Metal Slug 4/5

Review

posted 9/22/2005 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: Xbox

In its four years of life the Xbox has managed to release solid games in just about every category you could want, from first person shooters to racing games to sports titles.  But when it comes to 2D shooters the Xbox comes up lacking with only a handful of these games.  If you’re the type of Xbox gamer who loves games like Contra and Gunstar Heroes, then chances are you’ve felt a little left out this generation.  Thankfully SNK has stepped in and ported one of their biggest franchises, Metal Slug.

If this sounds familiar it might be because it hasn’t been that long since I reviewed SNK’s port of Metal Slug 3.  This time we’re given the opportunity to relive 2002’s Metal Slug 4 as well as last year’s edition, Metal Slug 5.  For the most part the games are exactly like the other Metal Slug games, the only thing that sets these apart is the fact that neither of them had been released on a console outside of the Neo*Geo.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Metal Slug series, it’s a very traditional 2D shooter in the same vein as Contra, Midnight Resistance, Alien Hominid, and other games of their ilk.  You control a soldier of your choosing who runs from the left side of the screen to the right shooting at soldiers, zombies, and anything else that gets in the way.  The game doesn’t stray too far from the tried and true game play of the 2D shooter, you can shoot left, right, up, and down (no diagonals), throw grenades, and pick up all kinds of weapons that will help you take down everybody from the smallest attacker all the way up to the biggest boss.

More so than anything else, Metal Slug is best known for its highly detailed graphics and animation.  With thing generation’s heavy tilt towards 3D polygons, it’s a welcome change when you see how detailed the graphics in Metal Slug 4 and 5 really are.  It’s as if every inch of the Metal Slug world has been hand drawn, often with small details that you have to pay close attention to catch.  Each of the worlds – which include cities, underwater, ice-covered mountains, the desert, etc. –  offer their own cool touches, often leading to more than a few chuckles as you play through what could be the funniest 2D shooter not named Earthworm Jim.

The animation is equally good, often to the point where it’s more fun to watch what your enemies are doing.  Unlike a lot of these types of games, Metal Slug has always had a personality, making it feel more like watching a cartoon than anything.  The game is never content with just letting the enemies stand around; they are constantly doing something which adds a lot of life to this 2D experience.  The brilliant animation only gets better as you progress through each title; both find a way of adding new characters with all kinds of funny animations. As cool as the animation is in the 3D games we’re so used to playing these days, there’s something about the style and look of the animation in these 2D games that just brings a smile to my face.

As you would expect from a 2D shooter, Metal Slug 4 and 5 come equipped with all kinds of cool weapons.  Although you start with nothing more than a standard pistol, you will quickly find new weapons, such as rocket launchers, lasers, and other punishing weapons.  Metal Slug 4 and 5 do manage to offer a couple new weapons, but ultimately they are really just more of the same.  There’s a nice variety to these two Metal Slug games, but it’s hard not to want something new and revolutionary after five attempts.

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