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?
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.
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.
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.