My wife got me a couple of Metal Gear titles for the PSP for Christmas. I first got sunk in Metal Gear Acid 2, the card-collecting, turn-based entry to the series. To begin with, I thought I’d play for a bit and then fire up the main course, Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops, a so-called “proper” Metal Gear game, without nerdy turns or cards. I am now almost done with Acid 2 and haven’t even opened the shrink-wrap from Portable Ops.
If the concept appeals to you, you’re going to love Acid 2. I have not played the original Acid, but I understand it’s basically the same game. The idea is that you play Metal Gear, but turn-based and fueling all actions by playing collectible cards. I was worried that the game might become dull if all you’re doing is sneaking about in a top-down view, playing cards, but they have injected a lot of variety. You will be dodging trains, searching for enemies in the dark, protecting civilians, and fighting. There’s a lot of fighting. This is a break from the MGS standards, where you’re usually better off sneaking around the opposition; “tactical espionage action”, as it were. Turn-based, the fighting is very interesting and rewarding. The opposition becomes tougher all the time, so you need to vary your tactics and upgrade your deck between missions. I haven’t come across anything frustrating or badly-designed about the game system. It works just the way it should.
The game’s problems lie in the fact that for all its convoluted plotting, Metal Gear has always been Hideo Kojima’s carefully balanced creation. While the Acid series has been overseen by Kojima, they are not directly his work. In Acid 2, the team is remixing Metal Gear cliches with mixed results. The characters were always over the top, but Acid doesn’t get them right. For all their gorgeous, cel-shaded style, I just don’t care about them. The plot isn’t a patch on any of the earlier Metal Gear titles – it’s too disconnected with all its amnesia-stricken heroes, too familiar (wait, there’s a Metal Gear?) and too low-key – set in a desert, in identical warehouses and corridors, resembling MGS2’s Big Shell setting too much. There just isn’t the drama I’m expecting from the series.
But all told, it’s a card game and I’m not that worried if a card game’s plotting isn’t quite up to par. It works beautifully for what it sets out to do.