Metal Gear Solid Touch
Oh Metal Gear, you will not go peacefully into the night.
A series that needs no introduction, Hideo Kojima’s mind-melting franchise came to a close with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Wrapping up all the loose ends from 21 years worth of sequels, prequels and remakes, MGS4 was to be Snake’s final mission, a send off for a hero immortalized through pixels and polygons.
That train of thought derailed with the announcement of Metal Gear Solid Touch for Apple’s iPhone. A lite version of the PlayStation 3 exclusive, MGST embodies the franchise in name only, completely failing as a mobile translation of Konami’s magnum opus but succeeding as a 15-minute touch-based distraction.
While not the first Metal Gear mobile phone entry, MGS Touch is less of an actual addition in the series and more of a bare-bones run through of Guns of the Patriots. That is, if Guns of the Patriots were a light-gun game with minimal exposition. While the mechanics of the console iteration would be impossible to program into a button-less mobile phone game, Konami took almost no effort in attempting to re-create the plot, resulting in a product that makes sense to those who have completed the PS3 original but none whatsoever to new players.
As in Guns of the Patriots, players control Old Snake as he fights his way through various locations in search of Liquid Ocelot. But where stealth and item management were the keys to success in MGS4, finger-tapping and…well, just finger tapping is the main element behind Metal Gear Solid Touch. Players control Snake’s aim in a stationary view much akin to a shooting range, picking off enemies who have the bad sense to poke their heads out from behind cars, walls and barrels. While Old Snake isn’t controllable in terms of actual movement, players can take cover by lifting their finger from the iPhone screen, moving the aiming reticule, and switching to sniping mode when soldiers are too far away to hit with an assault rifle.
The gameplay itself is workable, albeit fairly simplistic. Each level requires a certain number of enemies eliminated before completion, with the baddies themselves ranging from normal soldiers, bi-pedal robots and the elusive Beauty and the Beast Corps. as bosses. While some enemies require more attention than others, the basic formula for success consists of tapping the screen until everything is dead. Friendly units will occasionally pop up as well, and are to be avoided, a task which at times can be frustrating as they look exactly like the enemy soldiers, only holding their hands in the air.
Definitely not an unattractive game, Metal Gear Solid Touch is animated well, but doesn’t break the mobile game mold in terms of visuals. Players are stuck with a static view of the field as cardboard-esque cutouts of soldiers will creep out from behind cover, canard helicopters will lower in from the top of the screen, and mecha will hop in and out of view. There just isn’t much going on at any particular moment aside from the repetition of gunning down however many enemies the level requires.
The sound doesn’t do much to help. The game is lacking in any sort of voice work, consisting of blips, gunfire and stage music. The effects and tracks are easily recognizable, but exist out of necessity and fail to add much to the overall experience.
Upon completion of each stage players are treated to a paragraph or two of explanation as to where the story rests, accompanied by a screencap from the PlayStation 3 original. This is where Konami dropped the ball. For a series with such intriguing characters and such an immersing story, to strip these things away does a huge disservice to the Metal Gear franchise as a whole, and acts only to confuse and befuddle those with no prior knowledge of Snake and company.
Yes, this is a mobile phone game, and the bar has always been set lower than that of other handheld devices such as the DS and PSP. But in terms of technical specs, Apple’s iPhone outdoes both systems in terms of storage, processing speed and memory, and to claim that creating a worthwhile experience is out of reach doesn’t sit quite right.
After completing the game’s story mode, players are given the option to replay the game in survival mode, where health transfers between stages, or to purchase items in Drebin’s Store. At the end of each level players are given a ranking and a number of Drebin points depending on accuracy and time, these points are then traded for artwork from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Using the iPhone’s screenshot option, the artwork can be applied as the device’s wallpaper, and gives the title a bit of longevity as some pieces cost more points than a single run-through will supply. There is also an option to read a short synopsis of each Metal Gear title in the “Special” menu, the equivalent of reading the back of the original game’s summary on the back of the box.
Konami has promised a number of additional levels in the form of downloadable content, available for free for players who purchased the title initially. As the game ends about halfway through the original Metal Gear Solid 4 story it can be assumed that the expansion will cover the remainder of the plot. Konami has yet to announce a date for the extra content.
Metal Gear Solid Touch isn’t a bad game, but only in comparison to other App Store products. With the media constantly pushing for the idea of the iPhone as a definite contender in the handheld console market, it’s hard to not be disappointed when one of the biggest franchises in history ends up nothing more than a gallery shooter. If developers want to push the iPhone as a serious gaming device, they need to start treating it like one.