Technically, Metal Gear Solid 2 is an impressive game--it's just that everyone's played it already, and most of those who haven't yet probably shouldn't.
The release of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in 2001 was gaming's equivalent of the premiere of a huge Hollywood blockbuster. Anticipation for the game had grown extraordinarily high, both because it was a sequel to what's regarded as one of the best PlayStation games ever made, and also because a number of dazzlingly produced teaser trailers did an incredible job of whetting gamers' appetites for Metal Gear Solid 2's story and gameplay. People just couldn't wait to once again reprise the role of secret agent Solid Snake and infiltrate heavily defended enemy compounds using a combination of stealth and force, uncovering untold military secrets in the process. Upon the game's release, it met with glowing reviews from critics and was hailed as a superlative successor to its namesake--and yet players were shocked to find that Metal Gear Solid 2 turned out to have a huge twist: The main character in fact wasn't the coolheaded Solid Snake, but an entirely new character, an inexperienced young soldier called Raiden--a Luke Skywalker to Solid Snake's Han Solo.
Just as with many Hollywood blockbusters, now that the excitement over the game's release has dissipated, it's become fashionable to speak ill of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Suddenly more gamers out there seem to think Metal Gear Solid 2 was a complete letdown, while at around the time of the game's release, these people were calling it the greatest game ever made. Social commentaries aside, it's perfectly understandable that the game's heavy-handed, convoluted, and arguably sloppy story has been the object of much criticism now that it's had a while to sink in. Also, most all Metal Gear Solid 2 players like to point out that they just hate Raiden. With all of that said, it's difficult to look at the new Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance as an original product, because it's really nothing more than an overpriced rerelease of a game that's already had its moment in the sun.
Substance was released for the Xbox a few months ago, where it made sense, since the original Metal Gear Solid 2 is exclusive to the PlayStation 2--that is, most Xbox owners probably hadn't played MGS2 before the release of Substance. Meanwhile, now that the original MGS2 is part of the PS2's greatest-hits collection and is available at a low price, the release of Substance for the PS2 seems rather puzzling. Substance does throw in a number of additional features that weren't in MGS2, most notably a series of no fewer than 500 so-called VR training missions that let you explore the nuances of MGS2's gameplay without all the cinematic trappings. There's also a gimmicky mode in which you can go skateboarding around as Snake or Raiden to the tune of a rock-and-roll-remixed MGS2 theme, but this skateboarding sequence is based on Konami's disappointing Evolution Skateboarding game and really isn't much fun. Konami unfortunately balked on the opportunity of packaging the domestic version of Substance with last year's Document of Metal Gear Solid 2, a sort of DVD documentary that would have made for a more-substantial bonus than most of Substance's extras. So to put it as plainly as possible, anyone who already owns Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty should pass on Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, because the extra features in Substance by no means justify the game's $39 price point. At the same time, those late to the Metal Gear Solid party may just as well pick up a cheap copy of Sons of Liberty instead. Technically, Metal Gear Solid 2 is an impressive game--it's just that everyone's played it already, and those who haven't yet probably shouldn't.
The core of Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance is just Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The game consists of two parts, the first being a relatively short sequence in which you play as Solid Snake and the second being the main portion in which you play as Raiden. Very story-driven and mostly linear, Metal Gear Solid 2 is by all means a cinematic game, one that you simply sit back and watch almost as often as you actually play. Much of the story unfolds via one-to-one conversations between the game's main characters using a communications device called a codec. Here you just see a green-tinted screen with close-ups of the speaking characters' faces, and you listen to (or read) what they have to say. At other times, Metal Gear Solid 2 presents some extremely impressive noninteractive cutscenes using the game's 3D engine, which look like something out of a big-budget action movie, only with video game characters instead of real people. These of course are much more interesting than the codec sequences, although the game's story does remain engaging if you're willing to keep up with it through a few very strange plot twists.
The actual gameplay involves lots of things: sneaking around, exploring, shooting with a variety of different real-world weapons, going toe-to-toe with some interesting and challenging bosses, and numerous other small but clever elements. The action appears highly realistic--some surprisingly lifelike enemy behavior, outstanding animation, and lots of little details make Metal Gear Solid 2 one of the closest video game approximations to superspydom that there's ever been. But at its heart, Metal Gear Solid 2 is still an action game, and the game's designers, with tongue in cheek, borrowed a few classical gaming conventions: For example, at the normal difficulty setting, you can withstand an inordinate amount of gunfire before finally perishing. You can instantly restore your health just by eating rations, and guards are curiously nearsighted, unable to detect you if you stand about 30 feet away. On the other hand, the game's authentic touches, such as how depleted ammunition magazines can be thrown to distract enemy guards, help make the action more convincing.
- Player Reviews: 82
- Game Universe:
- Metal Gear Solid (PS, PC, GBC),
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance (PC, XBOX, PS2),
- Metal Gear (C64, MSX, NES, MOBILE, PC),
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (X360, PS3, PC),
- Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (VITA, PS3, X360),
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker HD Edition (PS3, X360),
- Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D (3DS),
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP),
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3),
- Metal Gear Solid: The Essential Collection (PS2)
- Number of Players: