In today?s gaming world of life-like animations and immense 3-D environments, offering an old school-style 2-D shooter can be risky business. However, every once in a while, one is necessary to fill the void created by the nostalgia of ?the way things used to be.? With many arcades barely surviving on the threads of Dance Dance Revolution, it is quite difficult to find a decent old school game that can quench your thirst for a good old-fashioned 2-D slaughterfest. Therefore, SNK is opening the door to allow their old style 2-D shooters on the current generation consoles, specifically in this case, the Metal Slug 4 & 5 package for the XBOX. Though this doesn?t hold the same sentimental value as playing the games on a NeoGeo game system or an old arcade machine, it is much more practical. A warning in advance to all potential buyers, make sure you can handle more than one forty-five minute run through per game, or purchasing this package will feel like a waste of $40, better saved towards the new XBOX 360 you?ve been wanting.
The storyline is extremely difficult to decipher. The games themselves don?t tell the player anything of who the characters are, who they are fighting, where they are fighting, or why they are fighting. Metal Slug 4 begins with the player fighting armies and helicopters and ends up with zombies and pirates. Metal Slug 5 also starts with armies, but it ends with tribal natives and a spirit-like boss. If you can make the connections, you are a smarter individual than I. Each game allows the player to choose from four different characters that supposedly have different roles in the plot. However, the only differences found are in appearances alone. These characters are given an array of weapons and vehicles, including machine guns, shotguns, lasers, rockets, and the enemy-slaughtering Metal Slug in many variations (tank, sub, mini-cooper, etc.), to ?complete the mission.? The ?mission? is the same on every level in every Metal Slug: kill the enemies, get to the boss, kill the boss, and leave the level. Intricate, isn?t it?
As far as 2-D games go, neither Metal Slug 4 nor 5 are very impressive in the graphics department. This is especially true in comparison to the Metal Slug games that came before them, dating all the way back to Metal Slug 1, which was released almost ten years ago. Many of the environments, enemies, and vehicles are very similar, and the visuals are very pixilated. However, on the positive side, the framerate never drags, regardless of the vast amount of explosions, bombs, missiles, and enemies on the screen. The animation can also be quite humorous. When shot, enemy soldiers don?t just fall over, but they grasp their bleeding chests and let out a scream?as they fall over. Each game also features ?character transformations.? When attacked by a zombie or mummy in Metal Slug 4, the player will transform into one himself and allows for the use of extra powers. Metal Slug 5 allows a character to turn grossly obese after consuming too much food at once. One again, this allows some ?innocent? laughter in the midst of the blood shed and sadistic cackles it produces.
The audio in the games are like those in any other Metal Slug game. Synthesized soundtracks are drowned out by weapon fire, explosions, and screams of agony. There is nothing new or creative in the games, and basically, it would be in the player?s best interest to have the mute button nearby.
In traditional arcade style, the games support offline cooperative play for two players. However, they do not expand beyond that. Though there is Xbox Live support, it doesn?t support online cooperative play. Metal Slug 5 only allows for the posting of high scores and fastest runs through the game. Though it is created to allow competition among gamers, the more casual gamer will give up on competing once he/she views the scores from some of the more hardcore Metal Slug fans. Let it also be known that the online scoreboard is ONLY available in Metal Slug 5 and NOT in Metal Slug 4. For some strange reason, Metal Slug 4 only features an online friends list.
To buy this package, one must be able to find a tremendous amount of replay value in the games. Each game lasts around forty-five minutes to an hour, and is therefore meant to be played over and over again. This coincides with the XBOX Live scoreboard feature, motivating players to become virtual gods in the one hour adventures and show off their greatness in the form of rankings. However, the replay value is just not present. After the first run through, the game becomes very repetitive and boring. Originally in the arcade versions, a gamer would have the motivation to make sure he/she played the best possible run through. The console versions, on the other hand, supports an infinite continue feature, taking any challenge that would have been present out of the games. In other words, it fails miserably.
The Metal Slug package should be purchased by the most hardcore of fans only. For the casual gamer, if nostalgia has you down, hop on down to a rental store and satisfy the urges you are feeling. Make sure the rental is only for one night, for after the first two hours of gameplay, you WILL be done with the game for good and will be ready to return to something a little more modern. If the package was cheaper and had more online features, the review might have been a little more lenient towards SNK. However, $40 is too much money to be spent on a game package that will be finished in less than two hours and will never be played again.