MGS2 - 20 years later

It’s so crazy to me that this game turns twenty in November.

Like, holy shit, I remember this game coming out like it was yesterday. I had to wait three solid months to play it because EB Games was really anal about M rated games, so I couldn’t get it until I was 17, which didn’t happen until February 2002. I remember all the game magazines in bookstores raving on and on about MGS2, all my high school buddies going on about it. All this shit feels like it was yesterday, but nope.

Goddamn, time flies, huh.

Some of you may recall from the MGSF days that I was always really down on MGS2. That was because I really disliked the story for a long time. I thought Raiden sucked, and that Big Shell was a really boring environment.

But over the years, my perception of MGS2 changed because my perception on gaming has changed a lot. See, to me, story doesn’t factor into how much I like or dislike any video game. A game can have a really good story but still suck, or have the most laughably bad story ever written, and be the best game I’ve ever played.

I started replaying MGS2 HD a lot and what I found, more than anything else, was that the game held up just as well today as it did almost twenty years ago. It was always a lil archaic, especially starting out, but those mechanics were also unique. And it wasn’t super hard to get a hold of. Once you did, the game ends up feeling really good in your hands all these years later.

See, it’s because MGS2 didn’t play like any other game released then or now that it still holds up. The mechanics have a precision to them you don’t get in most games. And the boss fights really put those mechanics to full use. Even a fight like Solidus keeps you constantly cartwheeling and having to navigate around his blindside to really rail into him. Like no other video game, even today, would have the fact that the boss has an eyepatch actually factor into the fight. But if you go where Solidus’ missing eye is, he’s powerless to your attacks. It was that along with the different mechanics that allow MGS2 to stand to the test of time.

I love Deus Ex infinitely more than I’ll ever love MGS2, but try playing it today and holy shit, gunplay is remarkably stiff. And JC jumps like an old man lazily humping the air itself.

A lot of what I didn’t like about MGS2 was still the case for me.

I still think Big Shell’s a very lackluster environment because its corridors lack consistent cover spots that make getting from A to B undetected more immediately accessible. And everything being so open makes it too easy to knock everyone out and jog from A to B. That’s true of every MGS game, but later games had more immediate cover to make zero tracing more accessible, and games like Peace Walker or Phantom Pain offered immediate reward incentive to zero trace with huge GMP bonuses.

But all of that is offset by Alt & VR Missions. Seriously, go back to MGS2 HD and replay the bonus missions. The level design in those missions alone put most MGS games to shame. The level 1 variety shootout where you’re going through waves of bad guys until you fight a giant boss monster, for example. That alone flexes MGS2’s gun mechanics in ways most boss fights can’t, creating truly exciting and smart shootouts. You gotta move fast, use the windows provided to lay out traps for incoming bad guys, and use cover wisely to evade gunfire and return with either precision headshots or spamming bullets into any asshole that’s momentarily out in the open.

If every gunfight was as good as the variety mission battles, you’d almost never wanna play stealthy again. But to that, you have levels that give you tons of cover that was missing in Big Shell, which makes bypassing guards so much more satisfying than killing or knocking 'em out. And best yet, most of them have a variety of paths from A to B. So if one path isn’t working out for you, you can try your luck with an alternate route instead, which works wonders torwards giving these missions replay value.

I still don’t like the writing, but for different reasons. As I’ve actively been writing and consuming creative writing techniques more and more (literally became a teacher for half a year), I started to recognize just how bloated and one sided so many cutscenes tend to be. I inherently can’t enjoy a scene if I’m sitting there thinking, “Fucking say something of value, Raiden!” Or “Okay, that sentence didn’t need to be there. That sentence added absolutely nothing. Jesus, you addressed him by name two times in a row,” etc.

