Hideo Kojima is a great game developer without a doubt the METAL GEAR series is one of the most popular of all-time and has made him a celebrity. But not as well known is ZONE OF THE ENDERS. The original game was released with a playable demo of METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY but the game itself wasn't received as warmly by critics as the demo was (many players spent more time trying different things in the demo than playing ZOE). Kojima and his team are back with a new shot at the game, and there have been quite a few improvements.
In ZONE OF THE ENDERS: THE SECOND RUNNER the story once again follows the Jehuty frame a flying combat mech and a fight against BAHRAM. As you play the game, you'll be treated to a storyline much to the level of Hollywood films. Some might argue that the game has too much story but it's much better balanced than Kojima's last attempt in METAL GEAR SOLID 2.
The gameplay in ZONE OF THE ENDERS involves floating around and fighting hordes of enemies. Among the improvements to THE SECOND RUNNER includes a multiple-lock-on mode that you'll need when dozens of fighters scream in at Jehuty. There are also sub-weapons this time around that are powered off of a new sub-weapon meter. You can also use combos to smash enemies into walls, the ceiling, or the ground for extra damage.
The game is pretty tough though. Part of this is due to the control scheme that is very difficult to master. You have buttons to raise and lower your altitude, and it just is tricky to line yourself up with enemies while maneuvering smoothly. The controls make the game more difficult than it should be, but the inclusion of uber-difficult bosses doesn't help matters. I've thrown my PS2 controller quite a few times while trying to battles the bosses that are in the game. Most of them take more than one try to beat.
The graphics in the game are absolutely gorgeous. In using cel-shading to keep the anime feel, THE SECOND RUNNER just screams coolness. There are a lot of cool graphical effects, but I think one of the best parts of the graphical package is the actual designs of the mechs they are wickedly awesome and some of the coolest mech designs I have ever seen. The only problem is that you will have some slowdown issues from time to time, and that does detract from the overall gameplay. That said, it still looks very good as a whole.
The score for the game is well done and adds a lot of emotion at the right places. The voice-overs buck the trend and are very well done as well. Even the sound effects are good and the game gets a solid A for sound.
If you played the first ZONE OF THE ENDERS and liked it, there's a lot more offered here. Otherwise, at least give THE SECOND RUNNER a try, it's an improvement in just about every way.