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Score: 7.5 / 10
I still hate it; they took
the platformers away,
robbed my Contra heroes
of their bitter destinies;
survival in a world ruled by
aliens and robots; everything destroyed… - From Seth “Fingers” Flynn
Barkan’s poem "3D”
If ever there were a current game that could be slapped with the “old
school” label, it would be Metal Slug 3 (MS3). Out for almost four years
in the arcades, it’s strictly a 2D affair with some gorgeous hand-drawn
production values, intense action, power-ups, and a two-player feature
that is really only missing one thing: somewhere to put the quarters.
The story – as explained in the manual because there’s really nothing in
the game to indicate there is a story – has General Morden returning
with an eye to
conquering the globe. In this case, we
don’t need a story – as a series, Metal Slug has always been about
action. The action unfolds across five levels, each one more intense and
manic than the one before.
From when you hit the beach and blast your first mutated crab in Arcade
mode to the final curtain, MS3 never let’s up. You’re always moving,
dodging, shooting and cursing -- MS3 is no cakewalk (not
a long shot). Even playing with a buddy doesn’t do much to make MS3 an
“easy” game. This is consistent with the Metal Slug series and other 2D
sidescrolling classics, like Contra for the NES. It can be frustrating
at times, to die again and again in the same area and it doesn’t help
that when you continue (in single-player mode) you have to start fresh
from the beginning of the level. Blunting this issue (a little) is the
fact you can take multiple paths to the completion of a level so if you
are getting slaughtered in one part you can try taking another path.
Your default weapon is the standard pistol with unlimited ammo (and a
few grenades). If you want to survive though, there are many different
power-ups available, like the machine gun or super grenade. At times
you’ll also be able to leap into vehicles such as the titular Metal Slug
(tank) or the mini-sub (which gave me another flashback, this time to
Jaws for the NES). In some sections there’s so much ordinance flying –
yours and the enemy’s – your only chance at survival is being in a
vehicle (so you can absorb a few hits because there’s no way you can
dodge that many bullets).
The design of the levels meets the creative Metal Slug requirements –
lush vegetation, bubbling underwater environments, a zombie-infested
mountain pass, etc. and each remains consistent to a theme. Attention to
detail abounds and elements you might think could go without being
animated get the full work-up.
Sound remains practically unchanged from previous Metal Slug games. This
adds to the charm as an “old school” title but may annoy those seeking
an entirely new and revamped Metal Gear experience.
For those that harp on replayability, Metal Slug 3 could be rated as
low. However, with Live leaderboard stats and a couple of bonus missions
(not to mention the level of difficulty) does quite a bit to extend the
replay factor. Besides, MG3’s arcade nature makes it a title that can be
kept in rotation quite easily because it doesn’t take a huge time
commitment – just pick-up, play and enjoy.
But the downsides may be too much for some Xbox owners to bear. First,
MS3 has been in the arcade for about four years. However optimized it is
(no slow down!) is it worth the $40US price tag, with a minimum of
additions? Only you can really answer that one. Definitely a rental.