Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance

Substance is basically a repackaging of 2002’s Metal Gear Solid 2, with a hearty chunk of external content slapped in for the fans. This additional material takes the form of the “VR Missions,†a lengthy 500+ mission workout of the game’s core play mechanics, and the fan-anticipated “Snake Tales,†which chronicle the final missions of Solid Snake during the infamous “Raiden†chapters.

6The core game hasn’t changed in any discernible ways, and the plot is still largely disseminated to the player through cutscenes and the now-legendary, but still interminable, Codec sequences. The ten or so hours of gameplay awkwardly hedged between all of this ludicrous exposition is pretty good stuff. If you’re looking for another Thief game this isn’t it, but what you will find is some very creative enemy scripting, a few tense boss encounters, and a cool third-person stealth engine.

Substance’s “substanceâ€, as it were, lies in the massive VR Mission mode, which promises around 500 or so individual stealth puzzles to complete. The missions test your Solid Snake (and Raiden) in a way the main game never offers. Subdivided into several modes, the missions are grouped around stealth puzzles (Sneaking Mode), precision shooting skills (Weapon Mode), the first-person perspective (First-Person Mode, very odd), and a potpourri of wacky takes on the whole MGS2 engine (Variety Mode). The latter mode is unlocked by completing the previous three modes, and features everything from a fight with Godzilla’s clone to fan service photography (ladies in compromising poses, for the untutored).

Besides the VR Missions, several “Alternative†missions are available for selection, which retread areas found in the main game, but with different (and more difficult) objectives, such as defusing bombs. Both Solid Snake and Raiden have their own specific Alternative missions, and in many cases, these missions are better tailored to their unique skills than those in the main game.

15The five additional “Snake Tales†missions are available from the main menu, and seem very hastily tacked on. Each starts with some embarrassingly laughable scrolling text and a voice-over, and the cinematographic sequences from the main game are painfully absent. These missions center around Snake’s infiltration of the “Big Shell†offshore platform and his encounters therein. Don’t expect any new bosses or foes, though; the Snake Tales missions feel like extended Alternative Mission.

Substance is, for fans of the stealth genre, a far more interesting offering than the would-be Jerry Bruckheimer stylings of the original game. The VR Missions themselves validate the price of entry, and provide many, many hours worth of clever stealth and shooting puzzles despite the often-obstreperous controls. That said, the main game is still a victim of its own atrocious pacing and doesn’t hold up well alongside offerings like Splinter Cell and No One Lives Forever 2. Fans of this series who enjoyed the mechanics of the original should definitely pick this up, but if you’re looking for new story elements, or if you’re just looking for Deus Ex déjà vu, Substance comes up feeling a bit, well, lightweight.

System Requirements: Pentium III 700 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 32 MB Video, 7.8 GB HDD, WinXP

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