Metal Gear Acid Reader Review
Metal Gear Solid (MGS) fans are used to waiting their turn. Waiting patiently for cut scenes to finish, with doing little more than pressing the button to help the codec conversations drift by, is as much a part of MGS as bundling knocked out guards into lockers. The patience the average MSG player has built up over the past three Playstation games will come in handy here, as Ac!d is a turn based card game.
There's no getting away from the fact, even knowing Ac!d is a turn based card game, that MGS fans will feel cheated when they first start playing. The game has the usual MSG mise-en-scene complete with graphics, music (which is it's usual top notch), sounds and ludicrous storyline. It's only when you start to play the game that you feel let down : you can't move Snake how you want, you can't switch to first person and check out the area, you can't turn on the codec to chat to your backup team - there are a lot of can'ts. All you can do is select your movements/actions via six cards you currently have in your hand, which appears very limited when compared to the vast playing areas found in MSG3.
Some people aren't going to be able to deal with this - it's not Metal Gear as they know it, it's a wolf in sheep's clothing, and the game will be discarded. These people will be missing out, and I would urge anyone playing this to get over it, as Ac!d is one of the best games I've played on the PSP. Currently I'm about 30+ hours in, having completed it once and now going through again on the 'extreme' level - I've pretty much enjoyed every second.
The gameplay boils down to the fact you have a 30 card deck, which reloads once you've worked your way through it. From this deck you will always have six cards in your hand, from this hand you play the cards to decide what you are doing during your turn. Each card has certain attributes (such as movement, weapon, evasive, etc) which all have a different 'cost' attributed to them depending on the action they perform. During your turn you play the cards you want, the cost adds up, and the total determines when it's your turn to play again (and you are given two cards back to replenish your deck).
The cards combine with the core MSG gameplay elements of sneaking around avoiding detection to create an intriguing game of strategy that currently has me hooked. When playing, you are constantly scanning the area trying to work out how to best explore the area, and achieve the mission, without blowing the cost score - or your cover. When things go as planned you get a great deal of satisfaction that you've played the game well, and when you are detected - it's usually your fault, and you've been pushing the barriers a little too much, or simply got slack and failed to check out the area before moving on.
However, the game isn't without flaws. Most irritating is waiting for a card you need to progress (such as a card key) to appear in your hand. When this occurs you pretty much have to stand still discarding cards until the card cycles around - in the meantime the cost mounts up and/or you get detected. Firing certain weapons is needlessly confusing at first, when you have to equip the weapon, and then play another weapon card on top to fire it. One major faux-pas is starting a mission, and then realising you don't have the cards needed to complete the mission. From a game that has obviously had a lot of thought and time put into it this is a glaring error, and hopefully will be addressed in the sequel.
But the errors, although annoying, aren't enough to destroy the experience. There are several nice touches throughout the game. The cards are drawn from the whole MGS history (plus a couple of Solar Boy cameos - wait until you see Snake with the Gun del Sol), and there is a gotta to catch 'em all aspect to them as you get further into the game. The turn base nature of the game lends itself well to portable gaming, as the PSP can be easily slipped into sleep mode as and when, ready for you to start again from where you left off. After a while you get to know the cards, and obtain decent cards that can cause some serious damage – and then when the final boss is defeated you are away again, ploughing through the adventure with the bigger cards, trying new things.
This is a game that keeps giving. It's not Metal Gear Solid game in body, but in spirit it's up there with the best of the series.
8 / 10