Metal Slug is the classic arcade run and gun that has always hung its hat on its fantastic and over the top animations. If you’ve played one Metal Slug, you’ve played them all and they’re all worth playing several times. This is the one that started them all and its a thirty minute joy ride for one or two players simultaneous. The Steam version has online multiplayer, but unless you bring along a friend, there’s no one playing.
If there is a plot to the game, I’d say an evil dictator has conquered a land and you alone must liberate it, slaughtering hundreds of soldiers along the way. There’s blood, guts, gore as you shoot enemies dead, in half or even light them on fire. Oh but its more than just troops you’ll be wrecking, its a slew of vehicles like tanks, helicopters, bulldozers, metal walls, planes and various other metal monstrosities.
The game play is a bit sluggish, but that’s the price you pay for such great animation. You can fire in four directions and crouch when shooting, but who needs that when you can just shoot enemies dead. To fire downward, you’ll need to jump and this is the formula for some of the bosses, leap and fire down. If an enemy is next to you, then you’ll knife them. Its a nice little detail. Other than your primary gun, you’ve got a limited supply of grenades. Metal Slug is a game about endurance, how long can you shoot for, because there’s no auto fire outside of specific weapons.
Along the way, you’ll rescue blonde cave men prisoners-of-war that will reward you with items worth points, extra ammunition and more importantly, weapons. There are a few weapons, but they all have a lot of impact. Flamethrowers will char soldiers. Shotguns will rip them in half. A heavy machine gun has a lot of firepower. Rockets will somewhat seek out enemies.
At least once per level, you’ll get your own Metal Slug tank that diversifies the action. In this tank you have two turrets, one replaces your bomb and can only fire to the right. The other is a standard gun that swivels depending how long you hold the direction. Its unique and can take a lot of punishment. When the tank is about to explode it warns you to jump out or you’ll die.
Oh but even if a tank doesn’t get you, the enemy bullets will. They come in from all directions and while the first level is easy enough, the challenge ramps up accordingly. Soldiers will parachute in, jump in from water, run in to knife you.
This version of Metal Slug brings a modernization of achievements, video options and controls for keyboard or the 360 controller. I have a feeling that this is emulation rather than a true PC port, because the game will slow down just like the real Neo Geo version when appropriate.
While the game is tough, freeplay makes it forgiving and if you’re looking for a challenge, there are four levels of difficulty. For anyone looking to have their name in fame, you’ll find an online leader board.
So if you’ve played one Metal Slug, you’ve played them all, what makes this one different? This one is a straight up army action game before the series went too far over the top fighting snowmen, turning into zombies spitting blood and being frozen into a snowman. It also has one protagonist even if they all seem to play the same.
Other than that, there’s just different level design. Later Metal Slugs let you chose different paths while this one puts you on a straight path headed for the boss. You’ll trudge through city streets and see people running for their lives. Packs of dogs will run by. You’ll crush parked cars in your tank. One level has you climbing an ice mountain. A building will collapse on you and you’ll crawl out. Another level has you battling next to a cliff with tanks rolling over the edge to try and crush you.
I’ve mentioned the amazing animation, but the graphics in general are stellar. They have their own style that makes the game stand out from others in the genre. Its a blend of quirky, cartoon and realism. Its such a good style that the other Metal Slug games kept the graphics. The music and sound effects also do a lot to add to an already incredible game.
While there are better Metal Slugs out there, even the worst of the series is still far better than most games out there. Its worth playing for the first time or the one hundredth.