"You want Metal Slug 3, in the arcade or on your XBox or wherever. You probably don't want this two-for-one set. It's simple math: neither Metal Slug 4 nor 5 is half the game any of its three predecessors are. Old, two-dimensional action games on new consoles at full price had better be damn good. They had better offer something that hasn't been done in generations past, something you as a gamer need to have. The eminently epic, inimitable Slug 3 is one thing—and by that I mean it's possibly the ..."
You want Metal Slug 3, in the arcade or on your XBox or wherever. You probably don't want this two-for-one set. It's simple math: neither Metal Slug 4 nor 5 is half the game any of its three predecessors are. Old, two-dimensional action games on new consoles at full price had better be damn good. They had better offer something that hasn't been done in generations past, something you as a gamer need to have. The eminently epic, inimitable Slug 3 is one thing—and by that I mean it's possibly the best action game ever—but its two sequels are nothing special. They're good fun, but they're also pallid imitations of their distinguished brethren.
The two titles in this collection each have their own distinct style, and by that I mean they lamely rip off different games in the series. Metal Slug 4 is an anemic 'tribute' to the first Metal Slug, stealing various textures and backgrounds wholesale and recasting them in situations that would shame the original. The result is unsettling: you'll remember storming a fortified town perched atop an icy precipice, blockades with mounted guns impeding your progress and snipers firing from rooftops as you send whole buildings tumbling to the ground, but what you'll find here is a nondescript dirt path leading to aghost town with few enemies, all strewn neatly in your line of fire, half-heartedly trying to take you down. If you've played Metal Slug, these Bizarro levels will haunt you. If not, you'll probably shrug your way through most of the game.
Metal Slug 5 is an attempt to capture the unbridled wackiness of Slugs 2 and (more conspicuously) 3. In the end, it's just that: an attempt. There are jaw-dropping moments—a wild ride down a subway terminal in an insect-like contraption that clings to the wall with four spiked legs and launches giant harpoons that eviscerate the armored hunks of steel standing in its way would be a standout in any action game—but these fleeting episodes can't fuel an entire adventure. This is a game that works in erratic spurts.
These two games put all the obligatory technical details in place, but not especially well and not with any conviction. It’s the programmers’ luck, and perhaps their burden, that they were given such an awesome set of tools to work with. You still get the awesome hand-drawn animation, the beefy sound effects, the hilarious enemy infantry, the formidable challenge, and the punishing vehicles of Metal Slugs past, but you know they coded all that shit years ago, and the implementation is inexcusably worse this time around. The biggest problem with these turgid sequels is a disappointing feeling of smallness. There are just fewer explosions, fewer threats, and fewer surprises than a great, thrilling action game needs to succeed. I'm not saying I want a ridiculous romp on the order of Metal Slug 3: the first game in the series is a masterpiece because of its meticulous, morbidly funny take on modern warfare, no more, no less.
It boils down to care. SNK's original trilogy is packed to the gills with stuff that will make you squirm, giggle, and cheer in turns. Not here. There's solid action gaming to be found, but memorable events or sequences? You'd be much better be off raiding the bargain bins for a $2 copy of Contra. Metal Slug 4 and 5 are careless sequels, dashed off in only the broadest style of the series and certainly not in the spirit. Why bother?
Community review by careless_whisper (June 22, 2005)
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