Among the standard humdrum PSP launch titles of racing games, sports games and an RPG also came the newest addition to the Metal Gear franchise – Metal Gear: Acid. Before you get too excited though – let’s make it clear – this is not the Metal Gear that you fell in love with before. Sure it’s got Solid Snake, sure it’s got the familiar graphics and sounds that you remember, and sure it’s got some of that stealth action that you’re jonesing for – But this time it’s been transformed into a battle card turn-based strategy game.
The basic story this time around is that it’s the year 2016 and high above the United States, a plane has been hijacked by a new unknown terrorist threat. The plane has been laden with a muscle relaxant called vecuronium bromide which has paralyzed the passengers – including a major presidential candidate in the upcoming elections who just happened to be flying coach that day.
The terrorist are demanding only one thing, the immediate delivery of something called “Pythagoras” – unfortunately no one really knows what that is. Intelligence has identified that it was the name of a secret research project being conducted on Lobito Island. Since the ruling government refuses to offer any assistance, Solid Snake must once again be called out of retirement to infiltrate yet another secret research facility on yet another remote island.
Except this time, instead of simply sneaking through the base and completing objectives using all of your mental abilities – You’ll be focusing on gathering, building and playing the optimum cards from your deck of battle cards in order to meet each situation. The game features over 200 cards representing familiar weapons, items, and even some characters from previous games. There are also a number of special feature cards that bring some highly unnecessary breaks from realism to the game.
If it sounds like a stretch to combine stealth-action with card battling, well, that’s because it is. So break out your Isaac Hayes and Elton John CD’s, because much like getting an elephant to make love to a pig, you might need some mood music to help make this combination work for you.
Graphically the game looks similar to some of the earlier Metal Gear games, so I was initially impressed by the graphics. Characters look a little blocky compared to what we’re used to seeing in new games these days but overall much better than we’ve been used to seeing on a portable system.
Environments are good enough, but going through wave after wave of dimly lit buildings does get old after awhile, so I marked it down a bit for that, as well as for having overly repetitive (and not always fluid) animations.
One final disapointment as compared to the latest games was the fact that dialogues were now presented with 2d pictures overlaying the game and text-based dialogue. So get ready to read a lot. At least the story is mildly interesting with the highlight being a pair of really twisted dolls on the hijacked airplane. Their dialogue alone was a huge highlight to the game.
The game did have some cooler moments graphically though – most notably some of the over the shoulder angles of battles and some great in-between mission animations.
Like Nostalgia? Then you’ll love the sounds in Metal Gear: Acid. Every sound in this game brings back memories from the previous games in the series. It’s all here – from the sounds of the weapons to that high pitched shrill when your character is discovered by an enemy. Even the music goes right in line with what you’d expect.
Unfortunately I really disliked the controls in Metal Gear: Acid. For one thing, the camera controls were woefully inadequate for a 3d game. Secondly the button controls was horribly unintuitive. To this day, if I play, I still find myself pressing the cancel button when I wanted to press the confirm button.
The ability to skip cutscenes and fast-forward through your enemies turns were highly appreciated however.
As I said before this is probably not the Metal Gear game you were hoping for. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some charm on its own. The card system, which ultimately I found to be out of place in the Metal Gear universe did add an interesting dynamic to the game for awhile. The game uses a linear stage system where you must complete the objectives of each stage before you can move on to the next. After completing each stage, you’re given a rating of how well you performed based on factors such as how many times you were discovered, how long it took, etc. Better ratings give you extra points that you can use in the shop to purchase new cards.
Obviously since the game is turn based, your movement is limited each turn and each map is divided into a grid system that you must use cards to move. Unfortunately even doing something as simple as turning 90 degrees to face the enemy that just attacked you also requires using a both a card and a turn in order to face the enemy and target him.
With each turn you have a series of cards from your deck that you can choose to use, combine with other cards, or sacrifice to move Solid Snake to a new location.
Most annoyingly – during moves where I was moving Solid Snake to a strategic position, an incoming transmission would interrupt the movement halfway to my destination, and snake would drop to one knee to talk to the other person, but then never complete the rest of his movement. On more than one occasion this caused my turn to end, with Snake now sitting in an open area ready to be discovered by an enemy on their next move.
Later in the game you do meet a second playable character – a female character named Teliko Friedman. If you play the game long enough, you’ll also unlock a multiplayer mode, where you compete against another player by collecting Pythogoras disks dropped by defeated enemies.
Going back and replaying the levels let’s you attempt to get a higher score and gain access to some more specialized cards. So, if you’re really into building those ultimate decks – you might find some replay joy there. But for myself and I would dare assume for the average Metal Gear fan – one time is more than enough.
However for the collectible card game fan – there’s probably a lot to enjoy here – you’ve got a shop where you can buy / sell cards, a deck editor that you can use before each stage to put together your ultimate deck, and over 200 cards plus a number of unlockable cards.