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November 17 2017

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  Metal Slug 4 - ©Mega Enterprises/Playmore 2002 (Page 2)

Sound

While the production values for the most part don't seem to be all that high in Metal Slug 4, there is one area that truly stands out: the soundtrack. The sound effects may all be standard Metal Slug fare (in other words, pretty good) and there isn't much new material, but the music has been composed by Noise Factory's Studio Aqua. For anyone familiar with their work, I don't really need to say any more. They work includes games like Sengoku 3, Rage of the Dragons and more, and their music has always been exemplary... Metal Slug 4 is no different.

Most of the music tracks on offer here are quite different to what we are used to on the Slug games, but I do think they are very good and definitely suited to the fast paced on screen action. A few seem to borrow from movies a little bit actually; Stage 1 kicks off with what is best described as a Mission: Impossible style tune, while stage 3 has a VERY James Bond-esque guitar riff to it. Stage 4 is a lot slower as it is basically the "horror" movie stage of the game where you will either be fighting zombies or Mummies. There is still a bit of a military feel to the music in places though, like on stage 2 where the main theme is very army like. Regardless of the style, every stage has great music, and I really think that Noise Factory did a fantastic job overall... it's no less than I would expect from a developer with such talented composers!

For your listening pleasure, here's a couple of music samples in MP3 format that you can check out. Right click to save them to your HD:

Stage 1 Music - Mission Impossible style - MP3 Format, 59 Seconds, 589k
Stage 2 Music - Military style - MP3 Format, 46 Seconds, 447k
Stage 3 Music - James Bond style - MP3 Format, 62 Seconds, 648k

Although the music is fantastic, there are a couple of slight problems with it. First off, because of the way Noise Factory does their stuff (they put the music on the cart as one big sound sample), the music is only in mono, unlike past games. This isn't a massive problem, and it is the only way they could possibly do music of this quality on a Neo Geo cart. Secondly, the "Mission Complete" music and a couple of others have just been ripped from the previous games... it would have been nice if they remixed them. These are only small faults though, and they don't detract from the game too much.


Stages

Here is a list of the six stages and bosses in the game, along with screenshots and some basic tactics to use in getting past them. If you have not played the game before you would probably be best to skip this section so you don't spoil the surprise. I won't go in depth about EVERY route through the game though, as there are far too many to mention here. For more detailed coverage, check out one of the FAQ's (see below).

Stage 1



All games should have a difficulty level that eases you into the game before bumping up the difficulty too much, however the learning curve on MS4 is very steep at times, so even on this stage you could find yourself eating lead if you aren't careful. There are two routes through this stage, and the standard route that takes you on a motorcycle ride is definitely the easier of the two.

At the beginning of the stage you will find this games only new weapon, the double machine gun, along with a number of parked cars that you can destroy. Before you blow them up, check to see if there are any floating platforms on the screen, as the only way to get to these platforms is to get on top of a car, blow it up and let the resulting explosion lift you up to them. If you do this you'll rescue a couple of hostages and bag yourself some extra ammo/bonuses. When you reach the part where a soldier and a tank are sitting behind a sandbag, kill everything in site, and then make the decision of whether you want to ride the motorcycle, or take the more difficult route where into a monkey. If you want the motorcycle, carry straight on, otherwise you need to duck down just before the part where the tank was and walk forward... you'll begin to walk downwards and off the screen.

During the motorcycle route it is a simple case of dodging bullets by moving left or right and shooting the soldiers that float down onto the screen, as well as blowing up the trucks that appear. Tarma will appear in the background and give you a hand with this, although he only has a pistol so it doesn't really help you too much. If you took the lower path then you might want to make sure you avoid getting shot by the scientists you encounter, as their darts will turn you into a machine gun toting monkey! While in monkey mode, jump up and you will swing from the bars at the top of the screen.

Once you reach the end of your chosen section, it's boss time!

Stage 1 Boss: Airship



This is a bit of a lame boss, and VERY easy to beat. Start off by shooting the two turrets that have a soldier inside them, and then shoot out the big turret that fires spiked bombs at you. The airship will move to the left and you will now have to avoid the big missiles it fires, and fend off attacks from soldiers that jump down.

The ship will now move left again and you will have to avoid two different attacks now; most importantly the small missile it fires from its launcher on the left, and secondly the small gatling gun mounted on the right. Just keep firing at the ship and shooting down the missiles it unleashes. Whenever the gatling gun fires, just jump out the way when it reaches the spot you are standing on. You can also jump up and throw a few grenades to finish the job a bit quicker!

Before long this bland and uninspiring boss will be done for, and you will have completed mission 1. Eri will pick you up in the truck and take you to the next area!

Stage 2



The action really picks up here and you will be in the thick of it; this is probably one of the hardest stage 2's in any of the Metal Slug games (apart from stage 2 of MS3). Until you get used to beating it you may find it tough going, especially if you have your machine set to a high difficulty level, and it also has a challenging boss at the end of it. Newbie's beware! The first area of this stage is pretty much a walk in the park when you know how. Take out the truck and soldier right at the start and then quickly neutralise the Bradley Tank you see. Once you have taken it out you will be able to jump inside and take control! Now, the main mistake people seem to make here is to get the tank destroyed very quickly, but if you manage to hang onto it, it will be your salvation.

