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Will you buy an Xbox One X on November 7?

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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
9.1
Visuals
8.0
Audio
9.5
Gameplay
9.5
Features
9.5
Replay
8.5
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
Konami
DEVELOPER:
Konami Japan
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
November 05, 2002
ESRB RATING:
Mature
IN THE SERIES
Metal Gear Solid: Rising

Metal Gear Solid: Rising

Metal Gear Solid: Rising

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Metal Gear Solid

More in this Series
 Written by Ryan Smotherman  on November 27, 2002

Full Review: Is there room on the Xbox for both Sam and Solid? You betcha!


The appearance of Metal Gear Solid onto the Xbox has always been a topic of controversy. In September of 2000, Konami announced that a Metal Gear Solid X would be hitting the system, but decided to not make mention of it again for well over a year. This lead to much speculation and rumor ? Is it coming? What exactly is it? And of course the occasional PS2 fanboy making remarks such as ? ?Metal Gear Solid will never appear on a non-Sony system!? All this led up to our own John Scalzo writing the article, The Truth About Metal Gear Solid X, clarifying what exactly was true, and what wasn't. However, we all know the ending to the story ? this year at E3 Konami debuted Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, a high profile upgrade to the original Sons of Liberty that would first hit the Xbox, and then the PS2 and PC soon thereafter. Well, that time has come with its release earlier this month, and I can honestly say that it's been well worth the wait, not the mention the price of admission.

For those very few unfamiliar with Metal Gear, it's a stealth-based action series that many remember playing on their NES back the 80's. Back then the game was relatively successful and created many Metal Gear heads, but really didn't take off till Metal Gear Solid released onto the PSOne in 1998. Metal Gear Solid reintroduced players to the badass, Solid Snake, and was unique in that it was a story heavy game that featured an unprecedented array of cutscenes and breaks in the gameplay. However, the story was so amazing (some even compared it to a Hollywood blockbuster) that it was well worth checking out the first time through, and it was complemented by the incredible stealth gameplay that was pretty unique at the time. The subsequent sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, released for the Playstation 2 a year ago, and once again fans welcomed Solid Snake with open arms. Sons of Liberty gave fans everything they loved about the first, but upped the ante with next-generation visuals (easily the best the PS2 has to offer), a brand new, amazing story, and enhanced gameplay. But the entire Sons of Liberty story is just a small taste of what Substance has to offer for Xbox owners.

The main game is actually split into two different events ? The Tanker episode, starring the infamous Solid Snake, and The Big Shell, starring the controversial rookie, Raiden, both of which are intertwined into one story. It's really hard to describe much on the plot, for fear of giving away spoilers, and simply because things aren't always as they seem. While maybe not as good, and definitely more confusing, than the first, the story will keep you on your toes and have you guessing on what's going on. It's quite an enthralling experience that will have you ooing and awing as revelations unfold. Ok, I know I'm babbling here, but it's that damn good, and should definitely be experienced by all. As an added note, the game makes much mention to the Shadow Moses incident (a.k.a.- what happened in Metal Gear Solid), so you'll definitely want to have played through that to get the full experience. But if you haven't, the game does offer tons of written material covering it all, if you're up for that.

The game's story progresses much like that in the first Solid ? between gameplay sequences you'll find a number of Codec conversations and lengthy cutscenes abound. However, like in the first, the cutscenes are pulled off flawlessly and are well worth watching the first time through the game. My only complaint is that there are still sappy Codec conversations here and there, but you'll make it through.

Gameplay it pretty much exactly how you remember it ? instead of going in with guns blazing, your goal is to try your best to not get spotted by the enemy. The camera in the game is fixed and changes angles based on where you're at, so Konami brings back the radar (found in the upper right-hand corner of the screen) that shows your enemies and their field of view. Get spotted and or course the radar gets jammed (I still don't understand that one), and you have to hide from the enemy till things go back to normal. This time around, however, Konami introduced a caution status in addition to the standard evade and normal. So say you're spotted, the radar will go out and you'll have to get out of site for a certain amount of time, then it'll go into caution mode where you can use your radar but the guards in the area have been increased. Once the time expires on that everything will go back to normal and you can continue your quest like it was before then. Though, if you don't want to be seen, you're going to have to use all the abilities, weapons, and devices that are available to you to their fullest potential.

