As Kenny Roger’s once sang, “You’ve gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, know when to change into a cardboard box…” by Vaughn Smith
March 22, 2006 – If you play your cards right – literally – Solid Snake just might come out of this one alive.
Kojima Productions, the development company fronted by Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima, is hoping to stack the deck in their favor with Metal Gear Ac!d 2. The original Ac!d game, released last year for the launch of the PSP in North America, was an extreme departure from the stealth/action oriented gameplay the Metal Gear franchise is known for. Initial reactions were mixed when Konami revealed that the first appearance of Solid Snake on the PSP would involve turn-based card combat. Undaunted by the abrupt change in genre, many curious PSP owners took a chance on Metal Gear Ac!d and came away extremely impressed. I’m pleased to report Ac!d 2 addresses many of the slight imperfections of the original and ups the ante in terms of overall playability and functionality of the card-based mechanic. In short, if you even remotely enjoyed the first game, you’re gonna love this one.
Give yourself 5 points if your gut instinct tells you that the plot of Ac!d 2 involves the threat of yet another 2-legged nuclear warhead-sporting mech known as, what else? Metal Gear. The somewhat predictable story unfolds primarily through static text-based conversations with the odd cutscene at important intervals. While the Ac!d series isn’t restricted to the continuity of the Metal Gear canon of the consoles, Kojima Productions has crammed in hundreds of references (via cards) of previous adventures which will delight fans familiar with the MG universe.
Almost every action in Ac!d 2 requires a card from the deck to execute: movement, stealth maneuvers, defensive and offensive tactics, weapon usage and countless other actions are restricted to card-based turns. For this very reason, RPG and strategy game enthusiasts will instantly be more comfortable with Ac!d 2 than the average action-seeker, but don’t expect that this new-fangled approach translates into a less entertaining adventure; quite to the contrary. The strategy of having to utilize the best possible card dealt randomly from your deck, makes for an engrossing gameplay experience with almost infinite replay value since the cards are shuffled and will change upon consequent replays. As mentioned, there are over 500 cards (watch for MGS4 cards) to locate throughout the game and experimentation is the ultimate key to unlocking everything Ac!d 2 has to offer.
It’s obvious from the moment you start playing that Kojima Productions was diligent about tweaking the gameplay in response to gamers complaints with the first title. Improvements include: more hands on character movement, camera control, much less menu wading, more cards, faster gameplay, improved visuals (if you like cel-shading), ad hoc wireless play, excellent tutorial and a streamlined intuitive interface with everything available at the touch of a button. Kojima Productions even offers the ability to import a favorite card and 1/100 PTS from the original game if you have a save available. New and improved modes include the revamped ad hoc multiplayer, MGS3: Subsistence connectivity, ultra-challenging boss battle Arena and Solid Eye Theater- definitely the most innovative mode we’ve seen on the PSP thus far. Solid Eye Theater turns your PSP into a 3D house of action….and babes! Using the included Tobidacid cardboard 3D glasses/Viewmaster hybrid that you put together yourself and place your PSP into, you’ll be able to view cutscenes from MGS3, the entire MGS4 trailer, videos of scantily clad Japanese women and even play the game entirely in 3D! It works surprisingly well for such a wacky gimmick.
While the turn-based card battlin’ combat might sound like the antithesis of edge-of-your-seat gaming, give Ac!d 2 a couple of hours of your undivided attention and I guarantee you’ll be up to your eyes and ears in white-knuckle action. While the game feels a little on the short side (15 hours + on the first run), you can always elongate your investment with the multiplayer and arena modes, and you’ll definitely want to play through the story again in your quest to collect all of the cards. If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the next installment of Snake’s PSP adventures, Metal Gear Ac!d 2 is a royal flush and that’s no bluff.
By Vaughn Smith
CCC Site Director