Metal Gear wants the player to fail. The game’s rough edges are part of the growing pains of an early genre, but taken in the context of the entire Metal Gear series, these challenges also feel like horrifying defense mechanisms. As Solid Snake infiltrates Outer Heaven, the player intrudes upon the game’s world. Neither are welcome, and if they’re caught, they will be destroyed.
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake’s defining attribute is texture. Metal Gear shaped an initial world, and Metal Gear 2 embellishes on that world by adding frictions that complicate the player’s previous relationship with the series. The results are often inconsistent; Metal Gear 2 is a game with a reach that exceeds its grasp but, also, an intoxicating and undeniable confidence.
After Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, the titular character went into retirement—both in the series’ fiction and real life. It would be another eight years before fans would play a Metal Gear game. That game was Metal Gear Solid, and it helped codify the stealth genre forever. Solid Snake’s story is full of betrayal, blood, and isolation.
The initial technological threat in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is Metal Gear RAY. It is an “anti-Metal Gear,” a mech designed to destroy what came before. It is singularly focused on destroying the past, and so is Metal Gear Solid 2. This game is the anti-Metal Gear game. It is the great deconstruction that many fans consider the series’ greatest betrayal. Players wanted to be Solid Snake again, but instead, this game showed them how different they really were from Snake.