Metal Gear Solid 2 Demo Impressions

At its 1st Annual Gamers Day event in San Francisco, Konami showed an early version of Metal Gear Solid 2's playable demo, which it plans to include with Zone of the Enders. We were there to witness the first-ever glimpse of MGS2 gameplay.

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Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
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Attached to certain North American retail versions of Konami's Zone of the Enders will be a playable demo of Hideo Kojima's other PS2 game, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Konami had the demo on hand at its 1st Annual Gamers Day event in San Francisco. And although the company wasn't allowing any members of the press to actually play the demo, it did allow us to watch one of the Konami representatives play. It was in this demo that the North American press finally got the first glimpse of actual unedited gameplay of what is sure to be the most anticipated video game sequel ever.

The demo boots like any standard PS2 game and immediately loads a start menu. The menu looks very similar to that of last year's game, with the logo above a computerized background. When you start the game, you first choose your difficulty; then you choose what sort of radar mode you want. One of the radar modes behaved exactly like a radar mode in the last game, while the other didn't display areas you hadn't visited before or was turned off during infiltration segments. Once you've selected these options, the demo officially begins.

The intro sequence is almost exactly the same as the footage shown in the second trailer that Konami premiered at ECTS. The camera focuses on a rainy night above the George Washington Bridge and then cuts to a solo figure slowly walking the bridge. He eventually breaks into a run; he then tosses aside his parka to reveal a stealth-suit silhouetted Solid Snake. Snake bungee-jumps from the bridge; then the camera slowly follows his decent onto the huge tanker that navigates the rough waters below. From here on out, the footage is completely original. Snake lands on the tanker and deactivates his suit in a flurry of electricity. The camera looks him dead in the face as he takes in his surroundings; he then quickly finds some cover. The buzz of spinning helicopter blades cuts into the audio; then the camera cuts to the helicopter that hovers some distance from the chopper. A man stares through a pair of binoculars at Snake, and as the binoculars lower, we see that it's Revolver Ocelot. Ocelot tells someone through a radio that "the boy has arrived" and that "he'll know soon enough" before the camera moves on.

The sequence then shows Snake getting a call, and there's a sequence in which he discusses his situation with Otacon, who's communicating with him through Snake's codec. In this sequence, you actually see full-color 3D models of both Otocon's and Snake's faces, which is a sizable difference over the black-and-white animated sprites in last year's game. After Snake's done with dropping code words such as "Shadow Moses" and "the philanthropy group," the game gives you a little training session that helps you brush up on your skills.

Snake has most of his trademarked moves from last year's game. He can crouch and press up against walls, as well as crawl, knock on walls, and be superstealthy in general. He's also got some new tricks up his sleeve. Snake can now pop out from a wall and let off a few rounds, only to swivel back behind the cover of the wall. He can also jump over crates, over railings, and even hang and shimmy from certain rails. He even has a new dive roll that will allow him to jump out of danger's way. Additionally, the game features a new first-person mode that lets you switch to Snake's viewpoint at any time. This mode is particularly useful for aiming well-placed shots. Once you get familiar with the controls, the cutscenes begin again.

Otacon tells Snake to become more familiar with his items and then shows him his binoculars. Through his binoculars, Snake can see what comes next. He's busy observing that the marines on patrol for the army- controlled tanker are in plain clothes when he hears the helicopter. It's not long before he witnesses an army of soldiers take over the ship. The soldiers sneak up on the marines, ruthlessly slit their throats, and sneak into the ship. Snake then notices an odd haircut and deduces that the soldiers are part of a Russian strike team, and it would seem that his suspicions are correct when he sees the commander of the force don a typical Russian Army cossack hat. Snake decides that it's his duty to determine what the force wants and to ensure that they don't get a hold of the top-secret amphibious Metal Gear prototype that's believed to be in the hold of the tanker.

The game then switches to actual gameplay, and Snake must first take out a guard with his tranquilizer pistol. He moves on a bit, and he is free to explore the outer deck of the tanker. A good deal of investigating will reward Snake with some chaff grenades and a medipack. Snake will run into a few guards before he gets inside the ship. The guards are easily stunned with the tranquilizer gun, but if another guard stumbles upon a doped-up guard, he will become extra suspicious and will eventually wake up the sleeping guard. To avoid this, Snake will be able to drag sleeping guards to other areas of the ship and hide the bodies behind crates, in lockers, and other nifty places.

The graphics in Metal Gear Solid 2 are spectacular. The game looks and feels very much like the first game, except with supersharp graphics and very clean textures. The ability to switch to first-person mode at any time is extremely impressive from a graphical standpoint, and little details like rippling puddles, enhanced explosions, and realistic blood from both Snake and his victims really make Metal Gear Solid 2 one of the best-looking console games we've seen. Unfortunately, the voice work was in Japanese, and we were unable to hear exactly how the game will sound.

Konami played the demo for only a short while and showed us only a few segments of the demo. Snake knocked out a few guards, dragged them a few places, and snuck under a few security cameras. Unfortunately, we weren't shown any actual combat or any of the game's real weapons or items. Additionally, Konami was unable to comment on the actual length or scope of the demo, and it didn't seem to know any sort of solid details concerning whether or not the game will contain the same opening as the demo. The completed version of the demo will be packaged alongside preorders of Konami's Zone of the Enders, which will hit store shelves this March. The full version of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty still has a tentative Q3 2001 release date.

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