I often wonder when games will be reviewed on TV the way movies are featured on various evening news segments or television magazines such as Access Hollywood. If they were, Kojima's latest would yield mixed feelings. My sentiments about Metal Gear Solid 2 (MGS2) are similar to those when I anticipated some kind of Sixth Sense auteurism in Unbreakable, only to get something completely different.
I agree with Matt that the control orientations, once mastered, make the game even more fun and naturally smoother. Executing more advanced moves such as holding a terrorist hostage or shooting a terrorists radio out (so that he cant communicate with other attack teams) are challenging but add a lot to the already fun experience of the game. It seemed to me, however, that I started to execute new moves and tactics after finishing the game once. Perfecting stealth tactics and some of the more complex moves definitely adds a "coolness" factor to your demeanor, though, and I know quite a few people who have replayed the original Metal Gear Solid and will probably play this title over and over.
While continuing through the game, most of the camera shifts and angles that occurred while making my way through the game were comfortably intuitive, while others were downright difficult to negotiate. For instance, leaning against a wall to peek around corners became a natural practice, while walking down some corridors seemed to be viewed at the least convenient angles. I often stared at the radar on the top-right while I made my way through a room instead of looking at what was happening on-screen. I wish that I didn't have to do this so often so I could instead focus on the action itself.
Like Matt says, the enemy AI is definitely an improvement over the last Metal Gear game and finally gives justice to the "stealth tactics" you'll work on. You may want to blast your way through the game by shooting as many terrorists as possible, but it will only make the game more frustrating as you shoot wave after wave of soldiers until you've wasted all your rations or simply all that time in one place trying to survive. This isn't Deus Ex, where you can tailor your experience by blasting away or finishing the game as a shadow. It's called "Tactical Espionage Action" for a reason.
In addition to the gameplay, MGS2s lengthy cut-scenes are all shot very well with smooth motion-captured performances from start to finish. The mixture of excellent staging along with the more anime-like faces of some of the characters results in a distinct look, combining our perceptions of film viewing along with that of looking at the art style of Japanese animation. Unfortunately, this excellence wasn't escapist enough to keep me from itching to involve myself in the story. For instance, I was ready to get back into the action after one cut scene, only to sit through two more. In addition, the conversations by codec were also very lengthy. As a measurement, while my first run through of the game was almost exactly fifteen hours, I played through the game a second time in five by skipping all cut scenes and codec dialogue. Granted, the second time through was much faster since I knew exactly what to do.
After completing the game twice and learning about the various Easter Eggs throughout the game, I feel that MGS2 certainly has replay value. I usually never play through a single player experience more than once unless there are enough perks, and with MGS2 the incentives include an experience akin to watching a fun action film all over again along with some nice creative scenarios in gameplay. Divulging them would ruin the plot for you, so you'll have to discover them for yourself.
While my expectations after playing the demo (packed with Zone Of The Enders) were high, the game that unfolded satisfied them but introduced surprises that can only bring one word into mind: bittersweet. Plot twists are certainly welcome, but there are so many here that I was jarred and confused near the end of the game. Without saying too much, it feels like Kojima did to this game what breakthrough filmmakers have been pushing into their films: something out of the ordinary, a self-criticism of the medium or a combination of both. Still, if that turns you off, don't let it stop you: the experience of playing this game is definitely worth the full price of admission.