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PSP Preview - 'Metal Gear Acid'

by Thomas Wilde on Feb. 4, 2005 @ 12:37 a.m. PST

Metal Gear Acid is a turn-based, tactical espionage game that requires players to collect cards and strategically construct their own decks to complete various missions and objectives. Boasting a compelling storyline filled with new characters and incredible cut scenes, Metal Gear Acid will draw players into an all-new adventure packed with intrigue – designed specifically for the portable gaming enthusiast.

Genre : Strategy
Publisher: Konami
Developer: KCET
Release Date: Spring 2005

First, they said there’d be a Metal Gear game on the PSP, and the fans rejoiced.

Then they said it’d be a Metal Gear card game, and the fans were somewhat befuddled.

Then I played this Metal Gear card game, and I am still befuddled.

Not that it’s a bad game, you understand. It’s not. It does, however, take some getting used to.

In this outing, Solid Snake’s been dispatched to a remote facility to infiltrate it and steal a sample of a biological weapon called Pythagoras. A pair of bizarre, cherubic terrorists are holding a commercial airliner hostage, and unless they’re given Pythagoras within ten hours, they’ll kill the passengers, one of whom is a candidate in the next Presidential election. Since it’d take too long to get Pythagoras through official channels, and since the American government doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, Snake is sent to steal the sample.

You’re dropped outside the facility where Pythagoras is being kept and left to it. You’ll be assisted, via codec, of a psychic named Alice Hazel, who’ll give you some idea as to what to expect next. As the game progresses, you’ll get the chance to play as another character, Teliko, an operative who’s on a similar mission.

The big hook of Ac!d is that rather than creeping through shadows and punching out guards, Snake is equipped with a deck of cards. You play cards to move, attack enemies, overcome obstacles, or equip Snake with weapons and armor; for their part, enemies move after you in an orderly, turn-based fashion.

What we’ve got here, in other words, is the world’s first stealth-based video board game. (Because you demanded it.) If it wasn’t for the cards, you could mistake this for a turn-based strat game, complete with hexes on the ground. Instead, it’s a strategic process of move and countermove, where you’ll have to avoid enemies, set traps, evade detection, and get to the other side of the map.

In case you were wondering, this is still undeniably Metal Gear. The graphics, voice acting, and sound are up to Konami’s usual high standards, and the plotline’s got the usual manically insane edge that I’ve grown to associate with the series. (“Snake, you must steal a bioweapon because two angry clowns have hijacked a plane. Let’s talk about this and what it means for twenty minutes.”) It’s a much better-looking game than the PSOne Metal Gear Solid, with crisp polygon models and plenty of hand-drawn art.

When Snake starts a turn, he’ll draw a random hand of cards from his current deck. You can select a deck between each level, as well as find new ones in the field or buy them with points earned by successfully completing a mission. Most cards serve a dual purpose, allowing you to attack an enemy or perform a special maneuver; alternatively, you can play the card to move Snake a set number of spaces across the field. You’ll recognize a lot of the cards from the first two Metal Gear Solid games, such as the Genome Soldier.

You can consult Hazel to get an idea of what cards you’ll need in each mission, whether it’s plenty of SOCOM cards for quick silenced attacks, hand grenades to dispose of crowds of enemies, or a couple of cardboard boxes to trick unwary guards. Each card, when used as part of an attack, has several special effects; a claymore mine will detonate if anyone sets foot in its square, a stun grenade will detonate after one turn and knock out anyone within a three-by-three area,

If this preview sounds a little incredulous, I have to apologize, but this is kind of a surreal game. Konami’s done an amazing job of porting the mechanics and style of a Metal Gear game to an entirely new and unexpected format. Metal Gear games already take place on a different reality plane, and this just accentuates that.

You can also play Ac!d in multiplayer against friends, linking up two PSPs for VR matches. There’s no word on how many players can participate in one match, but if playing singleplayer has taught me anything, it’s that this would eat up hours at a time.

Ac!d is easy to learn, but takes a long time to master, and involves just enough luck that it’s not likely to ever become easy. Victory or defeat can be determined at a moment’s notice by what cards find their way into your hand.

So yeah, Metal Gear Ac!d weirds me out a bit. It’s still among the strongest of the PSP titles I’ve seen so far, with strategic gameplay that’s perfect for killing time on the go. It’s currently planned to be released at launch with the PSP.

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