If you call yourself a gamer and you've never heard the name Metal Gear Solid, then there's only one reason: You're not a true gamer. Metal Gear Solid spawned an entire genre of games after its initial success on the Playstation. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was one of Playstation 2's most anticipated and successful titles. Now, with Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, Xbox owners can experience one of the most talked about games that the PS2 has to offer.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance is a re-release of the hugely successful Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty that originally appeared on the PS2. If you've never played a MGS title then you're missing out on something great, but then again, you’re also in for a bit of a treat. The games class themselves under the title 'Tactical Espionage Action', which truly sums up what the games are all about; Stealth, and Infiltration. Unlike most of today’s Hollywood movies, the MGS titles opt for the more realistic approach to combat; so where you would usually see one man shooting at twenty people and killing them all, you’ll find yourself sneaking past the lot of them, praying that nobody sees you and starts shooting. But if push comes to shove and you can’t sneak past a guard, tranquilizing them in the back of the head and shoving them in a locker should suffice. This doesn’t mean that MGS is without it’s fair share of slightly unrealistic and intensely heat-up battles; if combat against a jet fighter while you’re standing on the ground isn’t all out action then I don’t know what is.
Just like its predecessors, the game is centered around the man who is only known by his codename, Solid Snake. If ever there’s a sticky situation involving hostages, gun-toting terrorists, and an extremely high chance of getting killed, then there’s no one better to send in and take them down than Solid Snake; he’s the best weapon there is. Unlike its predecessors though, MGS 2 introduces a new playable character called Raiden, who for reasons you’ll find out in the game, is also bestowed with the codename Snake. So part of the game is played through as Solid Snake, the other part as Raiden. The story of Snake and Raiden and how they’re intertwined is one of the best in a video game to date. Though the rediculiously long FMVs and conversations that the characters have can bore if you don’t pay attention, the action and story are brought together in such a way that you could almost swear that you’re playing a movie, and is very compelling if you give it the attention that it’s asking for.
Controlling either Snake or Raiden is extremely simple and intuitive, and as both of their moves are the same apart from how they look, you won’t have any trouble changing from one to the other when the time comes. Both come with a large repertoire of moves and actions, including dragging and stowing away sedated guards, hanging from ledges and then dropping on top of unsuspecting terrorists, choking guards to death, hand-to-hand combat, crawling - the list goes on, and even though there are so many moves to learn, most will come to you quickly and naturally, as many different tasks are often handled by one button, but change depending on what the character doing. This is great because it doesn’t make the control system a headache to navigate.
The greatest thing about MGS: Substance though, is all the extra content that’s been packed into the re-release, which can even make it a worthwhile buy for those that already have the original. Included in this package along with the entire Sons of Liberty disc content, are over 500 extra training missions, so if you think that your skills aren’t quite to speed, then there’s plenty of practice to be done. The missions aren’t easy though, they range from things like target shooting with every weapon in the game, sneaking past guards, fighting against 40 foot monsters, and keeping terrorists from eating your curry. I’m 53% through the missions and they’re now so hard that I can’t advance any further.
The graphics in MGS: Substance fall only slightly short of what we would normally expect from an Xbox game, with plain textures for the environments letting down the great work that’s gone into the models, as they are quite excellent. The graphical style is well suited to the theme and feel of the game though, giving it a gritty and almost dark atmosphere that works well to keep you in a constant sweat while trying to time your approach behind patrolling guards backs. A multitude of environments are shown throughout the game, and many of them help in hiding yourself from trigger happy terrorists. Jumping over ledges and hiding behind the railing, jumping in a locker and closing the door, even getting under a cardboard box and hiding in the pantry can be done, though is probably one of the riskiest.
A feature in the main game that will keep you occupied for months is the Dog Tags. Certain guards have dog tags hanging around their neck (which for some reason you can see with thermal goggles), and can be obtained if you’re extra sneaky. If you creep up behind a guard and pull your gun up right next them, Snake will say “Freeze,” When they put their hands to the sky run in front of them and point your gun at their head, and they’ll plead for their life, shaking off your prize in some feeble attempt to bribe you into not killing them. Once you collect enough, special items are rewarded to you, like infinite ammo and infinite breath underwater. A funny little fact about these dog tags is that they’re all real people, some of which sent their names in for the competition, and some of the staff members names are thrown in there too
All in all, this game is a masterpiece. The storyline drives the gameplay like no other video game. The stealth elements are fantastic. The entire game is generally just fantastic. It’s one of the few games that every gamer in the world should play at least once, but guaranteed that once you do, it won’t be the last time, because you’ll want to come back for more, again and again and again.