Metal Gear Ac!d
Whenever you hear the words “Metal Gear” I’m sure the last thing that springs to mind is cards, but that’s exactly the premise of the first PSP installment in this popular franchise. While it might sound stupid at first to take a highly successful stealth based action game and turn it into a turn based strategy game, the end result definitely speaks for itself and Metal Gear Ac!d still has all the ingredients that make the Solid Snake games so great.
Opening with two psychotic dolls hijacking a plane by using vecuronium bromide (a muscle relaxant with is lethal in large doses) and demanding that the “Pythagoras” research data is handed over to them, the game wastes no time with spinning it’s web of mysteries. Since presidential candidate, Senator Hach, is on-board the flight and the data that the terrorists wants are in a secret lab somewhere in the Moloni Republic, the HRT special forces are dispatched to Africa to retrieve it. Unfortunately, they are attacked by a militia group and once again the U.S government is forced to call upon the “legendary hero” Solid Snake to save the day.
While you start the game off by playing as Solid Snake you’ll soon team up with Teliko, another playable character and the only surviving member of the Special Forces sent in before you. Controlling two characters is something that is really cool and wouldn’t have been possible if this game wasn’t turn based. Although very complicated initially the game is incredibly engrossing and while some of the cut-scenes can be overly long (in true Metal Gear tradition) you’ll still find yourself playing “just one more turn”. In fact the game is so addictive you’ll forget that it’s on a portable console and just play it every chance you get.
I’m not going to waste time trying to explain the gameplay system (for that you get a manual with the game as well as extensive tutorial tips) but it comes down to cards. Initially you only have MGS1 cards, but MGS2, MGS3 as well as the special “Chronicle” packs becomes available, resulting in over 200 cards you can collect in total.
Of course, since you can only have a maximum of 40 cards in a deck for each player you’ll be spending plenty of time chopping and changing. For those that don’t want to think too much you can just use the CPU to auto-arrange your decks for you, but personally I think half the fun is collecting cool new cards and designing your deck for maximum efficiency. It’s really fun to come up with new strategies based on what cards you have at your disposal and you’ll find yourself repeating missions (which give you new objectives if you do) just so you can get your hands on new cards or enough points to buy some new card packs.
The graphics really are excellent for a portable system and while the levels isn’t really that big the game still has that true Metal Gear feel to it. The artwork on the cards is also really cool and stays true to the game it’s based on so Snake looks different on a MGS2 card than he does on a MGS1 card and weapons or equipment cards from the old Metal Gear games has a blocky 8bit looking card icon. As an added treat, using special character cards gives you a small animation taken straight from the game that character appeared in and while you won’t watch these every time you use a card they are a nice touch for fans. It does look rather strange seeing the character cut-scenes from the Metal Gear Solid game that appeared on the Gameboy Color on a Sony console though. Konami also included some special cards from the “Policenauts” game and these have their own animations as well. They don’t seem that out of place and since the series already had a few cameos I guess their inclusion is justified. The only problem I had with the graphics is that the camera can be a bit annoying and although you can rotate the playing field, it is still hard at times to fully see your surroundings as things get in the way of the camera. You can move the camera around a bit with the analogue stick, but this still doesn’t help in some cases.
The audio was rather nice, although I was slightly disappointed with the lack of speech. I mean, if Konami could fit all the codec conversations and speech from the original Metal Gear Solid onto 2 cd’s why not some speech on the more spacious UMD? Even if they just used it for the cut-scenes it would have been a nice touch, but alas you’ll have to resign yourself to plenty of reading. The music isn’t too bad and contains a few nice tracks, but the real highlight is the sound effects which sound exactly like the other games in the series. Everything from the surprised sound guards make when they see you to the siren sounds when you are discovered is vintage Metal Gear stuff.
Of course the real question is would this game have been so great if it had nothing to do with the Metal Gear series and I’d have to say yes. Seeing familiar characters and scenarios is definitely great for fans, but even without Snake and the gang this would have been a cool title. As it is I can recommend Metal Gear Ac!d for any strategy fan that has the patience to sit down and really dig into a game. This game will keep you busy for hours and even after you’ve completed it there are still some nice features to keep you coming back for more.
*Review originally published 2005.