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JadeDragon's reviews and playing tips: Sony PSP games
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Metal Gear Acid

Reviewed April 2005 by Alex Lifschitz

Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment - America
Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan
Release Date: March, 2005
ESRB Rating: "M" for Mature
Genre: Strategy
Price: $39.99

Hideo Kojima is completely insane.

Okay, maybe that's an unfair assumption. But how else could you explain his twisted and brilliant plotlines for the acclaimed Metal Gear series? How could you explain putting a solar sensor in a GBA cart for Boktai? And now, Kojima defies logic by taking his beloved game series and turning it into a card game. However, it would be more accurate to describe Kojima as something of a mad scientist… Though his ideas may be strange and extraordinary, the product is always a spectacle to behold in its completed stage. For Metal Gear Acid, Kojima took it to the slab. He took Metal Gear, gave it the brain of Final Fantasy Tactics, stuck it with some cards, and gave the whole thing a thousand volts of stealth and strategy, and the end result is one of the most enjoyable games on the PSP to date.

Gameplay

"The La-li-lu-le-lo?"
Yes, those five little syllables from MGS2 cemented the feeling of "What the hell is going on?" for the entire Metal Gear fan base. This franchise has been known not only for the incredible stealth-action gameplay it serves up in spades, but for the confusing plotlines it establishes along the way. Thankfully, Metal Gear Acid picks up from another point in time altogether, so there's no need to bone up on the Metal Gear anthology before booting up this game. The story itself is worth noting, and will leave you guessing to the very end… At which point the whole game is turned on its head, and leaves you with more questions than answers, and strangely, a sense of closure. Kojima has once again crafted a masterful story that requires replays to fully grasp.

Most people may shrug this off once they hear that it's a card battle game, but it's not a Yu-Gi-Oh clone. Not even close. You won't be playing your Colonel Volgin in attack mode with 3000 points. Rather, cards are simply used to dictate your action in classic Metal Gear format. The interface of the game is almost like that of a board game. You start with Snake (and later, a second character) at the beginning of a stage, and you have some kind of goal to accomplish, usually getting to a certain point or defeating enemies. You are then dealt six cards from your deck of 30 cards (and as you progress, 35 and 40). Many of these cards are modeled after people and things in other Metal Gears, and thus have a lot of different functions based on their original representation. You can use almost every card in two ways: You can use them to move, or for their particular function. For instance, if you have a Ration card, which heals 150 points of health, you can either wait for the right time and heal up, or use the card to move a number of spaces. You discard it either way. After you run out of cards, your deck is reshuffled, and you go through it all over again. You can win new cards either by buying packs of three (or singles) with points you win from a mission, or pick up cards over the course of the mission itself (or as a reward for playing very well). Each card also has a certain COST value. The higher the cost value of a card, the longer you'll have to wait for your next turn to play it. For instance, if you have 5 cost, and an opponent has 10 cost, that means that playing a card with 4 cost or below will allow you to get another turn before he does, but a card that will turn you cost to 10 or above will make sure he goes next.

There is also an equip system, in which there are two blank boxes in the corner of the screen (which, by the use of certain cards, can become 4 or even 9 squares). There are spaces where you can equip certain items for use later in the game. You can equip armor to reduce damage, accessories to boost skills, and - yes - boxes to sneak around under. There is also an option to equip certain weapons, allowing them to be used for counterattacks, or to be "loaded" with a weapon of the same ammo type (by equipping the other weapon on top of it) and fired like a normal gun card. This allows customization in your styles of gunplay, as you can also use cards to increase that weapon's effectiveness once it is equipped. Cards can even have certain stat-boosting "interference" effects on the cards surrounding it on the equip grid.

Most cards, when used for movement, will move you only three spaces. However, some cards may be better used by saving it for the appropriate moment, and some cards are meant for movement specifically, allowing you to move beyond the normal three spaces. You can hug walls like in other metal gear games, as well as knock to draw a guard's attention. You can also punch if you are next to and facing an enemy, and crawl under laser detectors and through ducts. This helps add to the strategic depth the gameplay plays off of for the entire experience, and the fact that you can use up to four cards a turn helps to expand the options of how to go about using cards in certain orders.

Has you head exploded yet? If not, good. These rules and styles are often very hard to understand unless you see it in action. The card styles and consequences give a deep number of options to weigh when going through the game. Will you use your Grenade card to move around that corner and hug the wall so the guard doesn't see you? Or maybe try and lob it at him and hope the cost timer wears out before he moves. Or maybe you want to use another card to hide behind the wall and wait to get a gun card so you can shoot the grenade outright once thrown. Or perhaps you want to discard the card and hope you get a movement-specific card so you can round another corner while his back is turned, circumventing the whole confrontation? But wait, there's a camera there. Maybe you'll have to use a Choke card and knock him out from the back, and then take your time. The options and style-based choices are limitless.

