Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance

Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance is the ultimate MGS2 that Xbox fans have been waiting and craving for. The MGS franchise is no longer a Sony exclusive. If you played only MGS back in the day on PSOne, then this is the sequel to get. Not only does it include the original game, but it also features a ton of extras.


The cinematics in Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance are of very high production quality, and the in-game graphics are quite good as well. The overall design is identical to that of the original Metal Gear Solid, but the quality is light years ahead. The game does, however, suffer from noticable slowdown during some scenes which use extensive rain special effects, but it does not affect gameplay. Apparently, these special effects are created on XBOX by emulating PS2 code without any optimization. Speaking of the PS2 version, the XBOX version is virtually identical, with the exception of having less jaggies and a cleaner overall look. Unfortunately, this is another case of a developer not taking full advantage of XBOX's power - thankfully the game had great graphics to start with.


Excellent realtime Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound provides great sound effects, intense music, and an immersive surround field. This is probably the biggest reason to own the XBOX version over the PS2 version. Many sound effects are recycled from the original Metal Gear Solid to give you a similar feel.


Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance has similar control to the Playstation predecessor Metal Gear Solid. If you read my review for that game, you'd know that I felt Metal Gear Solid's controls were somewhat clumsy. Metal Gear Solid 2 improves on the responsiveness of the controls of the original, and usually you can do what you want to. Still, the game does not approach the level of control we are accustomed to these days in action games. The fact that you still cannot transition between moving, jumping, and shooting fluidly baffles me, as does the still-shoddy wall-sneaking programming. The controls in this game feel very restrictive when compared to that of other recent stealth games, such as Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell.

Metal Gear Solid 2 continues the trend Metal Gear Solid started by offering an immersive story, which though convoluted at times, is still leaps ahead of what most games offer in terms of plot. Unfortunately, in between the movie cutscenes you still must deal with the aforementioned restrictive controls, which bring down the whole experience quite a bit. In essence, a very polished game brought down by an outdated control scheme. Which is basically how I felt about the first Metal Gear Solid - and if you liked the first one, you will like the second one, as the game is strikingly similar, from gameplay to graphic design to sound effects. I sincerely hope Konami does not follow the lead of Capcom, and continue delivering clunky controls in future sequels just to preserve continuity for those who have played MGS before. That out of the way, the gameplay boils down to sneaking around and either avoiding or killing people. The game takes on more of a comic-book style approach than the realistic approach that Splinter Cell takes on, and it succeeds in creating a fictional world with somewhat believable characters. Some may enjoy the storybook-like, fluid, approach Metal Gear Solid 2 takes over the realistic, mission-based approach Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell takes. Comparing the gameplay between the two is also rather difficult, because of the aforementioned control limitations of Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance. I often found myself saying "Damn, if I only I could xyz, I could get past this much easier; I can do that in Splinter Cell, afterall." The gameplay in Metal Gear Solid 2, therefore, is much less interactive than that of Splinter Cell. In essence, Metal Gear Solid 2 seems like you are part of interactive movie, while Splinter Cell makes you feel like you are the movie. Both are quite different, and both are probably worth playing, but more often than not I would die in Metal Gear Solid 2 because of the controls, or lack thereof, not because I simply failed to plan and handle the situation properly, which often leads to death in Splinter Cell. Moving on, MGS2: Substance offers a slew of new missions over the original PS2 MGS2, and allows you to play as Snake, an option many felt was lacking from the original MGS2. That being said, if you've already played through MGS2, I'm not sure the extra goodies in Substance will keep your attention for that long.

Bottom Line:

While the graphics, sound, and overall immersion factor of Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance are impressive, on the whole I felt that the game could have been better, simply by offering less clunky controls. I hate to keep using Splinter Cell as a reference, but honestly it just does the genre better. However, if you are more into plot-thick games with continuous flow, than realistic mission-based games, you might want to give Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance a spin. And, if you are a fan of the Metal Gear series, MGS2: Substance offers the best version of the game, due to its noticably cleaner graphics and realtime DD5.1 surround sound.

-Pete Calderwood