Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance

February 6, 2006

[i]Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty[/i] was released in 2001. Most gamers accepted it with open arms, being the sequel to a game that defined the stealth action genre and was one of the best games for the Playstation One. In 2002, [i]Sons of Liberty[/i] was remade for the Xbox, in the form of [i]Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance[/i]. [i]Substance[/i] added in many new features that, in truth, really should have been included in [i]Sons of Liberty[/i]. To many Playstation 2 owners, this may have seemed like a slap in the face, so Konami finally decided to release [i]Substance[/i] for the Playstation 2. Even though it is the same game as [i]Substance[/i] for the Xbox, it still seems like a slap in the face to some Playstation 2 gamers.

[i]Substance[/i] seemed perfectly at home on the Xbox since [i]Sons of Liberty[/i] was exclusive to the Playstation 2. On the Playstation 2 though, [i]Substance[/i] seems a little gimmicky, especially since it was designed to debut on another system. [i]Substance[/i] essentially has everything from [i]Sons of Liberty[/i], including the single-player Tanker/Plant campaign, and other additional options. [i]Substance[/i] differs from [i]Sons of Liberty[/i] by adding in around 500 different VR missions, as well as a rather clunky-feeling skateboarding mini-game. This makes [i]Substance[/i] seem like a waste for PS2 owners, since most people who own a PS2 and have an interest in the Metal Gear series played [i]Sons of Liberty[/i] around the time it was released.

This isn’t to say [i]Substance[/i] isn’t a good game, but since most people on the PS2 have played [i]Sons of Liberty[/i], it just makes it feel like a gimmick. If you are one of those people who never played [i]Sons of Liberty[/i], then [i]Substance[/i] is a great game, since you are getting the story-mode along with many extras players of the original didn’t receive. If you have played [i]Sons of Liberty[/i], then all you’re really getting is a couple changes, and while the VR missions are fairly enjoyable, they hardly seem worth paying the money for a game we all played a few years ago.

Like you’ve probably surmised, since [i]Substance[/i] is the remake of [i]Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty[/i], it also qualifies as the sequel to [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i] for the PS1. If you played [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i] back in 1998, then [i]Substance[/i] should feel fairly familiar to you. The biggest update in the player interface is the graphics haul, which updates [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i]’s pixilated graphics to a smoother looking form. Other than the graphics, most of the traits from [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i] have made their way back into its sequel. You control your character through a third person overhead viewpoint, using weapons in one hand and items like rations in the other hand.

It is best that a new player to [i]Substance[/i] isn’t informed of the storyline. The story takes so many twists and turns that revealing any information would reduce the impact of the cutscene or Codec transmission. [i]Substance[/i] begins with Solid Snake infiltrating a tanker with the assistance of his old friend from [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i], Otacon. The story shifts drastically from there, as any veteran Sons of Liberty player could tell you. Another important thing to know is that it is very crucial to have played [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i] before playing [i]Substance[/i]. Although you may understand some parts of the story, there are many references to Shadow Moses, Liquid Snake, and other things found in [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i] that will easily fly over the head of one who hasn’t played the prequel to [i]Sons of Liberty[/i].

The gameplay has seen some renovation from [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i], but for the most part, anyone who played the first will recognize the mechanics behind Substance easily. Substance introduces a first person gun viewpoint, which allows you to fire your gun at enemies and get clearer, more precise shots. Snake has been given a rolling technique, while Raiden has a cartwheel roll. Everything else in the game is, for the most part, rehashed from [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i].

There is a huge arsenal of new weapons at your disposal, not available in [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i]. The SOCOM handgun, Nikita missile launcher, and most of the weapons seen in [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i] make their return. [i]Substance[/i] adds in weapons such as the USP handgun, a PSG1-T sniper rifle, the AKSu-74 assault rifle, and many more. Many of the items found in [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i] return as well, such as the well-known cardboard box (which you can hide underneath), the magazine (which distracts guards with pictures of women), and the life-giving rations. [i]Substance[/i] also includes a new way of approaching your objective, by adding in the M9 tranquilizer pistol, and a tranquilizer version of the PSG1 sniper rifle. These allow you to take out enemies by putting them to sleep rather than killing or knocking them out.

[i]Sons of Liberty[/i] and [i]Substance[/i] both have more updated A.I. than that of [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i]. Guards are generally more responsive, tactical, and well, smarter. This doesn’t mean that the guards are geniuses, and they are actually a little dense in the sense that you can be standing on one side of the room, them looking straight at you, and not notice you. Still, the A.I. is good for a video game, even if it seems like they are dense. A couple new features have come up with the guards. A guard’s dead body no longer disappears after a few seconds, so now players will have to stow away any dead bodies so other guards cannot find them and raise their guard. Another new feature is that some guards call in to some unseen guard to report that all is normal. If you take out one of these guards, the unseen guard will soon radio in demanding why there is no response. No response will send in a guard team to investigate. These new features add to the tactical value of the game, and keep you thinking on your feet.

