The game is currently out in Japan, and we were recently able to get some hands-on time with that version.
Previous knowledge of the Solid Snake story isn't required to understand the events that take place in Metal Gear ACID. The story takes place in 2016. A terrorist group has hijacked a plane carrying a powerful senator, who is said to be front-runner in the next presidential election. The group wants the U.S. government to hand over something called "Pythagoras," which, most likely, is a secret weapons program and not a mathematical formula related to triangles. Rather than negotiate, the military sends a one-man army in to locate the hijackers and rescue the senator. That man, of course, is Solid Snake.
Due to a lack of Japanese-language knowledge, we can't tell you anything more specific than that. We can assure you, however, that Metal Gear ACID is packed with animated cut scenes that include a wealth of spoken and text-based dialogue.
From the look of things, it appears that the development team borrowed the graphics engine from Metal Gear Solid 2 to display what happens on screen. Every move Snake makes plays out in gorgeous 3D. That includes his entire repertoire of sneaking techniques, such as crouch-walking and choke-kills, and his complete arsenal of weapons--including the SOCOM pistol, the FAMAS rifle, the Bowie knife, and the Steal Camo suit, just to name a few. Levels take place in jungle, factory, and urban environments. In general, each mission seems to involve infiltrating a location, accomplishing a small set of objectives, and then getting Snake out safely.
Fans of the franchise will be pleased to know that many of the trademark Metal Gear details have been incorporated. Things like: stealth movement, different weapon pick-ups, boss battles, hiding in cardboard boxes, the "!" that appears when discovered, and so on. The difference, however, is that every item and move has been boiled down to cards. Players begin a game with a basic deck, which includes a good assortment of movement and weapon cards. Within each level, additional common, rare, and super-rare cards can be acquired and slipped into the deck in order to make it more versatile.
Your fate, literally, will rest in those cards. The game is turn-based. During a turn, you'll be dealt 6 random cards. You can play as many cards as you want during your turn, but you can only use the cards you're dealt. Play a movement card and you'll be able to move Snake the number of spaces shown on the card. Play a weapon card and you'll be able to pepper the guards with bullets. Play a special item card, such as a box or camo, and you can hide for a while. Meanwhile, when your turn is over, the CPU gets to use its cards in an effort to try to find and eliminate Snake.
Players also have to weigh other limitations into their strategy; things like overall time limits, card-specific side-effects, and environmental hazards, to name a few. Honestly, our lack of Japanese-language knowledge, coupled with a limited amount of play time, didn't let us experience the full extent of these aspects. It does appear, however, that they have been implemented in clever ways. For instance, pop off a few shots with a rifle and nearby guards will come to investigate the noise. In one level we played, Snake is told to go through a gas-filled room in order to reach a computer access console. There is a gas mask card in the deck, but it's up to you whether to wait for it or to just barge in without it. Doing so without the mask will cause Snake's health to gradually decrease, but it'll also save quite a bit of time. Decisions such as these will crop up frequently, we're told.
That's Metal Gear ACID, in a nutshell. We can't wait to play it more thoroughly (and in English) when the game is released here. The concept certainly seems interesting at least.
3/15/2005 Frank Provo