Release date: November 12, 2001 (NA) / March 8, 2002 (EU)
Platform: PS2/Xbox/PC/HD versions on PS3, Xbox 360, Vita
Kojima’s thoughtful, divisive, blockbuster was arguably decades ahead of its time, asking deep questions of the player’s role in video-games and the nature of sequels – yet allowed you to perform nude cartwheels, explode melons and teach parrots to talk. Technically, it’s astonishing, from the destruction physics, to the pinpoint targeting (you could lose hours decorating guard’s heads with darts then dragging them to obscure hiding places), and *those* raindrops on the screen. Metal Gear Solid 2 sparked legendary scenes at the world’s biggest games show, with its E3 2000 debut trailer drawing crowds of hundreds with every showing.
Kojima’s sequel is both outrageously out-of-sync with player’s desires – forcing you to play as whiny nobody Raiden, not fan favorite Solid Snake, and endure 20 minute cut-scenes berating the player’s lack of awareness – while empowering you like no game before. MGS2 lets you torment guards in inventive ways (a cruel trouser punch, perhaps), shortcut bosses and unearth Easter eggs in even the most unlikely Codec conversations (like Rose expressing her love of Godzilla movies). It’s the most Metal Gear of Metal Gears: a joy of contrasts; an anti-war game that fetishes conflict, a game that empowers the player while mocking them for a lack of control. MGS2 took years to be understood by its fans, and – wild as it sounds – bears comparison to literary, post-modern, classics like James Joyce’ Ulysses. It also lets you run down a corridor with a sword dicing up foes like carrots while fighting alongside the greatest soldier in history. Difficult, obtuse and layered – MGS2 is one of the most deservingly-analysed, and acclaimed, games of all time.
Best bit: The fourth-wall breaking curtain drop when Colonel Campbell implores you to turn off your PS2, before offering a critique of internet culture a decade ahead of its time about digital tribes and echo chambers of opinion that are, sadly, all too relevant today. Dan Dawkins