Version Reviewed: 1.0
Graphics / Sound [rating:4.5/5]
Game Controls [rating:4/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:2/5]
With rumors swirling of a premium tier coming to the game section of the App Store (a rumor which didn't materialize during the OS 3.0 announcement), we all got excited when we heard that some version of Metal Gear was coming to the iPhone. Finally, we were getting a big name publisher that was delivering one of the biggest IP's around in the gaming world - the Metal Gear Solid (MGS) franchise. Metal Gear has been a staple on the PC and then Playstation consoles for many generations, the latest iteration of which - MGS4: Guns of the Patriots - debuted at the end of 2008 on the PS3. In the series you take on the persona of Solid Snake, a retired soldier who becomes embroiled in a plot that would take way too long to summarize for the purposes of this review. Let's just say it involves terrorists, nuclear weapons, and then devolves into something wholly more bizarre by the time we get to Guns of the Patriots. MGS is typically a stealth game rather than a typical third-person shoot-em-up, and the series has rabid fans across the globe.
For the Touch version, creator Hideo Kajima had the following to say about the iPhone title:
"This game really is nothing more than an entrance for us. I'd like people unfamiliar with MGS to play it, and maybe develop an interest in MGS4 in the process -- and if they foster a general interest in games from there, it'd make me all the happier."
Now, knowing that the iPhone is certainly not the PS3, everyone pretty much expected that we were not going to get the grandiose experience from the next-gen PS3 version, a game that is simply stunning with its visual prowess. In the iPhone game, we get a very pared down version of MGS4. We have no direct control of Snake - instead we're presented with some of the more important set-pieces of the PS3 game turned into a shooting gallery. Many have been calling the iPhone game "MGS: Duck Hunt," and they're not far off the mark.
The shooting galleries themselves are fairly compelling, if a bit short. When the levels begin, Snake is hiding behind a barricade of some sort, while enemies appear in the scenery to shoot, a la Shooter or iSniper. You can press and hold anywhere on the screen to bring up the aiming reticule, slide your finger until you hone in on the target, and then tap to shoot. If enemies are too far away, you can pinch the screen to zoom in with your sniper rifle and pick mercs off from a distance. The compelling piece is the built-in timer for each foe - when a target appears, a circular chevron appears around their head and quickly counts down until the moment they are going to fire back. In the initial levels, as you'd expect, it's rather easy to pick of the enemy one at a time. In the later stages, however, battles get extremely hectic as more and varied soldiers are thrown on the screen for you to handle, including some of the "boss" characters from the console game. When you let go of the screen, Snake ducks back behind his cover, and eventually your health meter will recharge. The only caveat to this, however, is that some enemies will hit and eventually destroy your cover, so it's a good idea to take them out as quickly as possible.
As far as the gun play goes, Konami has done a superb job of making your shots feel weighted. The sound effects combined with camera shake make the task of what is essentially a shooting gallery feel very satisfying. In fact, of the game that is present, the overall presentation is pretty good, the winner here being the sound design. The soundtrack from the PS3 version can be heard throughout, as well as the sound FX for weapons and the many enemies you run across.
That said, the swelling musical score highlights what is missing from this game - cut scenes! For a series that is known for its story and cinematic splendor (some would say too much splendor), Konami sure has shorted us by not including a single cut-scene from the original! Now I'm not saying we needed one for every level, but the iPhone obviously can play movies - why not tease us with some of the incredible cut scenes from the PS3 version at the beginning of each act? That surely would have gone much further in getting people interested in the console version than what we have here, which ends up forcing us to read abbreviated plot-points to try and puzzle out what the hell is going on from level to level. This is a huge missed opportunity, in my opinion, to draw newbies to the Metal Gear universe into the world. It sure could have gone a long way toward covering up the short-lived levels that presented the atmosphere of this world via decent yet uninspired visuals.
Take a peak at this gameplay video to see for yourself:
As of now, I can't really recommend this game unless you're a hard core Metal Gear fan and just want some Solid Snake on your device, but even then, at $7.99 it's hard to even justify that reason. Konami has promised updates and more levels in the near future, so I'll revisit my review at that time and see if the game is worth purchasing. For now, I'd say take a pass.