GAMING: 20 Years Later, Metal Gear Solid 2 Is Still A Masterclass In Misdirection

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Picture the scene: It’s the dawn of a new century, E3 2000 is in full swing, and the one game stealing all of the attention at that event is Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. A direct sequel to the landmark game that debuted on the PS1 in 1998, game director Hideo Kojima and publisher Konami’s follow-up was announced with a trailer that had everyone talking. It was nine minutes of next generation PS2 gameplay and stunning cinematics. The trailer, which featured Solid Snake’s trademark tactical espionage action while being pursued by mercenaries on a rain-soaked freighter boat, was a demonstration of Sony’s new console. Hype was building up, fans dialed up their expectations for the return of Solid Snake to 11, and a demo of the game that came with Hideo Kojima’s mechnificent Zone of the Enders saw Metal Gear Solid 2 mania reach critical mass.

And then, once in people’s hands, the game pulled the rug out from under players, putting them in the combat boots of an entirely new character within hours of starting. Kojima’s genius for misdirection was at its best. He tricked players into believing that Solid Snake’s fight with the Patriots would take place over the entire DVD disc. Solid Snake’s playable mission ended in MGS1 villain RevolverOcelot hijacking a Metal Gear Ray proto and sinking the tanker he had infiltrated. Although the legendary soldier appeared to be going down with the ship’s crew, there was no way Kojima could kill the star of Metal Gear.

The events of MGS2 occurred a few years later and players were now in control of Raiden, a new operative. Some players believed it was only temporary, even when Raiden was revealed to them by the bait-and switch. After a few missions, Snake, a rookie posing as Iroquois Pliskin and attempting to show Raiden how he could take down an evil Metal Gear unit, would soon be out of disguise. Snake, however, remained in the sidekick position. This was undoubtedly a surprise to many but Raiden’s lead role in Metal Gear Solid 2 made it a better overall game.

Raiden proved to be divisive amongst fans, and even the development team had some reservations about Solid Snake taking a backseat during the Big Shell campaign. According to the design document for Metal Gear Solid 2, Raiden was developed as a character who could draw in people who never played the original Metal Gear Solid, while also being developed to draw in female gamers by being the exact opposite of Solid Snake in almost every way possible.

“The player will be able to control another Snake character, in order to enjoy the story of the game even though they have never played it,” the design document stated. They will be able, regardless of their newness to the series, to empathize and relate to this character. We will have a female-friendly character with Raiden, instead of Snake as our main character. He is the antithesis to Snake’s older, more serious image. “

During Geoff Keighley’s The Final Hours of Metal Gear Solid 2 documentary, he learned how the issue of likes and dislikes was a major topic of discussion among the core team and even the game’s assistant director Yoshikazu Matsuhana had some reservations.

“I wasn’t sure this weak-looking guy was going to be well received by the fans,” Matsuhana said at the time. We all trust Mr. Kojima, because he has so much success. He can basically do whatever he likes. “

One interesting inspiration for Kojima’s sleight of hand protagonist trick was Terminator 2, with the game director explaining that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role-reversal in the blockbuster sequel led to him constructing a plot device that would let him surprise players in much the same way with Raiden’s introduction.

” I really loved Terminator 2,” Kojima said. “It was amazing because you didn’t know Arnold Schwarzenegger was a good cyborg at the beginning of the movie. You assume that he is evil, just like in the first movie. He turns out to be a good actor. That was a surprise to me. I wanted them to be curious about what was happening when they reached the Plant chapter. They will then meet Pliskin, a character who sounds and looks like Snake. Is he Snake? “

Ultimately, Kojima’s goal was to play with the expectations of his fans and surprise them with some clever deception. Kojima stated that while you must meet the expectations of people in a sequel, you also have to deceive them. “This is my Metal Gear and I can destroy or alter it. “

Two decades later, fans are still talking about Metal Gear Solid 2’s various themes and ideas, prescient plot, and surprisingly accurate predictions of how an online world would shape society. Metal Gear Solid 2 explores mind control, overabundance information, and a gluttony of trivial knowledge before it is unleashed. Raiden’s story even follows a similar path to that of Solid Snake’s 1998 adventure, and in doing so it provides incredibly insightful commentary while also occasionally breaking the fourth wall, all done with surgical precision.

Raiden’s career in the series since then has had its ups and downs. In the prequel, Metal Gear Solid 3, the character of Ivan Raidenovitch Raikov bears more than a passing resemblance to Raiden and serves as something of a joke in response to fan backlash of Metal Gear Solid 2. Metal Gear Solid 4 saw Raiden become a tragic character following his capture by the Patriots. He was used as a test subject in experiments that turned him into a Cyborg.

A starring role in the criminally-overlooked Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance would put Raiden back in the spotlight, allowing him to save the day once more from a rogue US senator, cyborg mercenaries, and even find some closure when he reunited with the love of his life, Rose.

Raiden’s legacy is intrinsically tied to Metal Gear Solid 2 though, as the plot twist of Solid Snake allowing new blood to take over is one that likely wouldn’t have had the same impact today that it did back in 2001. In an age of social media, broken embargoes, and 24/7 livestreams, Metal Gear Solid 2’s big reveal would likely have been spoiled within minutes of the game hitting the streets.

20 years later though, Kojima’s unexpected move to grow the Metal Gear Solid fandom still stands as a masterclass in misdirection.

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