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Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance (Xbox) artwork

Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance (Xbox) review

"One square section, about as long as a public restroom... that's just how big the first virtual mission is. And with your avatar, an oddly-dressed, white-haired "man", at your disposal, what is it that you'll do in this mission? You have to sneak by one guard. You'll easily walk by him as he turns his back to you, reach the goal, and complete the whole thing in under a minute. Granted, it is the first mission, but it makes you wonder if the game will continue on this simplistic path befor..."

One square section, about as long as a public restroom... that's just how big the first virtual mission is. And with your avatar, an oddly-dressed, white-haired "man", at your disposal, what is it that you'll do in this mission? You have to sneak by one guard. You'll easily walk by him as he turns his back to you, reach the goal, and complete the whole thing in under a minute. Granted, it is the first mission, but it makes you wonder if the game will continue on this simplistic path before it starts getting to something resembling a challenge. Well, you won't have to ponder long, as things change the moment you start the second mission. The area is much more bigger, involving varied paths and up to three guards to avoid. You probably didn't know this in the first mission, since it was so easy, but if a guard spots you, the mission abruptly ends. So, obviously, you're gonna be more careful this time around, studying the guards' routes in order to get by them. You eventually get it down, sneak by all these guards, and complete the mission. Onto the next one, right?

You could, but this overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction prevents you from doing it, and thus you end up choosing the RETRY option instead of the NEXT STAGE one. Why? Well, upon reaching the goal, your girly spy will strike a pose, in celebration of his supposed victory. However, things quickly go downhill as you hear a voice, his voice, shouting "Damn it!" in frustration. Confused, you continue to watch the screen as it tallies up your score, evaluating your performance. Then you see it: the top three high scores for that second stage. And you know what? You're not even close to making the third highest score. At that point, you take another stab at it, and, now knowing the guards' routes this time around, you get through this maze much faster than before. You also manage to get a better score and nab the third top spot. You're still not happy with the results, though, and you retry the mission over and over again, until you finally grab the top spot.

That's basically what the game is all about. The stages themselves may be a bit on the simple side, but the real challenge is in beating them with the best score possible. Luckily for you, sneaking by guards won't be the only thing you'll participate in this title. ELIMINATE ALL is a variation of the SNEAKING missions, forcing you to take out all the guards instead of just passing them by. It is just a slight change, however, it's enough to force you into different situations and change your methods in taking on these same missions again. There are plenty of others, like WEAPON MODE, where you'll engage in missions using a wide range of weapons. You'll destroy and blow up lots of virtual objects, but after going through previous missions, you know that wasting all your bullets on just a few items and getting to the goal won't be enough to get a decent score. Quickly destroying targets one right after another will get you combo points and suppressing the need to deplete your weapons of all their ammo will net you some high scores.

BOMB DISPOSAL MODE puts you in much more detailed, bigger virtual areas, like a ship or a plant, where you'll go on a hunt for armed bombs. With a coolant spray in your arsenal, you'll go from section to section in one of these two areas, searching for the bombs and then disarming them with the spray. Not all of these missions are serious, though, as you'll soon find out in PHOTOGRAPH MODE. Here, you'll be put through all sorts of goofy objectives, from knocking out a guard with a giant weapon, all for the sake of taking a picture of the stars floating above his head to grabbing a photo of a guard in a particular pose as he looks at a swimsuit magazine. You'll continue to go through these and many other varied missions (save the plate of curry with your sniper rifle!), because you'll have over 400 missions to complete.

Yes, that's a lot. And you won't have to do it with just that one dude; you'll get the opportunity to play as a manly spy and his variations. The missions get tougher as you continue to push forward, forcing you to use much more drastic and daring measures in getting those top scores. There are some problems, however, like the FIRST PERSON VIEW MODE missions being too annoying to handle due to changes in the controls (doesn't help that you can't config, only choose from three setups). Another nuisance is that some of the later missions are really hardcore, like having to finish a mission in complete darkness. Other than those problems, the missions are fun to play through, in a challenging way.

Oh yeah, Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance has plenty of extras included, but one that sticks out the most is this INTERACTIVE MOVIE MODE. Here, you'll play through this epic and absurd story using the two characters from the missions. With them includes this large cast of characters that end up talking to you every two seconds, teaching you how to open doors and forcing you to remember a special day while simultaneously trying to take on a group of terrorists. This extra mode is more about the story, so the gameplay gets really dumbed down, simply having you take out any guards with tranquilizers without problems. There are some highlights in this mode, most unintentional, some on purpose, one of them being the boss fights. They're actually pretty tough if you're not prepared and quite different from one another. However, be prepared to break out the popcorn and sit through some long cutscenes, where the bosses talk about their life stories before the fights actually start.

Thank goodness that's just a small part of the game. Man, imagine how things would have turned out if this ended up being the main game and the missions weren't included at all.

pickhut's avatar
Featured community review by pickhut (June 10, 2008)

Honestly don't want remakes of any of the terrible Alex Kidd sequels unless they're made DRASTICALLY better. Can you imagine a good High-Tech World or Enchanted Castle?

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dagoss posted June 23, 2008:

I just finished this game last night. The last 2 hours of the "interactive movie mode" (as you call it) is about the biggest WTF-storm that I have ever encountered in my life. I'm not even sure how to rate the game; I was absolutely flabbergasted (in the most neutral way possible) by the amount of plot twists. And that final revelation after the credits -- I think my eye brows hit the ceiling after that. I'm genuinely not sure what to think of this game.
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bluberry posted June 23, 2008:

I absolutely loved the last few hours. that one scene where Solidus is dying and stretches his hand up was great and really rubs in the whole "haha, you killed the good guy" thing. way more interesting than the stupid Stillman/Fatman plot and most of what happened before the ending stretch, anyway.

and if you're really curious and want the after-the-credits thing explained, highlight: it was just junk data.
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zigfried posted July 14, 2009:

This was a great review -- you can thank Bluberry for pointing me to it, I know I am. The last couple paragraphs are of course perfect, but the whole review up to that point read naturally and really painted the game as being worth playing. It's a great review, that suddenly takes an awesome twist and reveals itself as something else entirely.

As contrasted against a great game that suddenly takes an absurd twist...

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bluberry posted July 14, 2009:

a terrible game that takes an awesome twist*
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pickhut posted July 14, 2009:

Thanks! And... I completely forgot this thread started by not talking about the review at all.

Edit: Wait, Dagoss mentions one thing from the review. I guess that counts!

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