METAL GEAR AC!D / Konami / Sony PSP
 
                    President of Konami : "Sorry about this bullshit cash grab!"
 
"Card battle" games have proven to be enduringly popular, but their apex in the video gaming world was in the early to mid 2000s. Much like they would later do with Monster Hunter in Peace Walker, Konami couldn't resist the quick grab for cash here by hammering trendy "card battle" mechanics of the time into their flagship franchise in a spinoff game. They did manage to make it sort of work, but Ac!d really feels more like a game artisan'd up because a marketing department decreed It Must Be So rather than as an organic outgrowth of some designer's innovative gameplay concept.

The game takes place in that nebulous period between MGS1 - MGS2 that Konami likes to dump their little spinoffs and side games (that may or may not be canon depending on Kojima's mood at the moment.) Snake is tasked with infiltrating a lab in South America to steal some secret project known only as Pythagoras; he's doing this because a plane carrying a Presidential candidate has been hijacked by a couple of really creepy talking marionettes. The writing makes the rather fanfic-ish Ghost Babel look brilliant by comparison, and the localization is surprisingly sloppy and Engrishy for a 2006 project from a major publisher, but it actually pulls off a creepy atmosphere pretty well, and some of the villains are effective and memorable. The soundtrack is also really good, composed by one of the guys that scored MGS3 and having a very similar sound.

The gameplay, however, can be summed up at absolute best as "problematic." Snake's adventure through the lab compound unfolds in a series of self-contained levels which you often have to pass through multiple times, a la the structure of Ghost Babel. However, it's more like turn-based strategy than tactical stealth action. Sure, you still want to avoid guards and security cameras and all that, but every turn is dictated by the cards you have available. Between battles, you put together a deck to take with you, composed of cards you alternately find in the levels and buy at a shop with the points you earn from completing the levels. You start out with a random draw of 6 from your deck, and at least one is replenished each turn, until the deck is exhausted and resets itself.

The slow ploddy pace is the first problem. Too often the game devolves into "hide in a safe area and burn cards until you get the one you need to proceed" routine. For example, in mined areas, you have to hang about and get some mine detectors in your draw to proceed. The game is also way more weighted toward gunplay than stealth, and frequently you'll be in situations where it's impossible to sneak past the enemy, so you have to brew up a passel of firepower to take them down. Snake's aim is absolute bullshit for some reason, so stealth kills with the SOCOM are out for the most part; you need to hang about until you get the nastier stuff. But then there's common enemy troops who randomly have this insane armor that blocks everything or causes you to miss, even when you're one square away blasting them in the back with a FA-MAS. Shit just gets silly quite often, and either takes forever or forces too many map restarts thanks to some cheap shit you couldn't possibly have anticipated.

Another problem is the camera. As with a lot of PSP turn-based strategy, for whatever reason, bad design makes it overly hard to see what the fuck is going on at any given time. Everything is kind of squinty and drably colored to begin with, moving the camera freely is a pain, it's overly difficult (and sometimes outright impossible) to get angles on soldiers and cameras to see which way they are facing, and there's always overhangs and other random shit in the way making the view much more obstructed than it should be.

The end result is a boring routine that's often frustrating to control.
 
 
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