The Decisions: Metal Gear Solid 2’s Aesthetics

Continuation to: “The Decisions:Metal Gear Solid 2!”, a four part series analyzing the design behind Metal Gear Solid 2:Sons of Liberty, you can read the first three parts here:The Decisions Part 1: PhilosophyThe Decisions Part 2: Systems and MechanicsThe Decisions Part 3: Narrative.


Over the course of my play-through of “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty”, I found that I was exposed to many different sound effects, a consistent graphic style, and an art-style that made the characters presentable given the plot. I found that MGS2 was a fairly consistent
game in all aspects regarding its design.

Solid Snake arriving on “The Tanker.”

In MGS2, the main concept behind it’s gameplay is to remain “hidden” and to avoid
detection, creating tension between the player and the system that they’re actively participating
in. The developers behind the game utilized sound to create a feel for the player, when they
weren’t detected, the background music was extremely peaceful, giving the player something to
listen to when they were exploring the game’s world. However, when a player is detected by the
guards or a surveillance camera, the music quickly switches to a more “intense” song, causing
the player to need to drastically change their playstyle immediately because if they don’t evade
the guards or eliminate the guards, they will die and get a game-over. I found that this usage of
music changing between when being undetected and detected to be an interesting choice, because the game almost feels entirely different when you’re detected compared to when you’re
sneaking around. Whenever I wasn’t detected, I found myself lost into the game’s world because
of the music, however, whenever I was detected, I thought I was done for and would panic. The
music plays a huge role in MGS2, as it is the sole factor that tells you what state you are in, in
regards to being detected vs not being detected. On top of that, when someone spots you in the
game’s world, a loud “ding!” noise is played, as an exclamation point appears above the person
that spotted you. This exclamation point is the “turning point” in regards to the music changing,
as it’s what decides if you were spotted or not by the guards. The more I played of MGS2, the
more I found myself preferring to not be detected by the guards in favor of the background music
that would play whenever you’re just walking around in the world. MGS2 also offers boss-fights
from a gameplay and narrative standpoint, so the music when fighting the bosses is vastly
different compared to that of the regular sneaking and detection music. The music used for the
bosses allows the player to know that they’re fighting a boss, as the developers decided to utilize
one universal theme- “Yell Dead Cell” for every boss fight in the game. I believe that is
important as it allowed the players, and myself, to realize that the stakes are higher in this
encounter compared to that of a regular encounter.

MGS2’s environments are fairly consistent in regards to the graphics utilized to create the

environments, as the developers were locked on one specific color the entire game- blue.
Everything about the game is blue, in terms of graphics. From the walls, to the ground,
everything that was tied to the environment, even Raiden and Snake’s outfit, were all blue. I
don’t know the reason why the majority of the game was blue, but I do believe that it was an
intentional design choice. After completing the game, I couldn’t help but connect the
environment colors to the overarching “theme” of the game, as I saw fit. I believe that the theme
is more so connected to the narrative aspect of the game, but it does provide an explanation for
why they made that decision regarding the aesthetics of the game. The theme, as I see it, is about
the concept of an “overflowing sea of information”, constantly, we’re receiving information from
every party in the game.

Ultimately, I believe that one of the biggest aesthetic choices that were made going into

the development, was how the characters were going to be portrayed in a “fantastical but
grounded military game” setting. The characters all look “realistic” but they were given a touch
that animated characters are given, allowing us to remember that the developers aren’t going for
an ultra-realistic model for the game. With the universal design for the characters, it allowed all
actors within the script to convey the story while looking visually “appealing” to the player. This
heightens the experience, as a story heavy game with focus on the developments between the
characters, typically showcases the characters and their interaction a lot in between cut scenes,
conversations, and so on.

To conclude this analysis, I found that the choices that were made aesthetically for MGS2

were a little lack-luster. I feel like there wasn’t much to take apart, as it is consistent on pretty
much every aspect it had to offer in the aesthetic department- the music, the character models,
and the environments. However, this may be a good thing, considering some players love
consistency in their games.


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