Review Summary: It's like being in a nightmare you can't wake up from.
Building up to the game’s release, nobody had the foresight to predict Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty’s genius – at least not in the way it turned out to be. This game arrived at a time when video games were regarded as a leper of the arts – the medium was an underdog that was looked at with turned, snobbish noses. It was a basement dwelling pastime; dumb, violent video games without any discernible message or meaning, and nothing more. Words can’t really convey just how important MGS2 was; to both the industry and the way the industry was looked at. This was meant to be Hideo Kojima’s closing message for the series – unbeknownst to him at the time that it would go on to convolute and diminished the game’s message for the sake of its fans and Konami’s bank account – a no holds barred indulgence with a lasting afterthought. If you were around during the development of MGS2, you’ll know it was the most anticipated game of its generation. Hell – I’d wager it’s probably the last time the games industry saw a buzz of this magnitude. I tend to ignore marketing and all its shady tricks, but I tip my hat to how masterfully handled the marketing was for this game. This was the Mary Sue of promotions, it was the game every fan dreamed of coming true: jaw-dropping, cutting-edge graphics; revolutionary gameplay; and the return of Solid Snake: gaming’s #1 badass. People were foaming at the mouth to get a hold of the VHS promotional trailer – a 20-minute playable demo that was included in Kojima’s Zone of the Enders. Looking back, it was mass hysteria, and then the game came out…
Even back in 2001, keeping such a prolific title under wraps the way they did was not only impressive and daring but potential career suicide if the public ever got wind of what was really brewing behind MGS’s perfect sequel. When it came to playing the game, it was a complete subversion on everything we had been shown thus far. This wasn’t a game about giant mecha robots and a chain-smoking action hero out to save the day, it was a fourth wall breaking, postmodern masterpiece. A commentary on society, technology, expectations and where we were heading as a species, and it was told using all manner of meta, fourth wall breaking references and idiosyncratic methods in a grounded, modern, sci-fi-action setting. The disturbing truth is that Hideo’s magnum opus resonates louder today than it ever did upon its release – as we live in the
age of disposable information and social media. On a cosmetic level, the game was light-years ahead of any other game for its time. It looked, played and sounded like nothing else, but its presentation wasn’t the problem, it was the deceitful betrayal of its convoluted story and character bait-and-switch. Of course, these criticisms were intentional, and it only strengthened Hideo’s message. These days, the game is held in high regard, but initially – like most thought-provoking works – it took some years of reflection for it to get the appreciation it rightfully deserved.
As cutting-edge as the story was for its time, the production for every aspect of this game was state-of-the-art – the game’s score was no exception. Since Metal Gear Solid is based around Hollywood, and all its iconic movies, it seemed fitting to have Harry Gregson-Williams do the score for MGS2. Harry takes the first game’s iconic soundtrack and makes a fully fleshed out tour de force. Riding close to MGS’s themes, the score is an amalgamation of orchestral and electronic compositions. A buffet of moods and emotions that solidify the series’ personality forever. From foreboding sneak-pieces, to grandiose, skyscraper scaled action tracks. “Metal Gear Solid Main Theme” is an excellent introductory piece that takes the quaint framework of its original composition and makes a grand, Hollywood-tinged spectacle out of it. What was once a bijou electronic piece is now a sprawling, irreproachable classic with omnipotent production values. The bulk of the score, given that the nature of the game is related to stealth and sneaking, is low-key, mood-setting ambience. “Revolver Ocelot”’s rattling symbol taps, metallic echoes and washy phaser strokes paint a 21st century noir backdrop, while “Big Shells”’s reverb-soaked drums and reserved horn section croons of the main melody create a juxtaposition of middle ground tension and front row energy. It also knows when to let its hair down on the likes of “RAY Escapes” and “Arsenal is Going to Take Off,” both of which contain a bellowing underbelly and sweeping orchestral passages that keep you alert. Further colour is given to the antagonist tracks which represent their given personalities: the smooth and jazz-y calm of “Fortune” is the perfect marriage for Fortune’s grief and despair; the EDM “Kill Me Now” embodies Fatman’s neurotic mindset; and the brooding epic of “The World Needs Only One Boss!” for Solidus Snake’s status and birth right not only support the character’s motivations and persona but add spice to the bulk of the nuanced secret agent mantra at the base of the OST.
As a standalone album, it isn’t quite as effective as when it’s placed in the game. That being said, it’s still an enjoyable record with a really distinct presence, and works with the game’s visual aesthetic with synergistic results – like a cross between James Bond and Tron. The importance of Kojima’s message couldn’t have been delivered as effectively if it hadn’t been for this soundtrack. The score is ingrained into every fibre of this game and sets up a body of work for the franchise’s bright future, but it’s here where it has the most enigmatic results and still remains unparalleled to this day.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Metal-Gear-Solid-Sons-Liberty/dp/B00005QYGZ/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_1?keywords=metal+gear+solid+2+ost&q id=1555933660&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmr2