We’ll admit that Metal Gear Solid Touch had us fooled at first. We liked the game’s authentic look and feel, and we were excited to peer over Old Snake’s shoulder and gun down his adversaries from Metal Gear Solid 4. But the more we played MGS Touch, the more let down we felt. Despite Konami’s best efforts, this short, unsatisfying game has none of the magic of the Metal Gear series, and would best be left out of the canon.
Metal Gear Solid Touch runs through some of the big set-piece battles from the first half or so of Metal Gear Solid 4. The console game’s fantastically intricate story and stellar cutscenes–two of the MGS4’s main selling points for aficionados of the series–are glossed over with quick text summaries before each of the game’s 12 missions.
Given the iPhone’s multimedia prowess, we didn’t think it unreasonable to expect some short video cutscenes from MGS Touch, but it didn’t happen. Nor does the game offer any new revelations to fill in gaps in the canon, or augment Metal Gear’s story arc. It’s a rehash, and the plot makes even less sense in this Cliff’s Notes abridged version than it did with full cutscenes and voice acting.
You’ll probably want to skip right through this stuff to get to the shooting, which isn’t bad. Snake has two main guns: an assault rifle for short- to mid-range shooting, and a sniper rifle for long-range targets. You switch between the two by pinching the screen, and it works well. However, unlike many other shooting gallery games, you must physically move your crosshairs around with your finger, instead of just tapping on your target. This adds a little more skill to the enterprise in general.
On the other hand, there’s no need to reload, and taking cover from enemy fire is easy–just take your finger off the screen, and Snake will lie low to avoid getting hit and gradually replenish health. Certain baddies can knock down your cover and leave you exposed, so you have to kill them fast. Occasionally, a little yellow rubber ducky appears to grant you a health refill when shot; there’s also a green froggy that gives you a one-shot rocket launcher, or a stealth suit for temporary invincibility.
MGS Touch has about a half-dozen types of enemies, not including the two big boss fights, as well as friendly militia that you’re supposed to avoid shooting. There are basic soldiers that are easy to dispatch with a headshot, as well as armored mercs, gigantic GEKKO units, attack choppers, and more. Every enemy has a circular “action meter” that fills up as they get ready to shoot at you; the best defense is a good offense, so it’s best to cap them early.
Timing and cover become much more important later in the game, as more enemies appear on-screen at once and they get tougher to kill. However, the fact remains that this is a short game, and it’s not hard to play right through it in a sitting. We were done in an hour, more or less for good. Yes, the game unlocks a “survival” mode where you don’t heal between missions, and yes, you can keep playing to earn “Drebin Points” to spend on wallpapers or better your score, but we didn’t care to.
At least Metal Gear Solid Touch looks good. The war-torn backgrounds are taken right out of the console game, and the graphics are very detailed, if a bit stiff-looking–there’s not much animation, so the game has a whiff of Whack-a-Mole to it. The sound effects and music are good too, although we really missed that voice acting.
Metal Gear Solid Touch isn’t exactly a cheap cash-in. It’s a high-quality game, and we enjoyed playing it for a short while. But were we happy paying $8 for it? Absolutely not, wallpapers or no. We also wonder who, exactly, this game was built for. It has little to do with Metal Gear gameplay-wise (where’s the sneaking?) and offers no new plot material, so Metal Gear fans are unlikely to appreciate it; but at the same time, it’s got enough of the series’ story and setting to confuse the hell out of casual players who know nothing about Metal Gear. Our recommendation is simply to hold off until the game gets more content.