Is it just me or does Metal Gear Solid seem absolutely ancient…? I feel like I have been hiding in soggy cardboard boxes since the dawn of time. So baked into the gamers mind are its intricacies my friends and I recently spent a rather tipsy birthday party repeatedly mimicking the cries of ‘Snaaaake!’ you hear on the Game Over screen. Up until this installment, the only console to bring you such things was one of Sonys lot, but thankfully now, X-Box users can now play too. Throw in a PC conversion as well and you can realize this is a big game.
Metal Gear Solid 2 was a great game, no question, it was flawed, but great. It was a grand project, a high octane mix of fantasy and reality with an attention to detail that is still un-rivaled. To see Metal Gear Solid 2 come to other platforms is great for gaming and it is even better to see it done alongside added extras and features.
So, before I tell you what the new twirly knobs and buttons are, lets go back to the start and have a look at the game itself as the bulk of the game is the same as the original PS2 version. MGS2 is Japanese made to the very core, in-fact the very name, ‘Metal Gear’, refers to a series of big mechs developed for military purposes. In this title, Metal Gear Ray is your target and things kick off with Snake infiltrating a Tanker transporting the machine. I will try not to spoil the plot twists that spring from this, but let’s just say it is not all plain sailing. After this short section you enter the main game area, the Big Shell, a huge oil rig where a terrorist organization called Dead Cell has a number of hostages and surprise, surprise, it’s your job to help them out. There is a big surprise though in your character…in a shockingly stupid decision you do not play as Snake. Instead, you get the ‘pleasure’ of playing as the ‘not-at-all-gay’ Raiden…
In terms of play style it’s an odd one…it’s sort of cartoon stealth…Splinter Cell was pretty hardcore, MGS2 is definatley leaning towards just creating a fun game rather than fussing about the realism of the precedings. Each enemy encounter is like a little puzzle rather than a duel of wits like in Splinter Cell, guards can only see within a short cone of vision. If they spot you they can radio for help and then you have to hide until the alarms stop and then everything goes back to normal. There are some nice touches though, if a guard makes a radio call you can try and shoot his radio to isolate him, if you take him out after as he makes a call then reinforcements get sent to investigate and replace and dead guards. There is a logical flow of events and you just have to figure out how to secure each area. This can be done in a number of ways, tranquiliser darts, neck-breaking holds, a shot to the head or even a porno magazine can be used to eliminate a guard.
Scattered through the game are some boss battles, and apart from the ridiculously hard final boss are all pretty fun to deal with, particularly some of the supernatural Dead Cell members. They all blend into the story well with some really cool characters in there. The story itself is mixed though…mixed in the fact that it does drone on a bit sometimes. The basic structure is great, there are plenty of twists and some of the cinematics are awesome…the final scenes in the Tanker in particular are some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in a video-game. The scripting, direction, music… everything is just cinematic brilliance. The main problem with the story is the way the majority is relayed to you, your little radio, the Codec…sitting there listening to some bloke talk about nothing in particular for about 10 minutes is just dull, things could be moved on much quicker without loosing character depth. Thankfully though you can skip sections when you can’t take it any longer…
One of the highlights of the game is the visual design, the whole thing still looks fantastic today, the sheer detail is wonderful. All the little things like Snake dripping when he comes in out of the rain or watching his headband suddenly get whipped up in the wind when he opens a door make all the difference to the overall feel. Character models are second to none as well, the guards look really very cool indeed with some brilliant skinning of their uniforms. There are plenty of great spot effects too, shooting a bag of flour in the store room leaves a big fluffy cloud in the air and shooting a pipe sends out a big jet of steam. The graphical detail is incorporated into the gameplay too, it’s possible to hide in cupboards, disable guards by shooting out fire extinguishers, dump bodies over railings… There’s lots to play with too, fun can be had simply from taking an automatic weapon to a shelf full of bottles or a sniper rifle to some seagulls!
Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance does offer a few new things to veterans of the the original incarnation…you get a load of new VR missions, which is essentially the games Time Attack mode… You get a series of, well, Virtual Reality tasks to carry out and you get a time and rank and can challenge your friends etc… Then there are the ‘Snake Tales’…these are basically an apology for Raiden from Konami where you get to play sections of the game as Snake, the human ashtray himself. There are also a few extra secrets to unlock and a few new things to collect, such as new dogtags from guards. I have to say that while these are nice extras, I can’t really say they are enough to make me recommend this to you if you already have the original MGS2.
Having said that though, on it’s own merit, Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance is brilliant. If you have been hiding under Microsofts shadow for the last year or so sneering at everything Sony then get yourself sorted out and buy this, you will not regret it.
OVERALL SCORE: 94%