The Details of Metal Gear Solid 2

I’m sitting at 50.6% complete on the Missions mode, having cleared  100% of all the Raiden missions, 67% of Snake, and 50% of Plisken. There are still two characters to unlock (MGS1 Snake is one) and I’ve clocked in just about 20 hours. Essentially the VR Missions and the Alternative Missions amount to another game’s worth of content (maybe more) if you’re taking playtime into account. I’ve seen play throughs where somebody managed to clear everything in about 8 hours and I’m sure there was some rehearsing on their part beforehand. I’m still impressed that Konami would spend the time and effort to add this much content to the game after it had been released. In today’s world it would pass as DLC, as I suppose.  And it would be tough to stand for what are essentially the same 20 or so maps that are just slightly tweaked. For all the impressive variety that the Virtual Missions and the Alternative Missions offer, at hour 20 I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m feeling a little burnt out by the monotony of the repeated levels.  By the way, whoever designed the Grenade level 5 for Snake and Plisken is a sadist, along with whoever designed Variety Level 4 for Snake. This is where I happen to be currently stuck with both characters. And it got me to thinking about one of the enduring qualities of the Metal Gear Solid series: the attention to detail, particularly with regard to the weapons. Since I’m stuck on Grenades and Sniping, I wanted to take a peek into the history of the RBG6 grenade launcher and the series’ iconic PSG1 sniper rifle.

The RGB6 is a Croatian copy of the South African Milkor MGL (Multiple Grenade Launcher). The company’s marketing literature is informative of the deadly nature of the weapon (six shots in three seconds?), and its unique selling points over some of its older predecessors (the US made M-79 bloop gun is referenced, this was a single shot weapon). There’s not a lot of information about the RGB6 that I could find outside of the Metal Gear wiki (kudos to whoever put that together) and a rather thin Wikipedia entry. And of course  It’s kind of an odd weapon to be included in Metal Gear Solid 2, and something I never realized until now but it’s actually the only appearance it ever makes in the franchise. It’s utility is quite limited in the game and to be honest I’ve rarely ever used it in game unless just screwing around. This may also explain why I have such a difficult time with it in VR. Grenade level 5 requires you to take out 10 targets in 3 minutes time. Not bad but they’re also not stationary. Using the regular grenades is really not going to get you anywhere, so using the launcher is the only viable option.  For Plisken, the  targets fade in and out as they go around the maze. My biggest complaint here is that there is virtually no splash damage from these grenades: you essentially have to bullseye a target in order to destroy it, and in MGS2 there’s no reticle or aim sight. You just have to guestimate and hope for the best. I’ve never used a grenade launcher in real life before and there’s a good chance that I never will. But my video game instincts cry foul on this level. Without any kind of appreciable splash damage, what’s the point of explosives?

The PGS1 on the other has more info readily available on it. A Heckler & Koch sniper rifle, it was supposedly developed in response to 1972 Munich games attacks (anybody have a link for the official story?).  It is reputed to be one of the most accurate rifles in the world but, as pointed out in the various articles I found, it doesn’t enjoy wide usage in the military due to the distance spent rounds are ejected. I’ve never noticed this replicated in the Metal Gear games, so I’ll have to check it out the next time I head into the Big Shell. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit about the rifle is how expensive it is: 15,000 USD at least. Sniper Wolf was apparently into high end hardware. I wish the rifle was more accurate in Variety Level 4. In Snake’s version of this level, you have to defend a motionless Meryl Silverbaugh (it’s Emma for Raiden) from 26 soldiers who steadily advance to her position. So far I’ve managed to take out 18 soldiers before they get too close to her, but it quickly gets hard to manage that many moving targets. I suspect that video game mechanics are overriding the reality of using the gun, but again I’ve never fired a sniper rifle or had to be in any sort of situation shooting multiple targets (under 3 minutes). I hear the third version of this stage is the hardest in the game.

I may be starting to rethink my Platinum quest here…

Of course it’s kind of silly to get too hung up on the details of Metal Gear Solid. But part of the franchise’s enduring legacy – and something to keep in mind if you’re designing games – is how the little things end up being a weighty part of the whole. The details in front of the player’s face can keep them from wondering about some of the creakier parts of the design. For instance, the return of the first game’s main antagonist in the form of a dead arm, a walking battle tank, and most of the other bizarre stuff that crops up in Metal Gear Solid. Not to mention the virtual reality missions that are quite a pain.  Tolkein spoke of his distant mountains, details in the far distance that kept your imagination fired as you read through his works. The converse is true, I think, for MGS. The upfront details are very accurate, creating a believable world that you enter willingly. Things tend to go gonzo fairly quickly, but most likely if you’re already hooked, you’re already hooked.

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