reviews\ Nov 26, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance - XB - Review

The adventures of Solid Snake have been told over several different consoles, but it found its home with the Playstation with the release of Metal Gear Solid--arguable one of the best games that console ever produced and a fan favorite.  Its sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, was one of the PS2’s finest titles of the year that rumors started to fly that the Xbox will get an expanded edition.  Xbox owners should be prepared to be happy, the rumors are true, Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance is our chance to experience Konami’s masterpiece.  And you thought the PS2 got all the great games. 


First off, it should be noted that while the game carries the word Substance instead of the words Sons of Liberty, the sequel’s story is still similar to the PS2 original version.  The story begins with Solid Snake, an operative working for a new group called Philanthropy, sneaking into a tanker ship only to witness the tanker being overtaken by an army of well-equip Russian rogue troops--their mission is to locate the Metal Gear prototype.  The other half of the story puts you in the not-so-loved Raiden’s boots as he is sent to an offshore plant to rescue the President of the United States from a highly unusual group of terrorists calling themselves the Sons of Liberty.  The story, while confusing at times, isn’t bad at all.


Control-wise, gamers will find that Xbox default controller scheme to be disorienting the first time you play.  The left trigger, for example, is used to go into first person view and this makes things just a tad complicated if you want to shoot a gun in this view.  Fortunately, the other actions are easy to carry out such as hanging from a guardrail or dragging a dead or unconscious foe and stuffing him into an open locker.  You can even hold-up a character by going into first person view and pointing your gun at their back (they’ll raise their hands and ask you not to shoot them).


Loaded with interesting characters, the Sons of Liberty game is the game’s main mode of playing the game while the extras in this game are like playing another game altogether.  Missions offer VR training situations like those seen in the PSOne’s Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions.  There are Sneaking, Weapon, First Person View, and Variety.  There is also alternate missions that includes Bomb Disposal, Eliminate, Hold Up and Photograph mode.  Each mode has a series of levels that gets harder to complete.  And the best part is that you start off using Snake and Raiden and end up unlocking new characters.


And if Raiden proves to be too annoying for some gamers, they can always try out the Snake Tales option, which features five stories with Snake as the main character.  You’ll visit several stages from the original game and play in areas you’ve played through as Raiden.


One of the most stunningly gorgeous-looking games when it came out for the PS2, this version’s graphics is still in top form and actually a lot sharper.  The character models during the game look simply amazing and the level of detail will not fail to astonish.  When Solid Snake whips his head to peek around the corner, his bandana moves along with him.  You can even see the drops of water that fall of his body if he was out in the rain way too long.  And while you spend the majority of the game in an indoor setting, the tanker and offshore plant are impressive.


Joining the wonderful graphics is a dynamic score by composer Harry Gregson-Williams (of Armageddon and The Rock fame) this is both intense and sweeping.  The game’s music plays a big role in making the game and cut scenes more nerve-wracking and exciting.  There are also some richly detailed sound effects here that goes beyond just the authentic sounds of gunfire.  At one point on the outside strut of oil tanker, you’ll hear the howl of the wind mixed in with unseen taping of something striking metal and the caws of seagulls.  While all of this is great, noting comes close to the great voice acting and dialogue found in this game.


Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance is tactical stealth action at its most gratifying and if you are a fan of the series, this is the definitive version to own.  Loaded with plenty of extras and brand new twists in the gameplay, you definitely get more bang for your buck.  Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. 


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 8.8
The default controls can be a little on the awkward side, but luckily you can change the configuration in the options menu.  Still, there’s so much you can do with ease, such as shaking unconscious enemies for items they might have.  You can peek behind a wall and do a quick jump-out shot or you can rap on the wall to call a guard’s attention.  You can also use enemies like human shields the same way you do in Dead to Rights


Whether you’re playing the Sons of Liberty or the VR missions, stealth is the game’s principle theme.  One mode will have you sneaking across a room without being detected while in another you find yourself dressed up like the enemy--only don’t make conspicuous movements or it attracts attention.  Other missions have you disposing of explosives using a coolant spray and sharp eyes.  The most original mission?  How about Snake on a skateboard as he performs air tricks and grinds?


Graphics: 9.5
The game’s great visuals will surely impress those gamers that have never seen the original game and thanks to the power of the Xbox, the almost insignificant flaws in the PS2 graphics are cleaned up.  The characters in this game are amazingly well detailed during cut scenes and during the game itself.  They also move realistically and even more so during the cut scenes that make use of some great motion blur effects.


Still it’s the effects the rein supreme here.  If you are badly injured, you leave a trail of blood that starts pooling on the floor if you don’t bandage the wound.  The muzzle flash is done wonderfully, with spent bullet castings springing out of the weapon and on to the ground.


Sound: 9.7
The voice acting in this game is a prime example of how a game’s voice acting should sound like in a game.  There is never a moment in the dialogue where you feel an actor is reading out of the script or over exaggerates certain sentences.  The sound effects are also effective and quite detailed to the point that you can clearly distinguish between grenade explosions and the sounds of the enemy calling for reinforcements at the same time.


Yet the biggest draw has got to be the great soundtrack that build up dramatically throughout the game.  It’s great to hear a score work so closely with the action at hand and it does make the experience more cinematic and exciting.  If a guard spots you, for example, the music suddenly shifts to a dramatic heart-pumping rhythm that calms down when the guards stop looking for you.


Difficulty: Medium
Gamers will be amazed how intelligent the enemy is in this game.  Not only are they sensitive to sights but to sounds.  Walk too loudly and it’ll catch their attention and you better drag that dead body out of the way or a guard might discover it and call for back up.  They are also well trained and use well-thought out tactics once they‘re on full alert.  You‘ll find guards with shields and guards that won‘t be easily tricked by the old hide-in-a-box routine.   Sons of Liberty also offer some challenging boss battles such as your confrontation with Fatman or Vamp.


Concept: 9.5
One of the things MGS2 fans have been very critical about is the fact that there was way too much Raiden and not enough Solid Snake.  To remedy this, Konami added the Snake Tales option that offers five stories related to the Sons of Liberty story only seen through the eyes of Solid Snake.  In addition to this, there are several VR missions that use Snake. 


There are plenty of secrets and things to unlock in this game and it will definitely keep gamers busy for a long while.  For instance, there are personalized dog tags scattered throughout the game that you can collect.  There are also characters to unlock and as well as secret items.


Overall: 9.4
With loads of Xbox extras and more emphasis on fan favorite Solid Snake, this is the perfect way to be introduced (or reintroduced) to this tremendously entertaining series.  While the Sons of Liberty part of game remains unchanged, the separately extra Snake Tales adds new freshness to the game.  A Must-Own for fans and gamers that like their action with some stealth mixed into it.


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