PSP – Metal Gear Ac!d

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Nans beware; This is definitely not bridge

A lone figure gently creeps through a darkened warehouse, nothing more than a shadow to the nearby soldiers, who pay little to no attention to him. One by one, he discretely picks them off, silently assassinating them with his bare hands. The figure, the one and only Solid Snake, suddenly stops while approaching his next victim. He stands still, and waits for his opponent to make his move, whilst browsing through his hand of cards and planning his next turn.

When the latest instalment in the Metal Gear legacy was confirmed to be a tactical, turn-based card game, there were approximately 3 gamers in the entire world who didn’t immediately curse Konami and refuse to buy any of their products in the future. The gaming world at large couldn’t adjust to the fact that Solid Snake, who is known worldwide for kicking ass and taking names, had to draw a hand of cards from a deck before, well, kicking ass and taking names. However, now that it’s been released across the globe, has Metal Gear: Ac!d defied it’s doubters, like ‘Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker’, or ‘Celda’, before it, or is it so naff that fans will spit on Hideo Kojima as he walks down the street until Metal Gear Solid 4 comes out? Fortunately for Mr. Kojima’s hygienic well-being, we can confirm that Metal Gear:Ac!d, while being radically different from it’s predeccesors, is a pretty solid addition to the Metal Gear series (No pun intended, by the way).

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I’ll admit it, even me, e-Magi’s resident Metal Gear fanboy, was a tad sceptical about ‘Ac!d’ at first. However, after a few gameplay videos and screenshots I began to take interest, noting that MG:A was not a strict card game after all, but more of a Final Fantasy: Tactics style affair, which just happened to use cards instead of a multitude of menus. Eventually I was sold, and went to pick up ‘Ac!d’ as soon as possible. And I was not disappointed.

Ac!d doesn’t follow the actual Metal Gear story, instead taking place in the same alternate timeline that Gameboy Colour title “Metal Gear: Ghost Babel” did. This first becomes evident when two toy dolls hijack an aeroplane. Yup, you heard right. Solid Snake can tackle a giant bi-pedal mech with ease, but when faced with two chucky-esque dolls, cacks himself. We don’t blame him though; the dolls are seriously creepy, and we won’t judge you if you do the same. Don’t let the bizarre and trippy plot put you off though; Ac!d features a twisting, slightly strange story that will compel and intrigue. You play as Solid Snake as he attempts to infiltrate the Lobito Island in an effort to satisfy the hijackers’ needs. Whilst this might seem like your average Metal Gear plot, it frequently strays from the norm, and while intriguing and bizarre, it doesn’t really compare with the epic plotlines of previous titles. This isn’t helped by the fact that there’s no voice acting to move the cut scenes along, forcing the player to either read through paragraphs of text, or to completely skip some scenes altogether.

The game itself flows quite smoothly for a card game; You’re given 6 cards from your customised deck at the start of the mission, each one originating from a previous game. There are countless varieties of cards; Item, weapon and action cards to name a few. Special character cards also make an appearance, treating you to a nostalgic cutscene when used. The game is much more tactical than the action-based titles in the series, regularly placing you in situations where you have to sacrifice a good card and adapt your game plan . However, the flow of the game can be slowed down to a snails pace sometimes, as you wait for your opponent to make their move. While this is a very handy feature, allowing you to see where your opponents are moving, sometimes watching someone who is across the other side of the stage can just get in the way of gameplay. While the rules can take a few stages to fully understand, once you get to grips with it you should find the gameplay extremely satisfying.

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Unlike the other Metal Gear games, ‘Ac!d’ is split up into different stages which you can revisit in order to obtain higher scores. This adds to the longevity of the game, as fans of the series will want to unlock every card just to see a finished gallery of pieces from Metal Gear history, either for nostalgia or for pure perfectionism.

The game also makes good use of the PSP’s graphical capabilities, producing a new style totally different from the ‘Solid’ series. The more animé-esque style takes us even further away from ‘Solid’, reminding us that Ac!d is a brand new series all on it’s own, and is here to stay. Although the graphics are clean, the animations can get repetitive, and Snake can sometimes be shot at and not react at all. Overall though the game is extremely nice to look at. Each card is decorated with a different picture, be it art, a render, a sprite or a diagram of Snake doing his thing, which adds a certain something. However, we did find that the camera could have used some work; On levels with many obstacles, such as the Lower Ruins stage, the objects can obscure your view, and make it much harder to plan out your assault.

Even though the game lacks voice-acting for the dialogue, sound bites are regularly uttered by the enemy soldiers, such as the famous “Huh?” when you’re spotted. Sound effects are generally spot-on, and the music is reminiscent of the orginal Metal Gear Solid, and suits the game well. The tunes are also very atmospheric, a good example being the extremely creepy toy dolls’ theme.

Fans looking for a challenge will be pleased to know that Ac!d is a huge game, featuring a multitude of levels and bosses. Enemy A.I also matches the action-based games well, and all of Snake’s moves from previous games are here in some shape or form. The game isn’t easy either, the casual gamer can expect to clock 13+ hours just to complete the game once, never mind going back to unlock all the cards.

There’s also connectivity between Ac!d and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater included in the Japanese and European version, as well as an unlockable Ad-Hoc Wi-Fi multiplayer. Although multiplayer is a nice feature, It doesn’t really match up to the depth of the single player

Pros:

– Tactical Espionage at it’s best; A real thinking man’s game
– Bizarre and compelling plot; It’s the Metal Gear series on acid!
– 200+ cards to collect, each one a piece of Metal Gear history
– Crisp graphics and an amazing art style
– Very atmospheric music
– Tons of depth; Will keep you gaming for ages

Cons:
– Perhaps a little too tactical and slow for some expecting a shrunk down MGS.
– Somewhat repetive animations and static characters
– It’s David Hayter’s day off; Complete lack of voice-overs.

Final Word:
Don’t bother even looking at this if you’re looking for an action-packed Metal Gear game to play on the train. However, if you’re a fan of the series who enjoys tactical strategy games, look no further. 7.5/10