Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance
The most anticipated game in the history of the PS2 has finally arrived on the Xbox. The globally acclaimed masterpiece that was Metal Gear Solid 2 has not only been ported to the Xbox but it has had a wealth of extras added to it too. In the light of the success of Splinter Cell on Xbox it may seem like MGS2: Substance will have it's work cut out but after playing both it's fair to say that MGS2 plays great and is one of the Xbox must own games.
So what are these extras then? There's the small but certainly interesting Snake Tales and more importantly there are over 300 VR missions which will be worth the asking price alone for Metal Gear fans. The VR missions are basically skill tests that will require all the skill you can muster to complete them. If you intend to complete the game on the highest difficulty level they will prove an invaluable training aid. All the instructions for the extra material is given completely in text. The core of the game is Metal Gear Solid 2 in exactly the same form as it was on the PlayStation 2.
MGS2 is the latest in a series of games that began back in the late eighties. The games designer, Hideo Kojima, wanted to create a game where stealth was more effective than the full guns blazing method that so many games usually require. Playing as Solid Snake, you have to locate some of the new metal gear machinery and photograph it so as to alert the government to its presence. As you may know the whole operation does not go according to plan and suffice to say that you don't play solely as Snake. You will eventually have control of a new character, Raiden.
It may sound crazy but it is the little things that make the game so special. From the moment you begin the game with Snake and you are on the deck of the tanker in the middle of a storm, it is absolutely amazing to see the brilliance in the graphics. The pouring rain leaves perfect rain drops everywhere and the spray from the sea lashes the deck with alarming clarity. Go into first person mode and you can see the rain drops dripping from Snake's head. This may sound ridiculous but it really is that visually stunning. One thing that is strange on the Xbox version of Substance is that the framerate dips a bit, nothing major though, on the first part of the game when you're outside on the tanker, playing as Snake. The framerate was rock solid throughout the game so why it drops here is a little odd.
A moment which will make you laugh, is when you take control of Raiden. He is on the top of one of the facility struts and overhead are a flock of seagulls. Now seagulls being seagulls start to leave their droppings on top of the strut. If you make Raiden run around the top of the strut, on a clean part, then all is fine; however if you should make Raiden run through the droppings then you will laugh as his feet slip from underneath him and he lands on his bum. Perhaps the best effect in the game is when you have knocked out an enemy and you drag him out of the way. Rather than the person being as stiff as a board as they would in any other game, it is breathtaking to see the persons limbs go all limp and flop downward as if they were on a real person. You can even place the unconscious body into a locker or throw them into the sea if you so wish. Perhaps the greatest compliment you can give to MGS2 is that it makes you feel that there are no limits on you and you can do what you like.
As we have already said, stealth is the name of the game and it is the only real way to play this game. Sure you can go in all guns blazing but unless you're on the easiest setting you are not going to get very far. Fortunately the game has been designed from the ground up and the moves on offer and the weapons on offer, such as the M9 which fires tranquilliser darts, all give the perfect opportunity to be ninja like in your stealth.
As we mentioned earlier the graphics are very good but are perhaps a little bland compared to other games that are on the Xbox. One niggle I might mention is that the cutscenes do take up a substantial part of the game. It is a good job then that the cutscenes are superbly subtitled. Indeed the game is superbly subtitled throughout. The game gives you plenty of visual clues too. There is one small niggle though. During the game there are a few problems where it would be advantageous to hear certain noises. One such example is where Raiden has to diffuse, or rather freeze some C4 bombs. A sensor displays a green haze on the general location of the bomb but for the specific location you really need to be able to hear the bomb beeping. Without the ability to hear you can still find the bomb but it will take longer than it would for the hearing gamer. There is also the battle with Olga, when playing as Snake. She will throw grenades at you, from time to time, and this is preceded by a verbal warning (something like 'Take this!') which is not given in text. It doesn't prevent deaf gamers from beating her but it makes it more difficult. These are minor quibbles and to be honest everything else is more or less perfect. We could go on with masses of superlatives but it would just be a waste of time, the game's a must buy, it's as simple as that.
Game Rating: 9.2/10