles, weapons all is so real, sharp, refined. But the animations are what gives life to these models. Just to make an example, all the characters breathe. When you put a soldier to sleep with your tranquilizer gun, you can look at him sleeping. His chest slowly moves and his eyes are peacefully closed. If you shoot at him while he is sleeping, he will stop breathing, his eyes will open, deprived of any sign of life, and you will feel guilty for what you have done. Really, I killed a sleeping guard only once.
Like in the previous episode, the cutscenes featured in this game are rendered in real time. For this reason, the transition between in-game moments and these scenes is unnoticeable. Every cutscene will surprise you, first for the wide range of expressions of each character, then for the perfect direction. Together with the dialogues via codec, the cutscenes carry on magnificently the story of Sons Of Liberty.
Yoji Shinkawa has designed all the characters and all the mechanical models present in the game, and the result is gorgeous. There is no need to say that Solid Snake, with his "mature" look, is an unusual hero in the world of video games. The image of this lone man standing under the rain, his sad and thoughtful eyes looking at the dark sky, is symbol of a new era, and not only in the world of video games.
Harry Gregson-Williams, the Hollywood composer, is the artist behind the soundtrack of the game. The result of his work is, first of all, a wonderful rearranged version of the main theme of Metal Gear Solid, the song that you could hear in the final part of all the trailers of this new episode. The work done by Gregson-Williams is really fundamental to give this game its extraordinary epic strength and to accompany the most important moments in the story. The in-game music varies from calm sounds to exciting fast-paced rhythms accordingly to the situation you are facing.
Sound effects are perfect, and they can surprise even if you are playing on a small TV without a groundbreaking sound system. The voice acting of the American version is once again flawless. The actors from the preceding episode are back, and David Hayter gives his profound voice to Solid Snake. Dialogues are believable and realistic, written with skill, and you will not easily forget the lines spoken in the most tense moments.
Once again, Kojima has chosen the talented Rika Muranaka for the ending theme of Sons Of Liberty. The song, called "Tomorrow is yet to come", is a wonderful melodic piece that speaks of love, loneliness, and the future.
Overall, these sounds are mixed together with art. In Metal Gear Solid 2, visuals and sounds work always together to create an experience you will never forget.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty is longer than the preceding episode. You will need at least 15 hours to beat it the first time, and this is good for an adventure game. Then, you will play this game again and again, trying to find out all the hidden secrets that the development team scattered everywhere. This game is so rich in every aspect the story, the gameplay, the graphics, the sounds - that you will simply need to play it again.