All the techniques you had in the original Solid, which looking back seems very limited, are still at your disposal. Snake/Raiden has a variety of moves that are imperative for getting around enemies, such as putting your back to the wall to get a good camera angle on what's going on, ducking/crawling, and even grabbing your opponent from behind and strangling them to death, or just knocking them out for a while. But it's the added maneuvers that take the gameplay to new heights. Now while with your back to the wall you'll actually be able to stick your head out for a better view, and if you have a weapon equipped you can even jump out, shoot, and then fall back into position (extremely cool and easy to pull off). Another added move is a roll attack that can be helpful in a variety of ways, from disabling a guard, to moving from hiding place to hiding place quickly, to even making if over holes in the floor. Additionally, your character can now hang over the side on ledges, adding yet another way to hide and evade guards. All these new moves are fine and dandy, but none quite change the gameplay as the ability to go into a first-person view. One click of the left analog stick will have you looking out of the eyes of your characters, getting a better view on your environments and making precision shots with your weapon possible. You can't actually move in this mode, but it's still incredibly useful and I don't think I could ever play another Metal Gear title without it.

The environments in the game are a bit more interactive this time around, mainly with the addition of lockers. Not only can you search them for items, but you can also hide in them when spotted, and even hide an enemy body in one once you take him out. This go around their bodies don't just disappear, and you must drag them out of site when at all possible.

Weapons still play a pivotal role in the Metal Gear Solid experience. In addition to returning favorites like the Socom, PSG1 Sniper Rifle, Stinger rocket launcher, Nikita missile launcher (shoots remote controlled missiles), and so on, is the M9 tranquilizer gun and a bevy of other fire power. The M9 is easily the most useful new addition to the game, as it's a silenced gun that shoots tranquilizer darts that work well in putting your enemies to sleep. There's also a nice assortment of high-powered assault rifles, as well as a grenade shooting RGB8. Then of course a good range of items is there to aid you throughout, like the Chaff Grenade, which disables electronic devices (i.e.- cameras), your thermal goggles, and yes, even a variety of cardboard boxes to hide under.

Thankfully, the controls in the game made a very nice transition to the Xbox pad, making the game very easy to play. The four main face buttons are mapped out as you'd expect, controlling your character numerous abilities, such as attacking, firing weapons, ducking/using your roll move, and basic interactions, while the left and right trigger buttons control your items and weapons respectively; hold them in to go through your items and tap them quickly to equip or unequip them quickly.

Of course, while the main story mode is the definite reason to purchase the game, Substance wouldn't be Substance without the extras that give it that name. Oh, you know, an insane amount of VR missions, 5 new missions entitled Snake Tales, and a plethora of additional alternate missions. It's really quite amazing just how many VR missions are available (I believe the number is around 300+). They're arranged in four main categories ? Sneaking, Weapons, a First Person View mode, and a Camera mode. Throughout each of these you'll be required to complete various objectives that get increasingly more difficult as you progress. The most impressive of these is probably the weapons mode, because it's broken down by weapon, with each offering a ton of challenges. For the most part all the challenges are pretty well pulled off, but at times can be fairly frustrating. But in the end it's worth it, as the further you progress the more characters you'll unlock with missions of their own. The added Snake Tales are somewhat of a letdown, and don't seem very well thought out, progressing in pages of text rather than cutscenes. All together, the extras can easily add hours of extra playtime to the already amazing story mode.

One of the only major letdowns in the game is the graphics. Actually, for it being a direct port from the Playstation 2, things aren't all that bad. However, it's obvious that nothing was done to take advantage of the stronger hardware. The characters and environments all look pretty good, but once in the first-person mode you'll really notice just how blurry and unimpressive the textures really are. Actually, in some parts of the game the shadows almost make it look cel-shaded, which I found sort of an oddity. But texture work I can forgive. What I can't forgive is the extreme slowdown. Yes, many parts in the game have horrible slowdown that actually does affect the gameplay and for the most part is simply uncalled for. This considering that the PS2 version had absolutely none to speak of. While the slowdown is a huge letdown, when running correctly things are very smooth looking and can be impressive. All in all, if Konami had put a little extra work into it (a.k.a.- getting rid of the slowdown), my visual score would have been a little higher.

The audio in the game fairs much better. Featuring incredible music, realistic sound effects, and some of the best voice acting in the business. Not to mention the fact that it now supports Dolby Digital sound in game.

Bottom Line
For anyone who has never played Metal Gear Solid 2, this is absolutely a must own title featuring an incredible story, fun gameplay, and tons of extras. However, I wouldn't recommend Substance to those who've already played Sons of Liberty unless you're a diehard fan of the series. While the extras are nice, they definitely don't warrant a purchase for those who already played through the game before. All in all, a ?solid? addition to the Xbox's library and one of the top games released for the system this year.


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