Full title: "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty"

Playstation 2 action game developed by Konami and directed by Hideo Kojima. Although a single-level demo has been available for a very long time indeed, this game has still not been released. At first the delays were for fine tuning, but the events of September 11th are rumoured to have prompted some changes later in the game.

Initially touted as the Great White Hope of the PS2 (a role that has to some extent shifted to GT3), MGS2 is looking increasingly unimpressive from a technical perspective. The gameplay should make up for this however, if the same exceptional attention to detail has been lavished on it as the original.

Some observations (bearing in mind I haven't played the game or its predecessors anything like enough to critique it in depth.)

The first thing that strikes you about MGS2 is how movie-like it is in presentation. The production values (with the exception of some of the voice acting) are unprecedented in video game history. The defining aspects of the game seem to be to make it as sumptuous-looking as possible (all the in-game cinematics are rendered in realtime, but because of the insane fill-rate of the PS2 they look awesome- the motion capture and sound design compensating for the slightly-noticable variable framerate).

The game's presentation can't really be judged in pure technical terms- yes, OK, the PS2 can't handle as many polygons and as detailed textures as its rivals but then practically no game I've seen on another format (as of 6.4.2002) comes even close to this level of artistry.

The other thing that you notice is that in spite of this gloss, it is still very unapologetically a game: the game mechanics often veer into abstraction, the characters are exaggerated, and the plot makes no sense whatsoever. It seems obvious that all this is intentional, but the game does walk a fine line between 'old-skool' values and self-parody in places. It's also extremely linear, of course.

The final thing to note is that the game really is astonishingly long-winded. The first mission (played as Solid Snake) comprises of about twenty minutes of gameplay (although I'd imagine you could rush through it in much less) and well over an hour of cutscenes. It is simply excessive. The attention to detail is to be praised, but it can feel like informational overload, especially during sections where you're just being presented massive tracts of exposition with scant interactivity.

Still, all things considered it is a great addition to the PS2's library, and the fact that you can pick up the machine with the game bundled in for about £200 goes some way to explaining why Xbox sales are faltering.