At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Screenshots
Matt Bailey Xbox Konami of Europe KCEJ 1 Here
Requirements Also on... Buy from Amazon.co.uk
At the time of writing, we did not have a requirements section. PS2, PC Click here to buy Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance review

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty on the PlayStation 2 was one of the most eagerly-awaited games of all time. It sold loads of copies on pre-order, based on the quality of the first game on the PS1, the videos which made you want to know more, and the demo which sold the game it accompanied; Zone of the Enders. The game lived up to expectations; offering an unparalleled gaming experience, that went on to sell many PlayStation 2s for Sony.

And now the title has arrived on the Xbox, with the full "unparalleled gaming experience" of Sons of Liberty included. One of the immediate comments in any game that makes the jump from format to the other are about the graphics, and here we see that MGS2 has been smoothed out through the use of the Xbox's greater graphical power. However, the game was still designed for the PlayStation 2, and as such the graphics do not shine as using the full Xbox potential like its sneak-'em-up rival, Splinter Cell. Ah yes, Splinter Cell; when MGS2:SoL hit the PS2 back in March 2002, Splinter Cell was but another idea from Ubi Soft; a game classed as a clone of the former, and looking to try its best to be "Snake on the Xbox". However, the Tom Clancy title is now a major player in the world of stealth games, and thus MGS2 will now find itself being compared to this high-quality title.

To continue the comparison, the gameplay of both games is very different. While both feature stealth, weaponry, and gadgets, they each apply them differently. Metal Gear Solid 2 is clearly more action-based than its sneaking counterpart, which means that although it does drift from the never heard, never seen concept, for this reason does have a lot of highly enjoyable moments, and benefits from being heard but not seen. A level of stealth does have to be applied if you wish to get through the sections of the game without too much bother, but setting off an alarm does not end your campaign; instead you find yourself face-to-face with a range of guards all firing away at you, and making you wish you really had stayed in the shadows. Although, this only happens if you let the aware guard contact his colleagues and inform them of your presence; using a pistol you could either taking him out before he makes the call, or even take out his radio receiver unit located on his back at waist-level. Doing such actions save you the hassle of wasting your USP ammo, and also demonstrate the game's freedom for innovation. Of course, it's no good leaving a dead or unconscious body on the floor as one of the guard's team mates might come along on patrol and notice his friend. Thus, MGS2 allows you to drag a guard's body around, so you can put it in a hidden area, or even one of the available lockers.

The genius of series creator Hideo Kojima is shown throughout the game's freedom and ability to surprise you. But its not just individual gameplay that makes MGS2 one of the finest games around, it's the story. Sons of Liberty is the full story game from the original PS2 version, and remains fully entact on the Xbox version. The plot is full of twists and exciting elements, and will make you play through from start to finish in no time. As great as it is, there was one complaint that kept coming from the players of the original, and that is that there was too much dialogue in the game. Although there is plenty of action, and the dialogue does carry the story, it can be argued that you are interrupted from active play too often and possibly too long. To re-address this issue, this Substance edition was created, and on top of the main story, it also includes a tonne of new missions, from alternative scenarios not connected to the story, to brand-new VR missions, which were a popular inclusion in the original MGS. There is also more of the original hero, Solid Snake, in his own special stories called Snake Tales; another complaint of Sons of Liberty was the fact that you didn't get to play as the hero all the way through, in fact you go through most of the game as Raiden.

If you're unfamiliar with the story of MGS2, then I don't want to ruin it too much for you, but basically you start playing as Solid Snake, who is an ex-member of a government special forces group called Fox-Hound. He is now the co-founder of activist group Philanthropy, and is seeking to make the public aware of the giant mech machines known as the Metal Gears in hope that one day government groups will stop developing them. Otacon (or Hal Emmerich) returns from Metal Gear Solid, where he was a Metal Gear REX engineer, and now is the other co-founder of the activist group. Your mission as Snake is to obtain proof of the new Metal Gear and the Marines involvement, but later on in the game you take control of new long-haired (and far less popular) hero Raiden, who now works for Fox Hound.

Ratings

Graphics Looking very good with a lot of detail. They are crisp, and show improvements above the Xbox original (including a new Splinter Cell-style thermal goggles look). However, they cannot compare with the likes of other recent Xbox titles such as the other stealth title. 8/10
Gameplay Of the highest order; MGS2 plays extremely well, with intuitive controls, if feeling a bit odd to the Xbox controller (Controller S recommended for this). The sheer level of freedom within the constraints of the storyline is highly commended, as there is more than one way to approach a level. There is also the freedom to shoot out pipes, take out grapefruits, and hide in boxes and lockers. MGS2 cannot be beaten on this front. 10/10
Value At the time of writing, we did not have a value for money ranking. 0/10
Lifespan The story mode (Sons of Liberty) is not that long, but this version is boosted by the range of new missions available. That said, a longer story would not have gone amiss 9/10
Audio Great dramatic music and a range of quality sound effects. 9/10
Overall As good as Splinter Cell, but still very different. There is more freedom and more innovation in this title, which is why every Xbox owner should pick this up even if they have the former title. 9/10

Click here to buy Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance from Amazon.co.uk.

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