But even if I don’t like the actual writing or think a lot of characters feel underdeveloped, what I appreciate about MGS2 is how depressingly timeless its themes are. We are very vulnerable to being led by the nose through false or misleading information if enough people circulate something. Look at Richard Gere. Dude was known for years as “gerbil butt” because some asshole spread a lie that he shoved gerbils up his ass, and enough people circulated that lie and sensationalized it to the point where it became “fact” for a lotta people. Same with modern day politics. Feed enough gullible assholes lies enough times, and it becomes reality for 'em because too few people look past the headlines of what they consume.

The graphics look their age on character models, and the truly awful audio mixing in the cutscenes (like having Hayter speaking at room volume over a helicopter, or mixing sharp cut transition SFX with soft spoken dialogue so you can barely hear what characters are saying when the camera cuts back to 'em). But by in large, the game still looks and sounds great. And everything has an immediate feedback to your inputs. There’s nothing clunky about MGS2 besides its shit set pieces, which the bonus and alt missions let you bypass completely.

In short, MGS2 turns 20 years old this year. But it plays better than most games releasing months from now will. And I think that’s a testament to truly excellent game design, which I’ve only grown to appreciate more and more, as the games of today start to feel a lil more miss than hit in that regard. I still think the writing is terrible, but I at least remember everything about the game, and I can’t even say that about stories I do actually like in games.

Incidentally, I get my second dose of Pfizer nanomachines on April 30th.


I don’t think so.


MGS2 was the first game that I started QHSing in. The gameplay is still so butter. the soliton radar works to perfection. Running around with my weapon drawn, locking on to a guard, snapping to FPV and flicking up and firing in smooth succesion and getting a headshot tranq just feels SOOOO GOOOOOD


Same here. After so many years the gameplay is so fluent, better than some this gen games.
I’m trying to get the platinum trophy, but I might be too old now… Lol. Rays on extreme are still nerve wrecking.

This is something I’ve been thinking about. I had, I think, one of the purest experiences of MGS2. I’d never played MGS1; so I had literally no idea of what to expect. I mean I was so oblivious to the series my mind was blown when you find out Pliskin IS Snake. I turned my PS2 off when ‘the colonel’ told me to.

Unsure how many people are aware of this; but when you’re setting up the game if you select ‘I haven’t cleared the previous game’ you start with Raiden on the Big Shell. You don’t play the Tanker incident so you don’t know what really happened. I was Raiden, ‘a naive, simple minded fool’ in the words of Snake via Otacon. Like Raiden, I’d been misled and lied to for the entire game. When you get to the finale the image of a grotesque Campbell haunted my dreams.

So the ending of the game and learning you’d been manipulated from the opening sequence blew me away. It’s such a smart and underappreciated game. I’ll probably get in some discourse around MGS2 down the road, as I’m fascinated to read and talk about it now that we’re smarter and more thoughtful, if not entirely more mature than we were back in the bygone days!


I had the same experience as you, down to beginning with the Plant chapter. When I found out that wasn’t the way the game was supposed to be played it shocked me a bit-as wondering what really happened in 2005 with Snake was a pretty gripping mystery. But then again-for players thinking they’re about to play a whole second game as Solid Snake it wouldn’t make sense to NOT start with the Tanker. Only a game like MGS would give you two completely different experiences based on whether or not you’ve played the first game.

Of all the MGS games this is the one I most want to replay right now. I may get the HD collection on my Vita. Or maybe I’ll just pop in my OG PS2 disc some time…


This is how I viewed it too. Who else would design a game that way? Games have had things where things only really click on second playthrough (Persona 5 Royal is a key example of this; I’ve done A LOT of replays of that game and something only clicked last time round).

But that’s a detail that emerges from context, MGS2 has totally totally different opens which shape the experience you’re about to go through.

It’s genius. Thankfully I stil have MGS2 on my PS3 cos I bought it through PSN. This said, I do still have my PS2 and my copy of Sons Of Liberty too…


What clicked, out of interest?
Remember to spoiler tag for the children

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[spoiler]You obviously don’t know first playthrough, but before you get to start at Shujin Sojiro talks about an accident where a girl died, and that he can’t imagine how th parents feel. Putting two and two together he’s talking about the death of Kasumi. But because I was a P5 vet I wasn’t paying as much attention to the opening of P5R; I wasn’t expecting a major deviation of the plot THAT early.[/spoiler]


oh can we pls pls pls talk mgs2? ive been down the rabbit hole of the story lately, ive both rewatched the cutscenes and the digital graphic novel.

the tanker mission is VR, im absolute stuck to that belief and ill never let it go. i think the whole tanker mission shouldve been the demo disc with ZOE, and mgs2 proper only lets you play as plant (until you beat the game, where it would show up in the vr missions menu)


Is this a common theory? Not sure I’ve heard it before

i feel like it was heavily inferred in the game. raiden says “ive gone over that mission in vr” and snake says “yeah? well i doubt it was like what you experienced” or something, and shows different footage from what we as the player experenced: snake has a FAMAS during the tanker, and runs from the tidal wave. i know that was a cut segment because of budget or whatever, but what i think its use is here is to show us that the tanker we play is not real (remember, raiden is us, we are raiden, until raiden rejects us at the end and becomes his own person).

taking that a step further, I theorize that the graphic novel treats the game as ANOTHER simulation, but instead of being vr for raiden, its a “beta test” of how they think they could manipulate the s3 program. when you think of the game, theres way too many variables that they were able to control, and the graphic novel deviates from the script sometimes a little bit sometimes wildly to varying degrees of success (having solid snake be the killer of solidus as opposed to raiden was pretty controversial) but i think its still wonderful


Would be cool and suitably MGS-meta if this was the case, but Snake would have to not appear at all rather than have a more important role. Ocelot says in the events of the Big Shell incident that one thing they didn’t anticipate in planning the S3 program was the appearance of the real Solid Snake.


If the Tanker was a VR exercise done by Raiden; we wouldn’t have had the information about the Patriots and Ocelot stealing Metal Gear Ray. Otherwise Raiden would know about the Patriots and what really happened with Ray and Ocelot.

I’ve no doubt that Raiden done a version of the tanker in VR to experience being Snake, but it wasn’t the section we played as Snake. Which might also explain why Snake has a FAMAS in that clip referenced.

Also, Snake’s account in the Plant section totally aligns with the experience that the player had, so I think it’s fair to say we experienced the tanker account as it happened while in control of Snake.


fair point, but all that info about the patriots and ocelot happens in cutscene, after we upload the photos. we dont play anymore from that point on

Very bottom of the iceberg MGS2 conspiracy right here. I love this.

This has always been how I viewed that sequence, since it’s a recreation they didn’t quite get the explicit details correct.


yeah thats fair, and I am prob just grasping at straws but I really do adore the idea of the tanker being the VR raiden plays to prepare for big shell, and Im not ready to let that go lol


More to the point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the VR was deliberately altered to make Snake seem like a terrorist and to make the VR more…violent? Honing combat skills etc etc. I mean in canon he killed zero US soldiers. He kills Gurlukovich soliders but that’s it. IIRC correctly if you kill any soliders it’s an immediate game over, regardless of whether you alert any guards or not?

When in reality he was kitted out with stealth camo, cigarettes, an M9 tranquiliser and a poncho. And later a USP that he nicked from Olga aha.

But it’s interesting to think about. I kinda wish we got to play Raiden’s experience of a VR version of the Tanker incident.

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I can see where @NickRocks is coming from, and it could be an oversight on Kojima’s part. I really like the idea that the Famas and flooding struts is The true story and that’s the reason the Tanker portion ends where it ends.

Snake using the Unsurpressed USP though i’d have to say may not be canon beside the Actually Hold’s shootout you’re forced to get into. I mean we have to assume, Solid Snake snuck his way that deep in without even raising any suspicion from the opposing force.

MGS2 still has some of the best room clearing of any AI’s to date though