Reviewed: April 18, 2006
Released: March 21, 2006
Itís time to break out that virtual deck of Metal Gear action cards and dive into another Solid Snake adventure in Metal Gear Acid 2. This is obviously a sequel to last yearís launch title that turned the Metal Gear world upside down with its bold presentation and unique gameplay. Suffice to say, if you didnít like that game you probably wonít find too much here to change your mind.
Youíre going to need to be a huge Metal Gear fan and share a fondness for card battle games (hopefully both) if you want to maximize your enjoyment from Metal Gear Acid 2. This sequel does manage to improve on a few elements that you may or may not have found lacking in the original, but donít expect any paradigm improvements in the core concepts.
Acid 2 delivers more than 500 action cards to keep things fresh and inventive along with a challenging Arena Mode for those who like to relive those famous boss battles. There is head-to-head wireless gameplay and if you are fortunate enough to own Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence you can links your PSP to your PS2 and share content between titles. And just to make things a bit cooler, there in an included visor that you can use to view movies, photos, and gameplay in 3D.
As expected with the MGS franchise, we get a solid story to get us started and carry us through the gameplay. This time we find Snake, who is suffering from a bit of amnesia, being sent to recover some stolen files and stop a scientist who has his own Metal Gear and plenty of nukes that he is prepared to launch as US targets unless his demands are met. You have three hours. Along for the ride is a new character, the deadly assassin Venus. She definitely makes things interesting.
Those of you who are coming into this game from the original will want to experiment with the option to import your character from the first game and even bring over your favorite cards. There is even an upgrade system in place that allows you to upgrade older and weaker cards into something that might be a bit more useful in this game.
While the previous Metal Gear Acid game required a card to do just about anything, Metal Gear Acid 2 gives you a bit more freedom, especially in the movement phase. As long as you are using a movement card you are free to turn your active character or even change their stance - these moves previously required their own card.
Combat is much more involved now, not only with the enhanced deck of card that now numbers more than 500, but also with the new close-quarters battle system that allows you to perform melee attacks each turn. When successful, this attack can knockdown or stun your opponent, leaving them ripe for follow-up weapon attacks on the next turn. These combos are great fun to experiment with.
Weapons seem to have been tweaked for the sequel and are now not nearly as powerful or reliable as they were in the original. This can become a problem in some encounters where you are outnumbered heavily. There also seems to be some balancing issues with upgraded cards, not so much between the cards, but in the damage you get for the upgrade fee. Often, itís just not worth it.
I was pleased to see that the game structure and mission variety was much more diverse this time around. The first title was a bit repetitive with a heavy focus on wiping out enemies in each level. Now you get to hunt down items and even perform some escort missions. And there is still a lot of killing for those who like that kind of thing.
Multiplayer was a problem, first in that there is still no Internet support, so I had to track down somebody who had the game. But then we quickly found that there is virtually no setup before the match so you basically get tossed into a level with whatever cards you happen to have in your deck. This can lead to some extremely mismatched situations.
Another problem in multiplayer is your ability to see your opponent at anytime on the map. This wasnít possible in the original, but having this knowledge takes a lot of the edge off the stealth and tactics of the gameplay. The game now becomes more of a luck-of-the-draw card game.
The Arena mode is a great idea in theory but its implementation is flawed and totally unbalanced. If you tackle the arena too early you will fail miserably and if you start playing it about the time you can actually win, it is virtually impossible to lose, especially when Venus joins up with Snake. Admittedly, itís a great way to accumulate more than enough points to purchase any cards you might ever want, but it seems like cheating to do so.
Acid 2 gets a much-needed facelift for this installment with better camera work that shows off the new cel-shaded graphics. You are now much more integrated into the action. Sure, you have those same top-down views for movement and tactical prep, but once the action starts, it gets really good with fluid animation and a nice visual style that looks like a living comic book.
Character design is improved and the new Venus character is very interesting. Youíll also see an increased focus on bosses, since there are so much more boss battles than the first game. The cutscenes are also remarkable despite the lack of spoken dialogue. Iím pretty sure my PSP is capable of speech and my UMD is big enough to fit some on there.
As always, the interface plays a big part of this game and it works extremely well. I especially enjoyed the look of the cards, both new and old alike. They are large enough and legible so you arenít losing your mind trying to read them on the already-small PSP screen.
Iím a huge fan of the music from all the previous Metal Gear games regardless of the system I played them on. Regrettably, that music is nowhere to be found. Instead, we get some decent techno beats that manage to work out well enough but they are certainly no substitute for the fantastic Williamsí score weíve come to expect.
Sound effects are serviceable; both donít really impress or even try to exploit the possibilities of the PSP. This is mostly due to limitations of the gameplay. What really detracts from the overall experience is the total lack of speech for the cutscenes and some of the movies you get to watch in the Solid Eye Theater are still in Japanese.
Metal Gear Acid 2 is basically a big ďcollectingĒ game so those who are compelled to collect things will be playing this game long past the 15-20 hours it takes to beat the main story. And Iím not just talking the normal cards here but plenty of special stuff like bonus movies including the trailer for MGS4. And you can view these in the Solid Eye Theater using the included visor and watch them all in 3D.
As a brand-loyalty perk, if you own Subsistence for the PS2 you can take pictures from that game and view them on your PSP in 3D. In fact, you could play most of Acid 2 with the 3D goggles if you have a strong tolerance for searing migraines. Yes, there are some vision-related headaches to be had with the goggles so itís best to keep your 3D viewing to a minimum.
Metal Gear Acid 2 fixes a lot of things but ultimately breaks just as many. I really enjoyed the enhanced movement and CQC, and the larger and more diverse deck of cards and the ability to import from the first game are all great features. Even the 3D viewer is cool if not a bit clichť, and I give props to any PSP game that connects to my PS2 for extended bonuses.
I still bemoan the lack of Internet play (and card trading), and the funky multiplayer modes with no pre-match setup is way to random to be fair or fun. And why can I now see my enemy when I couldnít last year. Did somebody think this was an improvement?
Ultimately, if you enjoyed the first you are going to like the sequel, but if you arenít into battle card games or prefer your Solid Snake action in a more traditional flavor, you might want to steer clear of this corrosive title.