Metal Slug 3Metal Slug is a series that gained popularity on SNK’s Neo Geo, where it became known as a hard as nails side scrolling shooter that only the elite can even hope to get through relatively unscathed. While the Neo Geo may have faded away this series hasn’t and so the PS2 is home to the third instalment of the run and gun so hard it has brought burly men to tears.
The game has a certain goofy charm about its visuals. There is an air of exaggeration with the designs with the intention of making it look silly and it works a treat. There’s just something about green garbed soldiers running around with flailing limbs and screams you can clearly see. Characters scramble around, zombies stumble forward and creatures pounce on victims. It melds together to form a sight that shows the light-hearted approach they have taken with the designs.
This is complimented by the wonder design ideas that have gone into it. The playable characters themselves have such fanciful outfits somewhat resembling military style without being actual identikit army garb. Enemies possess their charms too, like the typical green army men or the killer plants that try to swallow you whole ala Little Shop of Horrors. The environments themselves take you to many locations like storming a base, fighting it out in the desert or navigating the deep waters.
By contrast the audio, while not ear bleeding bad, doesn't manage to leave quite the same impression the visual touches do. The music selection hum along in the background and are quite suitable to the settings provided but nothing among them stand out enough to be all that memorable and the various sound effects tend to sit in the middle. You get a few neat ideas like soldiers screaming but the literal quality seems a bit off.
As an arcade style experience you can't really expect ground breaking plots here, so we get a general story about aliens coming to invade and soldiers fighting them off. I have to give the game plus points for managing to give the delivery a strong showing, including some interesting reveals as the story progresses - handled in an understated fashion often as gameplay plays out, good just as long as you like basic.
So the game is a side scrolling platform/shooter where you basically shoot everything in sight while trying to survive. You have a pistol as a default weapon that is weak but has infinite ammo so you’re not left defenceless. During play some things may drop a weapon you can pick up. Sadly it’s not possible to “conserve” one of these weapons which is an option I would have liked, as launching heat seeking missiles against grunt footsoldiers seems such a waste when there is that huge behemoth of a monster around the corner.
Speaking of the weapons though there is a nice healthy selection for players to find and use. Missile launchers, rapid fire machine guns and shotguns are some examples of the kinds of guns you can get your hands on. This is complimented by a stash of grenades that are limited in use but can be used anytime and lobbed onto enemy heads. The game does a good job in providing a solid flow of weapons as needed. I do have a slight issue with aiming, where it’s mostly impossible to aim on a diagonal (rapid fire weapons can spray along it but can’t fix the direction of fire there). Important in a game so heavily focused on arms combat.
As well as handheld arms you can also find a variety of vehicles to jump and in use, such as a tank or a submarine. These serve to provide more powerful means of tackling certain sections and can be fun to drive/pilot around. Players benefit from an actual health gauge while in vehicles too as opposed to the usual one hit kill but once destroyed the vehicles will be gone even if you have to revive, leaving you to tackle those sections the standard way itself. These sections help to break up the normal run and gun and can therefore prove very interesting.
A few powerups litter the levels, especially from any hostages you rescue (don’t worry, you can’t accidentally kill them). These add a nice extra layer to the item system with things such as one that makes your character fat, which serves as a shield allowing an extra hit. Other status effects can also occur, like some enemies can turn you into a zombie that moves much more slowly.
The levels take us to various locations and present their own challenges like getting past obstacles and leaping around various platforms. Typically these elements must play second fiddle to the gun based action of the game but I do like the effort they have taken to craft environments that are fun to blast your way through.
One very interesting trait about the stages is that they split off at various points and can lead to completely different areas. In the first level you can jump in a submarine to go underwater or carry on along the level above ground, just to serve as an example. This helps extend the lifespan of the game as it’s not possible to see everything the game has to offer on a single playthrough.
Metal Slug 3 is hard though. Don’t harbour any delusions of blitzing through everything early on without losing one life after another. Part of this is indeed the sheer amount thrown at you. Enemies tend to lack intelligence for the most part, only showing some tricks a few times like enemies firing rockets at you from a lower area. So instead they make up for it by recklessly charging at you in notable numbers and clearing a path through that can be great. This is built upon by the game’s one hit kill setup, making every successful dodge vital. It can get somewhat overwhelming, especially to gamers not used to this kind of thing. Fortunately, the game does offer infinite continues to use up so you can eventually complete the game, even if only through brute force of perseverance.
The variety in the enemy forces can be cool too. In additions to the regular grunts you can find the likes of zombies, mummies, aliens, tanks, helicopters and ships all gunning for your demise. The bosses naturally take these to overkill with giant robots, gunships and the like producing some deadly attacks to squash you. In keeping with the challenge these bosses tend to take a lot of punishment before going down while requiring players to detect and respond to attack patterns.
As well as the main game, which can be played solo or with a friend for crazy co-op gunplay, the game also comes with a few minigames to waste more time with, such as storming the mothership as a grunt or trying to stuff your face with as much food as possible. While lacking the substance of the main game these add some longetivity to proceedings. Despite this though, the game is definitely the kind of thing you would play now and again alongside bigger projects as it generally lacks the length and depth to play for particularly long periods of time.
It’s straightforward gun happy fun that lets you unleash your wraith on a variety of foes. The main drawback is the game can be brutal even on the easiest settings, but with infinite continues and solid ideas Metal Slug 3 can be quite a lot of fun.