An Amazing (Cinematic?) Experience
True to the previous titles in the series, Substance continues the tactical espionage experience and does it well. Gameplay is quite similar to the first Solid, as is the gameplay overhead gameplay perspective. The ability to switch to a first-person perspective was a welcome addition, perfect for peeking around a corner or discovering a hidden item. Graphically, the game is stunning, even compared to most PS2 games of the early 2000s. The terrain is beautifully and masterfully rendered, as are the characters in the games myriad of cutscenes. Sounds are crisp and clear; from the buffeting of a torrential downpour to the calling of seagulls, they all add to the ambiance and depth of the environment. The musical score is phenomenal as it is in all of Kojima's titles; each track meshes with your current in-game situation perfectly. In addition to the main campaign, there are many challenges, alternative missions (Snake Tales), and unlockables that undoubtedly increase replay value.
Honestly, Konami got almost everything right with Substance. The only two complaints I can muster are these:
1. The number of cut scenes and radio conversations in the game makes it feel like you're viewing a film. While it isn't annoying (rather, they are essential to the understanding of the message behind the game and are the setting for several humorous encounters), I believe the story could still have been conveyed well with fewer cut scenes.
2. There were times when I would stand right behind an enemy guard and be astonished that this unsuspecting adversary would not hear me. However this occurred rarely, and for the most part A.I. is well-responsive and intelligent.
The Bottom Line
It doesn't take long for games both casual and hardcore to be hooked on Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance and be satisfied (as well as puzzled sometimes) by its gameplay, immersed in the depth of its plot, and connected to the emotions of its characters. If you are looking for a game that will give you hours of enjoyment and tons of replay value, buy MGS 2: Substance.