Metal Gear Acid (PSP) review
"Initially though, who could blame players for thinking that Metal Gear Acid was doomed to failure. Stealth action and turn based strategy combined, fused together in an unholy coupling of high hopes and soon to be crushed dreams. How wrong we were. A combination such as this in lesser hands could have/would have/should have spelt disaster, with Konami at the helm however we're already moving in the right direction."
“There is no great genius without a touch of madness.” - Aristotle (384-322 BC)
If I were to take a cute'n fluffy kitten and say, put it through a meat grinder... would you consider me insane? Maybe, maybe not. Cruel indeed, but insane... well, that would be a matter of perspective. Then again, what if I took said kitten's bloody remains and snorted them through a straw? Well sir, I believe that would be crazy. Totally gaga in fact! And while Konami may not be in possession of a kitten, a meat grinder or a single straw, they are indeed some of the cruelest, most insane mofo's this side of a re-enforced padded cell.
The answer as it turns out lays with their latest Metal Gear Solid which, coincidently enough, isn't really a Metal Gear Solid at all. No, that's not quite right. We've got Snake, a ton of quality stealth action, and yep, more whack job plot elements than you possibly could throw a Valium at.
So far, so authentic.
How about the fact then, that this is Solid Snake as we've never seen him before, born of strategy and shuffled through a deck of cards... Booyah, and the medication kicks in. In flushing away almost 7 years of proven Solid gameplay, Konami have thusly demonstrated themselves to be totally and utterly, ball kicking insane. Thankfully however there's also an element of genius to consider...
AC!D: Active. Command. Intelligence. Duel.
As much of a departure as Metal Gear Acid is, fans should be pleased to know that its crack pot story feels every inch a true part of series mythology. In the near future of 2016, the US government has taken a critical blow with the hijacking of commercial flight #326. This is no ordinary terrorist incident however, for among its 517 registered passengers is Senator Hach, a powerful American politician and potentially the next great President of the United States.
Un-huh, now where's the obligatory blast of techno-fantastic action? Say hello then to our supernatural hijackers, two haunted marionettes whose only demand is the US government hands over something they unfortunately don't have. "Pythagoras". What is it? Why do they want it? And just who are the puppet masters behind all this anyway? With time running out and the future of one of democracy's rising stars on the line, the powers that be have turned to the only man capable of setting things straight.
Legendary mercenary, Solid Snake.
Initially though, who could blame players for thinking that Metal Gear Acid was doomed to failure. Stealth action and turn based strategy combined, fused together in an unholy coupling of high hopes and soon to be crushed dreams. How wrong we were. A combination such as this in lesser hands could have/would have/should have spelt disaster, with Konami at the helm however, we're already moving in the right direction.
The rules are surprisingly simple.
Players alternate rounds with the AI, moving Snake across the map via the use of cards which are randomly dealt from a fully customizable deck. Play a movement card and you'll be able to advance 8 spaces in any direction. Unleash a weapon and the closest guard will take a few in the back, hopefully falling to the ground before alerting the others to your presence. Then with only a limited number of action points available, play is thusly turned over to the AI where the assorted nasties will have a chance to begin the hunt as well. Round and round the action goes, cat and mouse played out like chess....
As is typical with other card based strategy games, Metal Gear Acid's real depth lies in how players take advantage of their deck when dealing with the situation at hand. For as straight forward as things may seem, each card can be used in any number of different ways, thereby forcing players to consider their actions as they relate to the whole. For instance, you need to reach the safe cover of a parked truck located across the courtyard. Problem: you've just used the last of your movement cards to hug a wall and avoid the wandering eyes of a patrolling guard. What do you do? No problems Snake. Just sacrifice a weapon for a few precious blocks of mobility and you're as good as gold. Sure it may not have given you the same, wide ranging freedom of movement a more dedicated card would have, but it'll still get you to where you want to go. Sweet! Be careful though, if you burn that weapon now you won't have access to it again until you've run out of cards and your deck has been reshuffled.
Patience, thought, and careful planning. These are your weapons of power, so use them well.
But hasn't that always been the Metal Gear way? Slow and steady wins the race, mind always over brawn and patience in the face of aggression. Ah yes, somethings should never ever change. Knock on a wall and the guards come running, crawl under a truck and you'll be safe. Acid has taken this otherwise standard stealth genre fare and reinvented it in ways as to seem fresh and unique. Stop, pause, and consider. Then slide through the night with purpose and grace. Booby traps further enhance this look before you leap mentality, keeping players on their toes should a single bad step give away their position. Boom! And now it would be time to run.
What makes this change in direction work more than anything else however, is the way Konami have taken established Metal Gear trademarks and fused them with Acid's own unique form of gameplay. Boss battles, stealth kills, trip wires, and the all important "!" upon discovery. Power-ups elicit brief, 10 second cinema sequences showcasing classic MGS moments while cardboard boxes are still used for concealment in times of utter desperation.
Ah yes, it's almost as if the previous games had been boiled down to their most basic of elements, then printed on a deck of cards for all to enjoy. Common, rare, and ultra-rare, CCG aficionados already know how this works. The more powerful cards are harder to find while commons are literally everywhere you look. Found stashed around each stage or simply purchased from ye olde store, their sheer collectability is guaranteed to keep some players coming back for more. Damn the compulsive obsessive nature of this game. Damn it all to hell!
While we're busy condemning Konami, perhaps its time to point an accusatory finger towards Metal Gear Acid's somewhat annoying camera system. Using Snake as its central point of foucus, the camera swivels left and right around the action through a full 360 degree field of movement. Which for a 3D turn based strategy is exactly what you want... until you find yourself caught in close quarters. With the walls closing in, it becomes increasingly difficult for players to place their next move correctly, often leading to frustrated moments of teeth grinding anguish as mistakes are inevitably made.
That single albeit major gripe aside however, Metal Gear Acid is a game that looks and sounds every bit as great as it plays. A lush level of PS2 quality detail brings the game to life while some superb character designs by Tsubasa Masao (Zone of Enders 2: 2nd Runner) give Acid its own unique style. Fans of the original games will also be pleased to know that many of the classic BGM tracks and sound effects are back and sounding better than ever on the PSP's magical UMD format. Tried, true and tested, they're the very thing to ease the pain generated by the unexpected new direction the gameplay has taken. So yeah, there's really no reason to feel completely ostracized...
Snake? Snake?! SSNNAAKKEEE?!!?!
In the end it seems, Metal Gear Acid wasn't so much of a stretch after all. Forget the turn based strategy and look at the evidence before you. See, check that out! This is the very same Snake we've been playing with all these years. Only now he's been redesigned and born a new, fresh and ready for the next generation. His latest adventure is deep, oh boy is it deep. It dares to be different, and in a way, that's what every new system needs the most: a game so bold that it's willing to redefine the rule book. Check it out!
* The story has that all important Metal Gear Solid feel
* Unique blend of stealth action and turn based strategy proves invigorating
* Initially simple gameplay contains extreme hidden depth
* With some 200+ cards to collect and use, there's always a new tactic to play with
* Players must think their strategies through if they hope to survive
* Gentle difficulty curve makes Metal Gear Acid accessible to all comers
* Beautifully detailed PS2-esque graphics
* Tsubasa Masao's designs present an intriguing take on one of gaming's favorite characters
* All the familiar sound effects and musical tracks are present and accounted for
* It still feels like Metal Gear Solid
* The camera gets caught behind background elements from time to time
* A few more puzzles would have been welcome
* Lack of animated cut scenes and voice acting may further turn off the Metal Gear die hards
Staff review by Michael Scott (December 31, 2004)
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