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TGS 2005: Metal Gear Acid 2 Hands-On

Solid Snake's dealing death and cards in the follow-up to the winning PSP turn-based strategy game. We take the first playable build for a spin.


Konami and its high-profile internal team Kojima Productions have been bandying around Metal Gear Acid 2 for several months now, but we haven't really learned much about Solid Snake's card-battling sequel beside the facts that it'll look a lot more comic book-like and, well, it'll have more cards. But the companies are finally starting to come clean on the game at TGS with the first playable demo of Metal Gear Acid 2. This demo is being distributed in a unique manner: Sony is allowing any PSP owner to use the game-sharing feature at its booth so he or she can take the demo home, which we eagerly tried out at the show today.

The driving force behind every Metal Gear game is its winding, intriguing storyline. Alas, the demo available here at TGS doesn't impart any significant story details; it's limited to a basic tutorial that acquaints you with the card-battling interface in the game, which is quite similar to what veterans of the first game will remember. Luckily, we had the chance to talk to director Shinta Nojiri about the game's storyline, and while he didn't exactly lay out Acid 2's storyline in fine detail, he did drop a few hints so as to keep our interest level high. In Acid 2, Solid Snake is coerced by the FBI into performing some seemingly routine investigations--but as you'd expect, before these operations are completed, something goes terribly awry, and Snake is thrust into another one of those annoying international incidents. During the course of his newest mission, Snake will run into a new female operative code-named Venus, who we think from released artwork looks suspiciously like Teliko, Snake's ally in the previous game. Of course, Nojiri offered that fans can probably expect to find a new Metal Gear unit at some point before the end of the game, and he also stressed that Acid 2, like Acid before it, is a side story that doesn't necessarily fall on the primary Metal Gear timeline, which will soon be furthered by Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

Even in the three quick missions of this demo, we observed a number of nice interface tweaks and refinements. For instance, in the first game, when you moved Snake you'd simply move a cursor over the squares within his movement range, and once you selected a square, he'd move there. In Acid 2, you'll actually move Snake along one square at a time in real time, which makes it easier to see where he'll end up in relation to nearby enemies than it was before. You also won't have to select your character's orientation after each move as you did before; instead, when you've moved your character to a new location, you'll be given the option to confirm the move immediately, or you can switch to the interface with which you change direction. The changes we've observed in the interface are certainly minor, but they seem to streamline the experience overall, based on what we've seen so far.

We've also had a chance to get a better feel for the stark stylistic shift in Acid 2, which is far more outlandish than it's appeared in previous trailers. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, as the original Acid tended to look an awful lot like the Metal Gear Solid games, with drab industrial settings and not much life in the backgrounds or characters. Acid 2 frankly looks cartoonish, not least of all because of its brightly cel-shaded characters. The backgrounds are also generally more colorful than in the previous game, too. But the big standout here is simply the presentation: The heads-up displays and transitions between turns are more stylishly designed and frenetically animated than before, which both looks neat and gives the impression that the game is progressing more quickly than its predecessor.

At TGS, Konami has also unveiled a rather interesting new feature for Acid 2--and hopefully other upcoming PSP games as well. Nojiri showed us what's being called the "Solid Eye" system, which is a cardboard contraption that fits over the PSP unit and provides a set of stereoscopic goggles that will let you play a game on the system in true 3D. We got to see a version of Metal Gear Solid 3's intro movie playing in 3D with the Solid Eye, and we have to say the effect is extremely convincing. Throughout Acid 2, you'll be able to unlock movies from MGS3 and then play them back in 3D--and of course, you'll be able to play the main game this way as well. Nojiri commented that you may want to play Acid 2 in 3D only in the privacy of your home, since people might look at you a little funny if you whip the goggles out in public. But hey, if you don't fear being ridiculed by your peers, we'd say the 3D effect looks good enough to be worth the derision.

Beyond the changes in interface and presentation, not a whole lot about the Acid 2 demo was different from the first game. We snuck up behind a few enemies to shoot them or take them out in hand-to-hand combat (even knocking one over the side of a catwalk), and we used an explosive barrel to take out two enemies at the same time. But the mission goals in this tutorial section were extremely basic, so we don't know what kinds of action to expect later in the game. And we're still holding out for some more information on the story tidbits, especially the strange-looking new characters, that were revealed last month in the previous trailer we got to see for the game. But then, Metal Gear is a property that Konami has always played pretty close to the vest, in which case we'll bring you more on Metal Gear Acid 2 as soon as we can get it.

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