METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SUBSTANCE. Publisher: SCEE. Platfrom: PS2 and Xbox. Price: £44.99.

THE TROUBLE with legends is knowing when to quit. Does anyone really believe Mohammed Ali would have been any less well respected had he decided to throw in his gloves after beating George Foreman? And wasn't it a sad spectacle watching Nigel Mansell trying to reach old glories in a McLaren that was too small for him?

With that in mind I approached Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance with a degree of trepidation.

It's 18 months since MGS 2 wowed the gaming world. At the time it was the first game to show that next generation consoles like PS2 could really achieve. Until then games had just been glossier versions of PSOne titles.

Naturally MGS2 was hailed as an instant classic. It spent months at the top of the charts and cemented creator Hideo Kojima's reputation as a gamesmaster of the highest order.

So why bother with a slightly re-jigged version all these months later, especially as those MGS 2 visuals have been equally and, in some cases, surpassed?

Konami claims MGS 2: Substance is the "definitive" version of a legendary game but does it have enough to make gamers splash out again on a title they probably already own?

On the face of it there's lots new. Kojima's team has given the game a lick of polish before adding an impressive sounding 350 VR missions (of which nearly half have an "alternative" take).

Fans of MGS on PlayStation will remember the VR Missions disc released by Konami. These play much the same.

Gamers accustomed to eye candy may find the wire-frame graphics (Tron anyone?) an affront to the power of their PS2 but at least the look is consistent.

Basically the VR Missions are a series of objectives that you have to achieve (catching guards, disposing of explosives etc). Some of them are easy but the later missions are maddeningly hard and you'll have to be a real expert to battle through all 350.

Play the VR Missions first and you'll find MGS2 itself almost ridiculously easy so finely honed will be your skills.

The other major addition is Snake Tales mode that utilises characters and environments from the main game albeit with a twist. It does allow you to play as Snake but only in five rigidly scripted missions. As a result, it's not a whole new game as many people hoped but it is a pleasant diversion when you've finished the main feature.

Still not satisfied? Well, you also get all the extras from the original MGS2 game including the familiar skate boarding mini game.

So extras-wise there's probably more gameplay hours here than the original story itself, although about the only meaningful criticism levelled at MGS2 first time around that it was too short. So perhaps that's not saying much.

Some of the extras are locked on first play. There's a novel workaround that unlocks plenty of stuff straight away but I'll leave that for you to find out.

Fans of Metal Gear will need no recommendation to go get this title. It's a bit like a director's cut of a popular movie - we've all seen it but somehow we have to go back just one more time for the definitive experience.

Arguably Substance is the game MGS 2 should have been 18 months ago. If you haven't got it in your collection, this is the one to go for.


THE Dead or Alive franchise does nothing to disabuse non-gamers of the notion that the only people who uses consoles are spotty teenage boys who can't get a girlfriend.

Take DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball. It's a sports game (of sorts) set in a fantasy adult playground where all the female characters (of which there are loads) are perfectly rounded (in all senses of the word) models. Oh, and they play the game with hardly any clothes on.

This could have condemned DOA as a ludicrous dinosaur of a game not fit to share shelf space with true adult fare like Resident Evil Zero or Metal Gear Solid. Apart from one crucial fact - it's actually a stack of fun to play.

The volleyball engine is fast 'n' fluid. Your character responds instantly to your command and multi-player games between two evenly matched opponents can take ages.

If you win, your character is rewarded with a cash prize. You can spend your earnings on a host of unlockable extras like new clothes (nigh on imperative if the females aren't to catch their death) or chips for gambling in the island casino.

Setting aside for a moment the dubious scantily clad females, DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball maintains the series' traditions of looking absolutely gorgeous, too. In fact, it's one of the best looking titles released for the Xbox so far.

I suspect that men will have no problem with this game (I didn't) but some women may find the idea offensive. I'd urge them to try the game out before walking out full of moral indignation - you never know how much you might like it until you've had a go.

Published: 04/04/2003