PlayTest: Metal Gear Solid Mobile

Editor’s Rating: The Good: Core gameplay is fun; camera phone integration; stellar graphics; makes waiting for MGS4 slightly easier. The Bad: This snack only makes you more hungry. The Bottom Line: A tech bombshell that happens to be a lot of fun too.

It’s been nearly four years since publisher Konami (KNM) established its mobile games division, re-releasing Frogger as its first title. Oh, how far things have come since. The company stopped by last week to show off its newest triple-A cell phone-based title, Metal Gear Solid Mobile. The game is the first fully 3D Metal Gear title with graphics that come mind-blowingly close to Playstation 2 quality. It’s due out towards the end of Feb. and will be exclusive to Verizon’s (VZ) on-demand download service for three months before becoming available on other carriers.

With the Metal Gear series’ reputation for in-depth, cinematic story telling and long, tense gameplay sessions, the idea of adapting the franchise to the more “snack” oriented type of gameplay available on mobile phones seems counter-intuitive. But, Kojima Productions has managed to more or less pull it off, with simpler missions that can be enjoyed on a quick subway ride that still manage to recreate the ambience and gameplay experience of console titles. A bevy of smartly designed features such as an automatic targeting lock and an optional first-person perspective make playing on a phone surprisingly enjoyable. It’s even possible to use a phone’s built-in camera (on supported models) to snap pictures of colors around you that can then act as camouflage in the game. It’s a gimmick, yes, but a fun one that nicely dovetails with the whole “mysterious secret agent with lots of gadgets” thing. The graphics, meanwhile, are impressive, especially on the demo phone I used, an LG (LGERF.PK) VX9400, which has a flip screen that creates a widescreen-like image. (See screen shots after the jump.)

Overall, Metal Gear Solid Mobile is an impressive technical feat that shows how quickly mobile titles are becoming more sophisticated. Konami took a year to develop this game. By comparison, the team behind the company’s mobile version of Contra 4 took about half the time. While it certainly won’t replace the console experience or match its depth, all in all, the end product is an impressive – and fun – new benchmark for mobile gaming. Not to mention, a welcome snack in anticipation of the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 4.

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