Metal Gear Acid Review

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Developer: Konami Publisher: Konami
Release Date: March 24, 2005 Also On: None

The headlining release of the PlayStation Portable launch, Konami’s Metal Gear Acid, is quite a difficult title to judge. As many of you may already know, this portable game doesn’t feature the same run-and-gun gameplay of the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 Metal Gear games. Instead, it puts an emphasis on strategy through the use of cards and deck-building. The result, as I said, is somewhat difficult to describe–but once again, Hideo Kojima’s genius shows, just in a different way.

Metal Gear Acid puts you in Solid Snake’s shoes once again as he’s sent on a sneaking mission to Lobito Island, south of Africa. An experiment and a search for something known as “Pythagoras” gets pretty heated as many different sides join in to accomplish their different agendas–and in typical Metal Gear form, Acid’s story gets pretty twisted and difficult to understand, even early on. The cast is very similar to that of other games, including a general overseer (Roger); a cute female backup (Teliko); shadowy, mysterious characters (Gary); and some truly demented enemies (like a pair of voodoo-like, twin dolls).

The story isn’t where I dug my claws, it was the gameplay. Metal Gear Acid has already been bashed and criticized for its use of cards and strategy rather than all-out action. This disgusts me. The gameplay in Acid does just fine on its own, with an original take on the series. While it is different, it keeps the core mechanics intact–sneaking around keeps you alive, but requires much more patience and trial-and-error tactics. In some situations I got very frustrated with the sneaking and decided to rush into everything, Rambo-style. While my mission evaluation was lower, I had a much more enjoyable time killing than sneaking, like usual. Near the middle of the game, you’re given the opportunity to control both Snake and Teliko in tandem, making battles that much more strategic. There’s nothing better than distracting an enemy with Teliko, only to have Snake wheel around a corner and unload a FAMAS Rifle into his back.

To put the card system simple, each card has an ability to use. You can utilize its abilities, or in most cases, use a card to move around the field. Each card has a “cost”, and this cost applies to you no matter what you do with the card. For instance, take the FAMAS Rifle card. It can be used to shoot at an opponent, or it can be used to move a few spaces across the board. It has a cost of 5, so using it in either way will raise your cost meter. The cost meter determines your turn, so using more and more cards will basically make you wait longer until your next turn. To counter this, you’re only allowed to use a certain number of cards during each turn–but this can be changed with other cards, of course.

Some cards also have an “equip” effect, which brings a whole ‘nother bit of strategy to the playing field. You have an equip grid that “stores” cards for special situations. For instance, you can “equip” a Security Card that allows you to access certain doors. Some status-changing abilities let you dodge enemy attacks or defend against them. You can also equip certain guns that can be loaded with ammo and shot multiple times, while some act as counter-attacks if you are damaged by an enemy.

Some cards affect others around your equip grid, so placement of these cards in your grid could have a positive or negative effect on your performance. Of course, the equip grid doesn’t come into effect after you’ve gotten the basics down, which is a relief.

The gameplay is rather difficult, but it’s not hard to see that Metal Gear Acid takes a whole lot out of the PSP’s hardware capabilities. The graphics look amazing on a handheld. Up-close, Solid Snake looks very similar to the way he did on Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The battle animation looks really cool, to put it in everyday terms. Since it’s supposed to happen so rarely, it’s really a treat to watch Snake mow down his enemies. Sadly, most of the cut-scenes are shown through artistic stills, with little or no animation involved. Much of the music from the series is also missing, replaced by a less enthralling but still impressive soundtrack. The real twist of the knife in terms of sound is the fact that vocal dialogue has gone completely MIA. Cut-scenes just aren’t the same without David Hayter’s gravelly, legendary Snake voice.

Metal Gear Acid has a long single-player campaign, that’s for sure. Each new area you enter is an entirely new mission, and each area can be or must be revisited at some point. Sadly, you’ll learn to hate some of the locations thanks to the heavy trial-and-error emphasis. Acid also features a multiplayer battle mode that opens up about three or four hours into the action. Once a friend has passed a certain point in the game, you can link up and fight. Sadly, the multiplayer mode uses a whole different set of rules, where you feel the restrictions of an enemy guard and you’re only given vision to things in your vision cone. If you aren’t looking at your opponent, you’re basically fresh meat waiting to be eaten apart by bullets and grenades. At least we know how all those terrorist thugs feel. The multiplayer adds some replay value to the game, but not much–it really isn’t impressive at all, mostly because of the awkward rule changes.

Overall, I’m pretty disappointed with the reception that Konami’s latest Metal Gear outing has received. As a high-quality title from one of the most respected franchises in gaming, it’s disgusting to see people (even Metal Gear fans) turning their noses up to Hideo Kojima and his master work. Metal Gear Acid is a great game that simply takes some getting used to–if you can’t do that, then this certainly isn’t a game for you, and it’s disappointing. For anyone else who can take a little challenge, Metal Gear Acid is a great choice for your new handheld.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 6.5
Final: 8.3
Written by Cliff Review Guide

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