Metal Slug 3 blazes its way onto the XBox with run and gun side-scrolling action against soldiers, aliens and zombies. New to the series are multiple paths, new weapons and character transformations. Returning from previous games is about everything. The same great art style and incredible animation, the same sprites, play style, vehicles, but just more of everything. They add more rather than taking away and starting fresh.
As a series, Metal Slug has always been challenging, slow, quirky and funny. Such as you can be turned into a zombie or you get a helper monkey with a gun. Its slower than Contra and can be more challenging than fun.
With this third game, there is a larger focus on replay value because rather than straight forward linear levels, there are now multiple paths. Each different path in a level still leads you to the same path, but they offer a variety of different situations. One path can lead you diving under water and fighting eels, while the other path takes you through a jungle. Some paths will lead you through a yeti cave only to hit a dead end and you need to trek back out the same way you came in.
The quirkiness and over-the-top feel of the previous game is accentuated more. In the first level rather than fighting typical soldiers, you’re battling giant crabs and giant insects. In the next level you’re facing zombies before discovering aliens. Its this surprise and fun element that makes new entry to the series interesting.
Going through Metal Slug will transform your character for various reasons. You can now get turned into a zombie which moves you slow, but to replace your grenades, you now get a violent blood vomit that fires across the screen to cover everything.
Like its predecessor, you can chose between four characters at the start and select a different one at a game over. These characters all play the same so you’re just choosing who you like more.
All games in the series offer three way shooting, four if you jump in the air. All characters start with a pistol and a limited amount of grenades. Attacking a close enemy will knife them which is helpful for when there are swarms next to you. The pistol never runs out of ammunition, but the catch is you need to keep pushing the attack button for every bullet.
There are several weapons to find, each one has a limited amount of ammunition, but you can always find more. These weapons are incredible and have a power to them. Shotguns rip enemies in half. Flame throwers engulf enemies in a painful red blaze. Rockets shift in the air toward enemies. I never found any new weapons in the game, but with all the different paths, there might be something that I just never discovered.
Instead, there are a slew of new vehicles along with the old tank, jet, camel and mech. New to the franchise are a driller mech with a slow rocket jump, a submarine, the Elephant Slug which is just an elephant with a turret mounted to it. I’ll leave some of the others as a surprise. Each vehicle plays different and far different than your character. Its a nice chance of pace and offers the ability to take some damage to make up for limited mobility.
Bosses are just as big and crazy as ever. The first boss is a giant mega crab decked out with guns destroy a pier your fighting on. Giant alien bosses hover over you while dropping obelisks. There’s more a variety than ever before. Old bosses do make returns, but with a twist, such as fighting one boss while flying when in the previous game you were on foot.
When you’re on foot, one hit means death. Losing all your lives will send you back to the start of the level. This adds a lot of challenge to a tough game, because there could have been a freeplay option that lets you continue where you die.
Outside of the standard arcade mode, there are two extra modes with this console version. The first is Fat Island where two players compete as fat soldiers to see who can eat the most food before time expires.
The other mode is Storming the UFO Mothership where you can select one of three types of enemy soldiers: shield, bazooka or grenade. With that soldier you need to storm the alien mother ship with a single life. To make up for the single life, you do get reinforcements from your comrades. Both modes add a lot of silly fun and extra value to an already great game.
Metal Slug 3 like others in the series is well worth anyone’s time to play. The XBox version offers plenty of challenge, replay value, fun and frills more than the previous games.