Why Metal Gear Solid 2 remains hyper-relevant today

Solid Snake aboard the Tanker in Metal Gear Solid 2
(Image credit: Konami)

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty began life on the PlayStation 2, but 20 years later the game has aged most gracefully on the PC, and in my opinion the PC is the best place to play this classic game today.

Not only does the PC version hold up the best on modern hardware, but the story this game tells and the themes that it explores, are more relevant today than they were in 2001 when it was originally released.

Acquiring Metal Gear Solid 2 in 2021

Originally released in 2003 on Windows, the PC version still runs great on modern hardware and operating systems, and you can get it from GOG for a good bargain. Access to older games is always something the PC has the edge in, and getting your hands on the PlayStation version of this game today is likely going to involve a trip to eBay where you'll likely have to pay a bit more to attain the disk version.

Another nice thing about this version of the game on PC is that it is DRM-free, meaning that you don't have to worry about activation issues getting in the way of your enjoyment, and you certainly don't have to worry about the game suddenly ceasing to work one day when the DRM servers go down.

The easy access, reasonable price tag, and lack of any DRM makes this a poster child for PC gaming releases.

Snake aboard the Tanker, avoiding soldiers

(Image credit: Konami)

The Best Version of MGS2

Another great benefit of the PC is that games only get better as hardware improves over time. This was a cutting edge game in 2001, but it ran at 480p on the PlayStation 2 (480i for most people at the time) and that just doesn't cut it for most people these days. Even the PS3 and Xbox 360 HD versions from 2011 are capped at 720p and have some performance imperfections.

But the PC version, which is based on the PS3 and Xbox 360 builds, can run at much higher resolutions and any reasonably modern PC in 2021 can easily get smooth 60fps gameplay from the start of the game to the end.

This isn't going to surprise anyone who spends a lot of time on the PC, but as someone who played through the game twice last year, once on a PS3 and once on PC, the difference is remarkable and made me appreciate PC gaming even more than before.

Raiden in a VR Elimination mission on Big Shell

(Image credit: Konami)

The Beauty of PC Gaming

While I did mention that I was able to play MGS2 at very high resolutions that weren’t supported when this game was originally released, you may be confused if you go to GOG today and buy the game.

Running it only shows a resolution that's similar to 720p. But this is where we step into mods and just why PC gaming is special.

Mods are sometimes a touchy subject, and you may think that these are only useful for turning menacing foes into Thomas the Tank Engine, but that’s just one flavor of mod. My personal favorite mods are not as flashy, but they’re essential to game preservation and allows people to enjoy old games in a way that makes them feel more modern.

PCGamingWiki is a great resource for this, and the Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance page includes some good info on the game. As mentioned, the GOG version of the game makes it play nice with modern operating systems, but it doesn’t expand the resolution settings of the original game (settings that were unfortunately limited in the original game).

To get updated resolution options, you simply need to install the mgs2 v's fix which adds a few quality-of-life things to the game, such as controller support, cheats, and a simple resolution selector. With this new option in place, I was able to play at any resolution my monitor supported, and it’s an absolute dream to play the Tanker and Planet chapters in 4K.

Snake sneaking aboard the Tanker

(Image credit: Konami)

Why MGS2 is Still Essential

Outside of a nostalgia kick for old folks like me who want to relive their youth, why would you want to play this game today?

I believe that Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is a masterpiece and it holds up better than most games from that era. Younger players won’t fully appreciate the shock that we had when it turned out that 90% of the game took place in someone’s shoes who was not named Solid Snake, but this game is far more than a clever (and frankly daring) plot twist.

I think it lives on today because its story and overall message resonate even more today than they did when this released in late 2001.

Twenty years later, the ideas of living your life online, of digital manipulation of media for political gain, how emotionality and traditional masculinity interacted, and environmentalism all ring even more true. In 2001 there were hints of these things changing in 2001, and game director Hideo Kojima was all over them at a time when video games were a lot less introspective or comfortable commenting on the real world. It’s a testament to this game that most of it (there is some humor that’s a bit cringy) rings very true today.

If you have the opportunity to play Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty on PC today, or anywhere frankly, it gets my highest recommendation.

  • Welcome to TechRadar’s PC Gaming Week 2021, our celebration of the greatest gaming platform on Earth. Despite the global pandemic and ongoing GPU shortages, PC gaming has never been more vibrant and exciting, and throughout the week we’ll be reflecting this with a selection of in-depth articles, interviews and essential buying guides.
Matt Birchler