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Metal Gear Ac!d
Review By: Jared Black
Developer:  Konami
Publisher:  Konami
# Of Players:  1 (2 via Wi-Fi Adhoc)
Genre:  Turn-Based Strategy
ESRB:  Mature
Online:  Yes
Accessories:  Memory Stick Duo
Date Posted:  4-2-05

I’m no different than all of you.  I went into Metal Gear Acid with a level of skepticism I never thought I’d have for a series I love so dearly.  Metal Gear turned into a slow, turn-based card format?  No thanks.  Yet here it is, and here I am playing and enjoying it.  It’s not quite on the level of past Metal Gear games, but MGA is a respectable addition to the franchise.

The storyline is typical MGS-esque fare.  Unknown terrorists have hijacked a plane, and they’re after a research project called Pythagoras located on Lobito Island.  Naturally, Solid Snake has been drafted out of retirement to infiltrate the island.  Along the way he’ll meet up with a female member of another infiltration team known as Teliko, who will accompany and assist him on several missions.

As I mentioned before, the core of MGA’s gameplay lies in its turn-based card system.  Virtually every action, from simply moving around to throwing chaff grenades, is done by playing a card representing that action.  At the beginning of each mission a hand of six cards (out of a deck of varying sizes) is dealt to the player.  Some cards may be equipped (special evade skills, armor, etc.), while others represent among other things weapons or special attributes.  Although there are movement-specific cards, most other types can be used for movement as well since the majority of the time is spent sneaking around different environments.  There are also special character cards that provide a variety of character-related benefits when used, such as Revolver Ocelot’s card improving gunplay.  Several different actions can be performed during a turn.  At the beginning of each turn two new cards are added to the hand (assuming there’s room for them), and once the entire deck has been played it’s automatically reshuffled.

Each card has a different “Cost” associated with it, which is added to the player’s overall Cost rating as they’re played.  This Cost rating then determines how long the player must wait between turns, and as a result how many turns enemies get relative to their cost ratings.  So not only does strategy come into play when determining when to play different cards, but also in watching the Cost meter and position of other enemies.

Despite this radical shift in core gameplay from the series’ standard real-time sneaking, most of the rules of engagement remain the same.  If an enemy spots the player an alert is sounded, with that alert stepping down over several different levels until things return to normal.  The player can fight back with the proper weapon cards, although in most situations it’s better to run and hide until the heat dies down.  Key cards are still needed to access restricted areas, and characters at different heights usually cannot see each other.  One major difference is that Teliko brings along with her different puzzle elements, such as stepping on marked access points to open up doors for the other to go through.  These missions prove to be some of the more interesting ones in the game.

So while MGA’s turn-based system provides the kind of depth MGS veterans expect, it’s also pretty tedious at times.  It’s not uncommon to be forced to wait several turns for a needed card to be dealt in certain situations, especially at the end of a deck.  This is boring and frustrating at the same time considering past Metal Gears let the player simply sneak away.  Additionally, the game is very picky about which actions can be performed in certain situations.  For example, if the player’s not facing an enemy in firing range one action (and one card) must first be spent turning around before the player can then fire with the next action.  Players cannot simply stand and crouch at will either, as that can only be done at the end of each movement (sometimes requiring one action wasted simply on moving to a prone position).  It also makes the game a bit too easy, as patient players can hide until the best cards to show up in their hand.

Voice acting is greatly missed in MGA, perhaps left out due to the UMD’s lack of space versus a standard DVD.  Everything else sounds like you’d expect it to, from to the thumping yet subdued sneaking music to the sound of a codec call.  Other than the lack of voice acting, there’s nothing to complain about here.

Graphically, MGA certainly delivers PS2ish graphics although not quite on par with the console versions.  Environments are full of detail, although very little of it is seen at once since the camera primarily rests far overhead the action or zoomed in tight.  Character models look great up close, with plenty of animation (including stuff like the swaying of Snake’s bandana) and detail.  On the downside, the jaggies are out in full force in many areas.  Also, the frame rate takes a big hit when several enemies are on-screen in a zoomed-in angle and in other instances as well.  Several times while walking through the remains of an active chaff grenade, I was reminded of the severe slowdown found outside the tanker in the Xbox version of MGS2.  Finally, I would rather have animated cut-scenes instead of the static ones here…perhaps another casualty of a lack of disk space? 

HIGHS:

  • Classic Metal Gear storyline with unique characters and a billion twists.
  • Deep, strategic gameplay.
  • Excellent character animation, plenty of environmental detail, and a “Woah, I can’t believe this is on a handheld!” sense of awe.

LOWS:

  • The lack of voice acting is a major omission.
  • Frame rate problems in busy areas and ever-present jaggies dampen the graphic showcase just a little.
  • Gameplay is slow, and at times tedious.  It really gets frustrating when you’re stuck waiting turn after turn for the necessary cards to show up.

FINAL VERDICT:

Would I have rather had a more traditional Metal Gear experience?  Of course, I think almost anyone would.  That doesn’t mean Metal Gear Acid isn’t enjoyable in its own right though.  It delivers a compelling experience, with gameplay as deep as any Metal Gear before it and a strong (if somewhat predictable) storyline and set of characters.

As long as you can handle the slower pace and periods of boredom, Metal Gear Acid comes recommended to fans of the series and strategy games in general.

Overall Score: 8.0

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