Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox, PS2
Publisher
Konami
Developer
Konami
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Violence, Blood
 
Grade
The Good

• Highly detailed world
• Loads of extras, including missions with Solid Snake
• Polished gameplay

The Bad

• Story gets too convoluted
• Minor slowdown
• Too many Codec sequences

 
Grade
A

When Metal Gear Solid 2 came out on the Playstation 2 last year, it was widely accepted as a finely crafted sequel to the popular Playstation title. Now, a year later, Konami has released this game on the Xbox, but with a lot of extras to make the wait worthwhile. The story starts out as Snake and Otacon, working freelance, investigate the development of Metal Gear Ray, the Marines' answer to all of the Metal Gears now present in the world. After Snake takes photos of the Gear, he's thrown into a situation that sends the ship and crew to the bottom of the river. Years later, the President, who is on a visit to an oil refinery, is taken hostage by a group supposedly commanded by Solid Snake.

Gameplay is a blend of action and stealth, where the player must use a variety of techniques to infiltrate and then proceed to carry out various missions, including rescue, information gathering and bomb disposal. The player has a wide range of items and weapons at their disposal to pass through the game, including a tranquilizer gun, coolant to disable bombs and even a pack of cigarettes. When in the field, the player must use the environment to hide from patrolling guards, whose line of vision is displayed in the mini-map in the upper right corner. Holding down the trigger buttons allows access to weapon and item menus and tapping either with quick select/deselect the item or weapon last equipped. Pressing the X button will draw your weapon. If you manage to sneak up on a guard, you can perform a "hold up" in which you can get in front of them and shake them down for dogtags. Pressing up against a wall will allow you to sneak along the walk and even look around corners.

Visually, Substance holds up well on the Xbox as the game that already looked excellent gets a lot of little touches added to make it look better. The world of Substance is highly detailed with a lot of environmental touches that make the game feel like you're in a real world. The characters are modeled with a fine level of depth and volume and are motion-captured to make the animations feel real. While the game is not leaps and bounds over the year-old original, there are some nice additions, like a better looking infrared vision, some higher-detailed bump-mapped textures (in certain areas) and some really nice looking real-time shadows. The game still has some blurry textures here and there and it suffers some noticeable slow down when out in the rain on the boat, but either than that, Substance looks great.

The audio portion of the game is finely put together. Voice acting is excellent and delivers a deep and intricate story well. The sound effects go a long way towards building the concept that the game is a living world in which you can manipulate. On top of that is a soundtrack that rivals the first Metal Gear Solid in impact and quality.

So, what's new? Besides the original game, the player has tons of VR missions and Alternative missions (bomb disposal, hold up mode) in which to perform. And, the further you get into these modes, the more you can unlock and do. Probably the best new aspect of the game is Snake's Tales, which place the player in the guise of Solid Snake, who must perform five missions during the second part of the game - something a lot of people wanted from the original game. While the story is told in pages of text rather than voice-acting sequences, the gameplay provides an very welcome addition to the main story.

Outside of some minor issues with the porting of the game that never really affect the gameplay, Substance suffers from the one thing that was a complaint I had about the original - the story. While the story itself is finely crafted and well thought out at the start of the the game, it does seem to get a little too convoluted at the end, so much so that I wish Konami would have cut the last hour of the game short. Also, there's way too many static Codec sequences which could have been told better "in person."

Should you get Substance? If you never got the original, yes. Xbox owners should be glad to have the chance to play this game. If you have the original.... rent it first. The additional missions and Snake's Tales do add a lot more to the game, but the original game hasn't changed at all. And the graphics aren't so much better that they put the original to shame. Still, Substance is fine game that gives you more than the original package did.

- - Vane

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