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Playstation 2












M (Mature)



Q1 2003



- Over 350 new VR missions and 150 Alternative missions ought to keep most players busy

- More than a few unlockables, including characters and game modes

- Original version of MGS2 intact, with all of the positives…



- … but all of the negatives associated with MGS2 remain, as well

- Analog controls when aiming weapons feels a bit loose at times

- Snake Tales are extremely challenging



Review: Splinter Cell (XB)

Review: Metal Gear Solid 2 (PS2)



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Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance

Score: 9.0 / 10


It’s certainly hard to believe that it’s been almost 18 months since the initial release of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (MGS2). The game was as highly anticipated a sequel as there has been in recent gaming history, and the game scored extremely well in almost every review. The visuals were astonishing—both in their level of detail and their appearance. The sound effects were spot-on and the music, which was composed by film composer Harry Gregson-Williams, was nothing short of amazing. The game was heavy on story, and implemented some new wrinkles to the Metal Gear Solid experience, such as bomb disposal, hanging from ledges, and robbing soldiers of valuables.


metal gear solid 2 substance ps2 review          metal gear solid 2 substance ps2 review


Now comes the “definitive” version of MGS2—Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance. While the main game remains the same for the most part, Metal Gear mastermind Hideo Kojima and his staff at Konami Computer Entertainment Japan have added plenty of extras, including hundreds of new VR missions, a new skateboarding mode, and some hidden goodies. Do these extras justify a full-price purchase for a game that many PlayStation 2 owners have played already?


First and foremost, it’s important to point out that the version of MGS2 included in Substance is the same as the one that many of you have probably played and suffers from the same few flaws that reviewers have pointed out before. There are a lot of cutscenes and the story can border on being overly preachy at times, plus there’s the issue of Raiden—a character which a surprising number of gamers love to hate. There are some changes to the difficulty settings, including an unlockable  “European Extreme” difficulty, which borders on being criminally difficult. If you think you’re a supreme MGS2 player, wait until you try it.





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The new VR missions make up a majority of what’s new in Substance. For those players who tried Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions for the PlayStation, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect here. If not, here’s a quick summary: VR missions challenge you to guide your player through one of an assortment of different challenges, all set in a virtual reality environment. These challenges include sneaking/stealth, weapons-based missions, potluck or combination missions listed as “Variety”, and, new to Substance, there are 


Alternative missions, which include photography runs, bomb disposal, and elimination missions. There are over 350 VR missions and 150 Alternative missions to keep players busy for hours, and if you can beat the best score or time on a mission, you can post your score online via a password. Completing these missions also unlocks some pretty nifty extras, including hidden characters and new game modes. Make no mistake, though, completing these missions is far from a walk in the park.


Also new to Substance are Snake Tales. These special missions follow Snake and his actions away from Raiden while on the Big Shell. These missions are considerably tougher than many of the VR missions, as Snake has no radar to work with, enemy soliders have a much keener sense of awareness, and Snake can withstand far less abuse than usual. These missions draw a nice parallel to what was going on during the Big Shell incident, but don’t offer anything really new. Be prepared for quite a challenge.


The last major addition in Substance is the Skateboarding mode. This mode is basically a working demo of Evolution Skateboarding, an earlier Konami skateboarding title which, quite frankly, didn’t fare too well in reviews or in retail stores. Once you give this mode a few tries, you’ll understand why this was so. The control setup isn’t terribly intuitive or responsive (save for grinds), and the stage objectives must all be completed in one run. That’s asking almost too much for a game mode that’s basically meant as a distraction. Yes, the Big Shell stage is rife with rails and ramps and looks cool—and yes, the guitar-based remix of the MGS2 theme is not bad, but aesthetics can’t help the flawed gameplay here. Once you see Snake and Raiden busting “mad trix” a few times, the Skateboarding mode will likely be just an afterthought—and that’s all it’s good for, unfortunately.


metal gear solid 2 substance ps2 review          metal gear solid 2 substance ps2 review


The visuals and sounds for the new additions in Substance are on par in quality with those found in MGS2. The virtual reality feel is markedly better than the MGS VR missions looked, with more polygons, bigger stages, and better-looking soldiers. Everything also moves on 60 frames per second, without a hint of slowdown to mar the experience. There are a few new music tracks for the VR stages, too, although they aren’t as memorable as some of the newer MGS2 tracks were.


Now that we’ve covered the new stuff that Substance brings to the table, does it justify the $40 purchase, especially considering that many gamers either already have the game or that the Greatest Hits version is available for half the price? Well… that really depends. If you totally enjoyed MGS2, this definitive version is certainly worth a look, delivering all of the extras and the original game in one package. Meanwhile, for those who didn’t like MGS2 for all of the storyline and cutscene stoppages(and maybe because of Raiden’s appearance), it’s important to know that the meat of Substance is still the original MGS2, which has not really been changed. For those in-between, it’s a tough call. Technically speaking, Substance earns its score based on the whole package—the game and the extras. If you’ve played the game before and didn’t like it, the score is going to seem high. If you loved MGS2, Substance is aimed directly at you, just like a PSG-1.


- Peter J. Skerritt, Jr.


(March 16, 2003)

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