Metal Slug 4 (Arcade) review
"Lots of words come to mind when I think about SNK's Metal Slug games, and one of the very last is “competent”. Riding an elephant, turning into a zombie—I didn't love this shit because of how well it complemented the gameplay. I loved it because it was fucking insane. An elephant eating chili and incinerating the enemy army with his breath would be the highlight of any other game, but in just one level of Metal Slug 3 it's a distant second to seeing your undead hero melt the flesh off their bone..."
Lots of words come to mind when I think about SNK's Metal Slug games, and one of the very last is “competent”. Riding an elephant, turning into a zombie--I didn't love this shit because of how well it complemented the gameplay. I loved it because it was fucking insane. An elephant eating chili and incinerating the enemy army with his breath would be the highlight of any other game, but in just one level of Metal Slug 3 it's a distant second to seeing your undead hero melt the flesh off their bones with a stream of bloody vomit.
The nicest thing I can say about Metal Slug 4 is that it's, well, competent. It's challanging without being unforgiving, it's balanced well enough to not be a quarter muncher, but honestly, who fucking cares? None of that's what this series is about. Metal Slug games are amusement parks, each one packed with so many new rides and thrills that by the third one SNK had to put in alternate paths and an hour-long final mission just to cram it all in. Metal Slug 4: The Contra Clone is irrelevant--how's Metal Slug 4: The Circus Experience?
Not good, it pains me to say. Anybody who thought this would top number three after SNK's messy bankruptcy was deluding themselves, but Metal Slug 4 misses the point so entirely that it's a huge letdown even if your expectations aren't exactly through the roof. There are no surprises, no thrills, and the only quirks will be familiar to even the most casual fan. Even at their best, its six soulless stages are Frankenstein's monsters of sights you've already seen and jokes you've already heard. In a series that prides itself on novelty, it's a game you've already played.
Evil General Morden's finest drop their smug victory looks and scream when you pop in another quarter and come back to life, huh? It's great attention to detail, but when it's the coolest thing going for the fourth game to have it, something is wrong. Raging hulk Sgt. Allen makes yet another appearance, spraying machinegun fire and mocking you by yelling “go home to mommy”... just like he did in all the other games. Except this time, he's secretly a robot. Fantastic.
The most infamous, most perfect example is that part of one level is quite literally stolen from the original Metal Slug, pixel for pixel. The analogy writes itself: the developers took a snapshot of the series' former glory and just slapped it into their creation, no, their production. Envy those who can enjoy this, since anybody with a single cynical bone in their body couldn't possibly feel anything but ennui.
Metal Slug 4 is so stuck in its predecessors' shadows that I don't even understand why Playmore bothered, and I don't mean that in the usual condescending bash review way. I fear for the sanity of anybody who thought that arcade operators would snatch up Metal Slug 4 cabinets in volume, expecting people to drop quarters into a sloppy imitation when the real thing is sitting there on attract mode three feet away. At a certain point, you just have to write off your sunk costs and start over.
I won't give dev team Mega the dignity of calling their game bad, because you'd have to try to end up with a bad Metal Slug game. Beyond the insanity that every amateur reviewer on the internet harps on and on about, the core mechanics were always solid, and it would take more thought and effort than Mega could muster (however misguided it might have been) to change that. Don't believe the hype: Metal Slug 4 is not a bad game.
It's competent, and when it comes to the typically fresh, exciting, and surprising Metal Slug series, I can't think of a more damning word.
Community review by mardraum (July 15, 2009)
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