The nostalgia associated with the Metal Slug franchise is unmistakable. From the bearded POWs that dole out upgrades to the trademark ‘GO!’ command that pops up on the side of the screen, the signifiers of the franchise have become an essential part of our gaming language.
But, as game development has continued to evolve, Metal Slug’s place in the lexicon has diminished. The 2D side scrolling shooter is not what it once was, despite gamers’ general fondness for the entire Metal Slug franchise.
First released in the Japanese arcades back in 2000, Metal Slug 3 is by no means that nostalgia-fueled experience we once knew. Rather it’s what would happen if Metal Slug decided to throw any semblance of realism or logic out the window. It’s Metal Slug on steroids, and it’s pretty great.
The key components of Metal Slug are all well-preserved in Metal Slug 3; SNK Playmore has by no means reinvented the wheel here. Players progress through a series of five missions dispatching numerous and varied foes. Along the way they will pick up different types of weapons, from rocket launchers to flame throwers, but the basic pistol will be their best friend. Some enemies will appear above, some below, and it’s up to players to dodge all manner of incoming ordinance. Just one bullet can be deadly, so it’s important to be quick and accurate.
Vehicles once again factor into the experience, presenting opportunities for players to make quick work of hordes of enemies. The basic tank vehicle is an old favorite and is back for Metal Slug 3, but this sequel also adds an underwater sub and at least two aerial vehicles for some added variety. While in these vehicles players are still firing bullets/rockets at a rapid pace and dodging incoming fire, but the excitement level jumps through the roof.
Trust us when we say Metal Slug 3 is all about variety. Level design hasn’t always been a standout quality for the series, but this third entry is wildly creative and full of detail. During the span of the campaign, players will fight everything from zombies to aliens, in levels that take to all manner of wonderfully designed locales. Enemy types are also well designed and creative, extending beyond the generic soldier archetype. We don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that the game really goes for it when it comes to enemy design, especially with the bosses. For a game whose framework is pretty familiar, Metal Slug 3 finds plenty of creative ways to make this sequel feel original. Basically, they take the gloves off and let the absurd ideas fly.
Although there are only five playable missions, in either arcade mode or online mode, each one has at least one divergent path. Meaning that players can go back through a mission and see environments and enemies that they never saw the first time. Some new paths even have their own enemies and vehicles to play around with.
Even then, the replayability in Metal Slug 3 is fairly low. There’s co-op for those who want to jump back in with a friend, but once players have seen all five missions and their divergent paths, there isn’t much incentive to go back. In total, players should only get a few hours of entertainment out of the sequel, which is fine for a $20 downloadable title, but still worth pointing out.
Gameplay-wise, Metal Slug 3 has a few frame rate hiccups, especially when the screen is overloaded with enemies. For a 15-year old game ported over to current-gen, that’s something players should not expect to see, but it may be a game-specific issue. The frame rate drops are nothing too bothersome, though, because the game is plenty chaotic even when it’s running fine. This is a game where players are going to die a lot, so it’s best to just except the experience and run with it. Luckily, players have an unlimited number of continues at their fingertips and they can see all the game has to offer regardless of how often they die. Those who do want to go through the levels perfect, however, will face a steep challenge, but no doubt a fun one.
Metal Slug 3 is like the series’ black sheep, but we mean that has a compliment. Its no holds barred approach to the familiar side scrolling shooter combat helps it stand out from the pack, and keep players engaged from beginning to end. The game is a little less meaty than some players may expect and it does have some odd frame rate issues on current-gen, but those don’t diminish its fun factor. Get together with a buddy and enjoy this wild ride.
Metal Slug 3 is available now for PS4. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.