The interface is clean and simple. When not engaging in a mission, you are brought to a screen where you can save your game, return to the title screen, choose your map, change your options, enter link battle via the options menu (once you unlock it), and change your deck. Deck editing is done in the format of simply scrolling through a complete list of cards and choosing how many of what cards are in your deck. Unfortunately, you cannot save your deck configuration. This presents a problem with multiplayer. If you're on your first play-through, Rambo-ing your way through the game is the way to go. But when playing again and trying a new strategy, like stealth, whenever you want to enter a multiplayer game, you need to reconfigure your deck from scratch to a multiplayer-suited deck. You can save in different slots with different decks, but once you get a card that you need for multiplayer during your main game, you must remake your deck. This can get a bit tedious on a second run through the game. However, this format is still good for what it is made to do, and allows you to make interesting theme decks that can fit your play style. And the best part of all this?

Load times are practically nonexistent. Nada. Zip. I have never had a load time for this game beyond four seconds. This guarantees a seamless experience that hardly ever takes you out of the action.

Screen Shots

Metal Gear Acid PSP screen shot

Metal Gear Acid for PSP

Metal Gear Acid for Sony PSP

 

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Multiplayer

Acid's multiplayer is possibly the best head-to-head multiplayer on the PSP as an alternative to racing games like Wipeout, Twisted Metal and Ridge Racers. It consists of you and a friend controlling two characters in a VR environment like those found in MGS2: Substance (though not quite as dark). Using line-of-sight rules that compliment the stealth nature of the game, players must either collect three disks from dead guards and enter the points spawned upon their collection, or kill the other players twice. The limited sight balances the game and injects a new sense of strategy, and different decks can be tested against each other. This is also a great source of points to buy cards with. While simultaneously trying to kill guards and opponents, the trash-talking is ever present and fun, and the game itself is action-packed and requires a good deal of insight and knowledge about your opponent. It is a true display of skill and smarts, and is highly enjoyable. Though not as deep as co-op games like Untold Legends, the multiplayer in and of itself, as a head-to-head game, is extremely engaging. I just wish they could have included single-player co-op as two people controlled different characters.

Controls

The controls in this game are easy to navigate. Being a card battle game, there is no real-time element to the game outside of the cost. The controls are meant to make your experience in navigating the game much easier, and it definitely accomplishes this. Most navigation is done by way of the d-pad, with the shoulder buttons rotating the screen. The analog stick shifts the camera to give you a better view of the area. Circle selects things, X is to cancel, triangle gives you a free-roaming view of the area, and square brings up card descriptions. This simple yet intuitive design allows you to navigate the game menus with minimal difficulty, and there are really no sore spots as far as controls go. Simple, easy, and fun to work with. What more can I say?

Graphics

The graphics in this game, while not quite PS2 quality, are gorgeous. The problem is that during gameplay, you're zoomed out during movements. If you're a fan of long cutscenes, there are plenty of those, and they allow you to really see the detail of the character models. There is no blur, no grain, and smooth moves. The animations are plentiful and diverse, and really add to the graphical aspect of the game. What really drove this home for me was the final battle. The detail and looks of the final boss are just so jaw-droppingly gorgeous for the PSP; it is reason enough to beat the game. However, it's no Wipeout or Ridge Racer, and never really gives you a sense of movement like those games do. Instead, it supplies atmospheric tension. Still, the graphics are beautiful and a plus for the franchise.

Sound

Metal Gear Acid has a varied and eclectic sound catalog to work with. The soundtrack helps to evoke a dual feeling of tension-infused stealth and pulse-pounding action. The music in most stages starts off calm and evocative of a stealth mission, but when confronted, turns into an action track. The seamless transition between the two elements is a nice touch. The sound effects are varied and unique. Different guns can have different shot effects, explosions sound realistic, and little details are put in to really draw you into the game. There is sadly no voice work in the game, but given the incredible amount of dialogue, and the oft-ridiculous nature thereof, the choice of leaving out the voices was a wise one. The sound slowly seeps in during the course of the related gameplay, and helps to drive the feelings expressed in the missions. The sound is just short of greatness.

Conclusion

Still turned off by the decision to turn Metal Gear into a card game? Look at some videos, check out some reviews, and try the game out on a friend's system. It is definitely not everyone's cup of tea, in that it is more of a thinking man's game than previous installments of the Metal Gear series. The dynamic combination of the elements of both card battling and stealth gameplay is genius in the sheer execution. Kojima has always had a knack for taking far-fetched ideas and making them work, and Metal Gear Acid is the greatest testimony to this trait. It is a great title if you are willing to try it, and it is one of the greatest games on the PSP to date.

Playing Hints and Tips

- Set the PSP to Hold mode during cutscenes so as not to accidentally skip it. Most cutscenes are relevant to the plot.
- Try using cost reducer cards to prolong the effects of time-effect cards.
- Enter the following codes in the password menu to receive these cards:
o Viper = Viper #173
o Mika = Mika Slayton #178
o Karen = Karen Hojo #182
o Jehuty = Jehuty #184
o Xmeight = XM8 #199

 

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

Beautiful. The graphics are rich and detailed, and I just wish there was some kind of zoom function in the main game for when you're not navigating the map. You can even see your night-vision goggles when you equip them!

Sound

Not a grand and beautiful score, but the soundtrack is extremely immersive.

Fun Meter

This is an extremely fun game. The multiplayer and single player aspects are cohesive and addictive.

Addictivity

I've lost some long tracks of time to this game, and I'm sure you will too. It's just so hard to put down!

Total Score= 4.85 Dragons, 97.5%



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