|Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance|
Release Date: Out Now
Hmm......how to approach this? I pondered on that long and hard before deciding on the course I was going to take in my appraisal of Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance. This is one of those quite rare occasions when one has to try to apply the very wisdom of Solomon himself in aspiring to be as fair and open minded as possible.
I mean, is this not a full priced, reissued but essentially identical Metal Gear Solid 2 with some odds and sods of bits that should probably have been included with the original package in the first place? Are there any real visual or functional enhancements to the main game or are they conspicuous by their absence? Is this not just another case of some poor, skinny old cash cow having its once firm and milky but now quite withered and cracked teats gruffly pulled by a tight and eager little grasping Konami moneyman?
Well, yes it is, no there really aren't, yes they are quite and (ouch!) not exactly, no. (EH? - I hear you say…)
On the one hand, what you have is a game that many consider to be a masterpiece, one that has been re-packaged pretty darned well comprehensively too. Substance has so many little additional bits and bobs that it positively bulges and writhes grotesquely with it all. There are over 350 VR missions for a start, they in themselves will take weeks to complete and afford old and new hands alike the opportunity to try any number of ways to get the job done, set free of the necessarily confining (and utterly befuddling) storyline. Then there's the inclusion of a robust new mode in 'Snake Tales', which is essentially Konami providing us with a sort of playable potted history of what the randy old mullet-meister has been up to since his last outing on PSone and while blonde bombshell and Super Sub, Raiden has been doing all the hard work. There are even a few curios, such as new unlockable characters, outfits and an opportunity - should you have been fortunate enough to miss out the first time - to play some levels from Evolution Skateboarding, but in a Solid Snake stylee......You lucky, lucky things, you!!
So, what do we have in our other hand? Well, let's face it, MGS2 is well over a year old. Sure, it's still graphically quite outstanding, but one might also be justified in expecting at least a few visual enhancements, particularly with that other recently released and similarly stealthy visual tour de force, Splinter Cell snapping at its heels and setting new standards for what the PS2 can do. Whilst one is content to be awash in an entirely appropriate, though perhaps somewhat drab and near monochromatic palette of battleship greys and ice-cool tinted, hi-tech blues, the other is ablaze with the contrasting, fiery brilliance of artfully sourced coloured light in motion, that strikes dynamically at swathes of real time shadow and is thus, nearer to convincingly capturing that ephemeral, film-like quality that MGS2 strives so hard for with its forced, static camera angles and showy direction.
Also, I'm not afraid to admit that a year has passed, and yet I have absolutely no better grasp of what MGS2 is all about now than I had the first time around, the plotting is as horribly knotty and convoluted as it ever was and thus, an ideal opportunity to provide some much needed clarity has been squandered. You still can't avoid the yards and yards of seemingly superfluous Codec conversations, the scripting for which is hideously clunky, some of the voice acting is still unintentionally hilarious and there persists the distinct feeling that much has been lost in translation...surely???
On balance then, the main game hasn't changed, but the MGS2 experience in itself is a masterfully smooth one, both absorbing and rewarding by turns and absolutely reeking in authentic atmosphere. And there is also no denying that those VR missions are great fun, a seemingly endless supply of romper rooms to play in, and almost a justification in themselves for a separate release - albeit at a suitably reduced price. And there's the rub. Is MGS2:S really worthy of a full price tag, extras or not? Well, undoubtedly, to someone who has remained, until very recently, unmoved by the runaway train that is the PS2 or has stumbled upon this game by happy accident, sure. But not really for those of us who have been there and done it all before, no.
Metal Gear Solid 2 'noobs', wealthy (or just daft) Hideo Kojima completists and Evolution Skateboarding masochists only need apply then, the rest of us should hope, in vain I fear, for a stripped down VR Missions package at a sensibly reduced price.
- This game has the most fantastic production values.
- Some tremendous set pieces.
- You don't have to play as Raiden any more.
- It's an MGS2 completist's dream with all kinds of artwork, subgames and twiddly bits.
- Raiden is still a pussy.
- It's over a year old and starting to look it.
- Those Codec conversations.
- That unfathomable plot.