The Codec device returns from [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i]. The Codec serves as a communication tool to Non-Player Characters. Codec transmissions take place with two 3-D avatars speaking with each other through audio, along with subtitles. Codec transmissions take up just about as much time as cutscenes do, and at times, can be extremely lengthy. Of course, you can skip these, but you’ll be missing out on a big part of the story. At any rate, in the end, the voice acting and story make the transmissions enjoyable to watch. The Codec also allows you to save your game, and talk with other characters to get helpful tips on the given situation. The Codec is also accompanied by the radar, which you will find on the top right corner of your screen. The radar is an important factor in Substance, as it gives you a heads up on the enemy location, and their field of vision. You can turn the radar off, but it makes the game much more challenging.

The story takes up a good portion of [i]Substance[/i]’s campaign. In fact, the cutscenes and Codec transmissions add up to a little over three hours. At times, your controller may be on the ground for a while due to the lengthiness of some cutscenes. There are some periods in some cutscenes that let you interact with the environment, but this just seems like a way to keep you on you guard. As long as you don’t mind a long, story-driven game, then [i]Substance[/i] should be no problem, but if you like gameplay over cutscene, then you may not want to give [i]Substance[/i] a try, or any [i]Metal Gear[/i] game for that matter.

The voice acting is as stellar as ever. [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i] had some of the best voice acting ever seen in a game. In fact, it was one of the first games to include a great cast of voiceovers. The [i]Sons of Liberty[/i] story includes all the original cast (save for absent characters like Naomi Hunter and Mei Ling), including David Hayter playing Snake’s gruff voice, and Pat Zimmerman as returning character Revolver Ocelot. Christopher Randolph returns as Otacon, and Quinton Flynn plays new character Raiden. Some voices sound a little cheesy, especially Snake and Ocelot. The over-the-top story makes the cheesy voiceovers fit though, and they sound really nice in the end.

Now that the [i]Sons of Liberty[/i] part is complete, we’ll go over the new parts [i]Substance[/i] adds into the mix.

The VR missions are the biggest draw of [i]Substance[/i]. There are well near 500 VR missions. If you played [i]Metal Solid VR Missions[/i] for the Playstation, then the VR missions in [i]Substance[/i] will seem fairly familiar. You pick a character, mainly from Raiden and Solid Snake, and complete various scenarios in a Virtual Reality environment. Playing through missions unlocks more missions, and completing enough missions under one character will open another character up. The VR missions are enjoyable, but they hardly seem worth buying [i]Substance[/i] for alone. Of course, if you never played [i]Sons of Liberty[/i], then [i]Substance[/i] is a perfect buy, since you get the VR missions not available in the original.

There is also another new mode available in [i]Substance[/i], mentioned earlier: Skateboarding. Unlike the VR missions though, which are actually somewhat worth a purchase, the skateboarding aspect is not worth purchase of [i]Substance[/i], mainly because it is flimsy, and just seems like a gimmick. The skateboarding in [i]Substance[/i] is based off Konami’s [i]Evolution Skateboarding[/i], which got poor reviews at release due to sluggish controls and gameplay. All the traits that made [i]Evolution Skateboarding[/i] a failure make it into [i]Substance[/i]’s skateboarding, unfortunately. It is best if the skateboarding is left alone.

Aside from the other two new game modes, there are also five different “Snake Tales” in [i]Substance[/i]. These take Substance’s Plant story and replaces Raiden with Snake, altering parts of the story of course. Keep in mind these aren’t loaded with cutscenes; in fact, there aren’t any cutscenes at all. The small story is driven by text screens mainly. The “Snake Tales” are fairly enjoyable, but again, like the VR missions, don’t warrant a purchase alone.

[i]Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance[/i] is a great game. The only problem is, everyone has played the game back in 2001. The VR missions and gimmicky skateboard modes don’t really justify a purchase from a veteran of [i]Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty[/i]. If you never played [i]Sons of Liberty[/i], then [i]Substance[/i] is perfect for you. Problem is, if you didn’t played [i]Sons of Liberty[/i] at release, then chances are, you never played [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i], which contradicts the purchase of [i]Substance[/i]. If you’ve played [i]Metal Gear Solid[/i], and for some strange reason never played [i]Sons of Liberty[/i], then [i]Substance[/i] is a worthwhile purchase. If you have played [i]Sons of Liberty[/i], and simply must play the VR missions, then rent [i]Substance[/i], play through the VR missions, and your urge should curb.

Score: 2/5

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