Metal Slug 4 & 5 Review

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Graphics: 7.0
Sound : 7.0
Gameplay : 8.0
Multiplayer : 8.0
Overall : 7.4
Review by Andy Levine
The smash arcade hits Metal Slug 4 and 5 have made it to the PS2 with their nonstop action, massive explosions and, above all, their furious button mashing. While these two games are identical to their dated arcade counterparts, this isn’t necessarily a problem. Whether you are looking to beat your personal high score or blow the living snot out of everything that crosses your path with a friend, the Metal Slug 4 & 5 package can be enjoyed by anyone looking for a dose of senseless violence.

The Metal Slug arcade series is well known for its intense gameplay that’s more than likely to leave you sweating. The Metal Slug 4 & 5 PS2 collection lives up to that reputation in this sense. Right from the start you will be pounded with rockets, lasers, and a vast array of other damage-inflicting projectiles. In Metal Slug 4, you start off by selecting one of four characters, each with their own distinctive look but no special attributes. The action is instantaneous; instead of having to wait through a cinematic to witness the storyline, you can jump right in to the side-scrolling battlefield. As you begin your seemingly endless journey to the right side of the screen, you will come across all sorts of enemies, from mercenaries to zombies, and even island natives. No two levels are the same, so you can expect to see lots of variety in enemies and the techniques they use to try and stop you.

As your adventure progresses, you will come across hostages, and if you manage to free them from the clutches of evil they will reward you handsomely. You can receive special weapon upgrades, such as heavy machine guns, rocket launchers, and flamethrowers—to name but a few—though all of these pickups have limited amounts of ammunition. While it is fun to occasionally embark on psychotic rampages and fire rapidly for about a minute straight, the wiser Metal Slug player will get the job done without wasting their precious ammo supply.

Essentially, Metal Slug inspires two types of game players: the experienced, conservative players, and the newbie psycho players. Experienced players will manage to dodge incoming fire, and even destroy incoming rockets without suffering a scratch, while the lesser-experienced gamers will probably not enjoy having to put in a fresh quarter after every death. The bosses at the end of each stage are extremely powerful and are capable of performing one-hit-kills, so you better be on your guard when you come face-to-face with one. Generally speaking, any type of gamer will have fun with this package, but only those who are already interested in the series will be able to appreciate its replay value.

Though technically two different games Metal Slug 4 & 5 are very similar in most respects. In both, you start off with four characters, though they vary slightly between the two versions. In Metal Slug 4, there is one instance where you scroll across the screen on a motorcycle and blast helicopters, cars, and mercenaries. In Metal Slug 5, you will find many more incidents such as these, and even a whole mess of new slugs. A ‘slug’ is the term used for a vehicle that can be controlled by the user, and when used correctly they can be very helpful. The slugs can jump higher, move faster, and blow stuff up a whole lot easier. When it gets to the point where there are a battalion of tanks and a squadron of helicopters on the screen, one puny laser gun simply won’t do, but the heavy rocket artillery of a slug should be sufficient.

As far as gameplay is concerned, Metal Slug 4 focuses much more on arbitrarily moving across the screen and killing enemies; and, while the levels unfold through different environments, they all generally have the same feel. Whether the ground beneath you is dirt or snow, killing something with either your laser or melee attack still feels the same. However, in Metal Slug 5 the environments seem to play a greater role in your progression. This version feels more like a platformer where you are actively able to interact with the environments by jumping across bottomless pits, or avoiding environmental hazards—such as collapsing ceilings in an ancient tomb.

Straightforward blasting and environmental interaction aside, though, it’s unfortunate that both versions in the package suffer from some problems. Because there is no analog support, it is extremely difficult to aim your weapon towards the most diagonal areas of the screen. It is possible to achieve this via the directional pad, but by the time you manage to aim correctly your target will most likely have moved out of the line of fire. Looking at this collection overall, it doesn’t offer anything original in terms of gameplay. If you are looking for something to blow your evolutionary socks off, then sadly, this is not the game for you. However, if you are fan of the Metal Slug arcade game, and can’t afford to have one in your home, then this is the perfect substitute.

Visually speaking, this Metal Slug package manages to maintain its retro arcade look. The graphics are pixilated and the flashing ‘Press Start’ prompt helps to invoke those nostalgic arcade memories—which is essentially why the package was created. Nothing on show here has changed from the arcade iteration, so the character models are simple and come complete with a few cheesy animations. Every enemy has the same death animation, though these usually go unnoticed beneath all the chaotic explosions. The environments are also outdated, and even the interactive objects have different phases that they go through when under attack. It would’ve been a plus to have seen some visual enhancements made, while still being able to maintain an arcade feel but, that said, the current graphics are in no way horrendous. Some may argue that the graphics are poorly realized to better make Metal Slug 4 & 5 truly authentic in the retro department. It’s a good point: surely making the resolution sharper and the explosions more powerful wouldn’t have hurt the overall feel.

Similar to the visual dilemma, the sound in Metal Slug 4 & 5 comes directly from the arcade as well. Everything from the rolling of a tank to the voice of the announcer sounds somewhat muffled and static-laced in its delivery. The background music is not especially noticeable, either, but every now and then a simple fast-paced techno beat will encourage you to mash the buttons faster. If the sounds had been reproduced to remove all of the apparent static and make an overall higher quality audio performance, there wouldn’t have been too much of a problem. However, the same ‘authentic’ poor quality sounds were used, which really detracts from the thrill of the action.

Even though there isn’t online multiplayer support, the two-player mode is still a lot of fun. At any given time a friend can join in on the action and help you mindlessly fire all over the screen. Working together, you can cover both sides of the screen in a frenzy of crossfire. Neither of the Metal Slug titles is painstakingly long, and singularly they can usually be completed in under an hour; so going through the missions with a friend makes both games more enjoyable and substantially increases their longevity. This collection thrives on its ability to be played over and over, and while there are no bonus features included when playing with a friend, it still makes the game(s) a lot better on the whole.

In conclusion, the Metal Slug 4 & 5 collection will easily find its way into the hearts of series fans. Whether you enjoy games for their fast-paced action, variety of weapons, or the ability to work cooperatively with a friend, even casual gamers new to the Metal Slug scene will find fun here. While you shouldn’t expect anything revolutionary or jaw dropping—especially in terms of gameplay—the Metal Slug 4 & 5 collection is still deserving of praise for the intensely satisfying action on offer from its very beginning all the way to its final boss battle.