SNK Playmore’s long running Metal Slug series is their other hot property besides their plethora of fighting games. The Metal Slug series has always relied on clever level design, two player support and its original sense of humor to distinguish itself from other games. The two year old Metal Slug 4 is no exception to the rule. On the other hand up until this point the Metal Slug series has gone though a gentle evolution game after game. Instead of making any changes Metal Slug 4 feels more like a watered down version of its older brother, Metal Slug 3.
Metal Slug 4 plays just like the other games in the series. You chose from one of four characters, who’s only difference is their sprite. Once you select a character you’ll be ready to blast everything in your path. Every character from Fio to Trevor starts out with a standard handgun that can shoot oncoming troops in eight directions. Besides your gun and unlimited supply of bullets your character has ten hand grenades to use every life. These grenades can be used to crush groups of troops, take tanks down and destroy large buildings. You can also pick up power ups to replace your standard weapon. Power ups include the classic heavy machine gun, flame chop heavy artillery gun and the rocket launcher. New power ups allow you to wield two heavy machine guns at the same time or shoot iron lizards that move horizontal along the ground.
Even with the new guns Metal Slug 4 wouldn’t be a Metal Slug game with out slugs. Slugs are vehicles that your character can jump in and pilot. Some of the vehicles are from the past games like the tank and the gundam like walkmachine. One of the newer slugs allows you to pilot a giant rocket launcher. The huge tank can shoot a rapid stream of blue blasts or you can lower the missile launcher lower and shoot a devastating missile. Riding in a vehicle, like the rocket launcher, often changes your basic attack into a faster and more powerful bullets. Another bonus is that, slugs in the game are your only refuge from the massive amounts of enemy fire. Unlike your character, they have a small life bar and can withstand more than one hit. After receiving too many hits the slug will flash and you’ll have the opportunity to jump out of it. Instead of just jumping out of the tank you can perform the Metal Slug attack, where you send the exploding tank hurdling to a group of unsuspecting enemy troops.
Metal Slug 4 takes you through five different stages. The first and second stages throw you into a giant war zone. The third stage is where things get a little different and you’re battling in a winter wonderland. All of the levels have tons of enemies to blast, but more often than not your character can’t progress forward until you shoot all of the enemies on screen. In each stage you’ll have the opportunity to take alternate paths. One of the fun parts of the Metal Slug series is finding all of the paths and hidden items within a stage. It may disappoint fans of the series that Metal Slug 4 doesn’t have as many alternate paths as number 3. The level design isn’t as great as the other games either. The main problem is that the levels don’t offer anything besides your standard running and gunning. Every once in awhile you’ll do a bit of jumping, to move up a mountain or to cross a chiasm. The levels don’t feature any puzzles or any other challenges except for dodging all of the bullets on screen.
Most of the difficulty in the game stems from the game’s larger than life bosses. The first boss is a huge cannon turret that fires at different angles. The turret is layered in such a way that you can destroy it piece by piece. At the top of the turret is a commando with a huge chain gun and the ability to make the screen rain with bombs. Dodging all of these bombs will returning fire is a great challenge, if you don’t take advantage of the infinite continues the game offers. After the huge boss monsters Metal Slug 4′s main challenge is to rack up the highest score possible. You get points by shooting enemies, saving prisoners, collecting items and from the new combo system. Excellent players will be able to pick up the combo power up and use it to maximize their points. The more they shoot the more medals they get and a larger point bonus at the end of the stage.
While the graphics in Metal Slug 4 are colorful and bright, they do look dated. Metal Slug 4 is two years old and the level of animation in the game and the lack pixilated sprites show this. Some of the graphics are also reused from previous Metal Slug games, which makes it look even older in comparison. The biggest graphics problem isn’t the quality, but the slowdown. SNK Playmore designed the game so the green capped enemy troops are constantly firing bullets, throwing grenades and running towards you. All of this on screen action doesn’t handle too well on the PS2 and the game can go into a painful spell of slowdown. The slowdown wouldn’t be too much a problem if it was rare, like in the arcade. However, the PS2 version suffers from almost constant slowdown and at the worse times, during boss battles. What is strange, is that the slowdown in Metal Slug 4 is somehow worse than the third game. You would imagine that SNK Playmore would clean up the game, but they didn’t.
Metal Slug games have always been best with another person. This game is no exception. Even though the two player mode is fun it isn’t enough to make players come back for more. Metal Slug 4 doesn’t have any extra levels and few paths to complete, beyond the initial game. Having only five stages, makes the game feel even shorter than it is. Metal Slug 4 is designed for people who love the series. If you loved the arcade game you may want to pick this up to save your quarters. Otherwise, there isn’t anything special about this title to deserve a recommendation.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1
All of the important menus and game audio is in English, so importers should not have a hard time playing the game.
Actually gamers in the US get a better deal because they’re going to get Metal Slug 4 and 5 in one package.
+ Pros: Same old Metal Slug goodness for five levels.
- Cons: A sub-par port of a mediocre game.
Overall: Only get this game if you love the Metal Slug series because the two game Metal Slug 4+5 pack will be released in America very soon.
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