Use the normal gun turret to keep blasting away at anything that comes on screen, but whenever you see a tank or helicopter, tap C to fire one of the Bradley's big missiles at it... this will get rid of them quickly before they have a chance to fire. If you let them fire you will find it very hard to avoid their attacks in this cumbersome vehicle. If you think that you won't be able to avoid any bullets that are heading toward you, hold down on the stick and press B to jump out (which gives you a short period of invincibility). While on foot, quickly take out whatever is in your way, then jump back in the tank and carry on. Doing this will let you stay in the Bradley until you reach the truck, and reduce your risk of getting killed. Remember that you can make the missile launcher aim directly forwards if you hold down on the stick, which might make it easier to shoot enemies that are right in front of you. If you manage to hang on to the tank for the duration of this section, you will automatically jump out when you reach a truck that is waiting for you.

Once you are on the truck, you should be equipped with a rocket launcher. Some planes will swoop down and fire at you, so fire a few rockets back at them and blow up any of the missiles that they manage to shoot out. The only other thing you'll need to deal with are a number of soldiers that parachute onto the screen, but they don't pose too much of a threat if you kill them quickly. Before long the truck will drop you off at the second area of this stage, which you will definitely recognise if you have played Metal Slug 1.

This area is a bit tricky, but the main thing you need to do to is take out all the tanks and soldiers as soon as you see them - if you give them all a chance to attack you will find yourself over-run with bullets and will die extremely quickly. Shoot your weapon and throw grenades when you need to get rid of them fast and just keep moving forwards. When you reach the little slope that leads downwards, shoot inside the cave underneath it to kill some soldiers and release a POW who will give you a bonus.

After this you'll find the slug tank - hop in and use the cannon to quickly take out the gun posts that are on the floor and the tanks turret to destroy the enemy soldiers. When you reach the bridge, shoot upwards right at the start of it and you will reveal a points bonus.

Stage 2 Boss: Bearded Soldier/Gun Tower



We knew he'd turn up at some point... yes, that's right, it is time to fight the bearded super soldier! This is no one on one fight though, because this time he is commandeering a huge tower that has 5 segments which attack in various ways. Now, if you approach this boss with the wrong tactics you are going to get owned REALLY bad, so here's what I suggest:

First off, DON'T destroy the bottom piece! The bottom piece only attacks by firing a cannon every few seconds, which you can just duck under. The best thing to do is to stay at the bottom and duck out the way every time it fires. Concentrate all your ammo on the tower segments above this one. The second piece of the tower has a soldier who will shoot bazooka rounds at you, but it isn't difficult to avoid them. If this piece reaches the ground however it will fire massive missiles out the bottom, so provided you keep the bottom piece intact you'll be fine.

The third piece is a bit more difficult though as it fires massive flame rounds at you from two different turrets. These move quite fast so you'll need to keep running back and forth while shooting, although this is quite tedious. If you do it right, you can actually blow this segment up before any of the others, as you can see the bottom of it right from the start... this does save you a bit of hassle.

After this you have segment 4 and 5 - 4 has two soldiers on it that shoot at you, while 5 has the bearded soldier himself and fires massive cannon rounds at you, as well as firing bombs straight up in the air, which come parachuting back down onto the screen. Shoot these bombs down and avoid the cannon rounds... when segment 5 is the only one left and is on the ground, standing at the back of the screen will help you avoid the cannon as it won't be able to get the right trajectory to hit you. It shouldn't take you too long to finish him off now!

Stage 3



The ice level of this game. Right at the start you should shoot at the snowmen as you approach them, because they contain enemy soldiers who are trying to disguise themselves and take you by surprise. Right after this you will come to a ledge and have to choose what path you want to take through the stage (there are two). If you jump straight down next to the box the floor will crumble away and you will drop down, but if you jump all the way forwards you will go a different way.

The upper path leads you into a small cave, and then back out onto a big slope. A little way down the slope there's a bunch of logs, and if you shoot them they will begin to slide down the slope... jump on them to take a little ride! The logs will take out anything that they hit, including tanks, which makes things a bit easier.

The lower route is definitely the harder of the two. When you hit the floor (after your fall) two helicopters will attack. Stay underneath one them and throw a bunch of grenades to take it out quickly, then you can calmly take out the other one. You'll now find yourself in a cave where you'll be fighting the murderous sasquatch monsters again. This section is easy, but the next part isn't. You have to make your way from the bottom of the pit you are in to the top by jumping across a number of platforms. This is made a little easier as you will find the Slug Mecha halfway up, so use it wisely.

Now it's time to meet another old friend...

Stage 3 Boss: General Mordens Tank



Here comes General Morden again... doesn't he ever learn? This time he is in a large grey tank that has a number of different attacks. It has a circular saw that occasionally comes out of the front and moves along the floor, it fires missiles, cannon rounds, occasionally it rushes at you to try and run you over, and sometimes General Morden will pop out of the top and attack. There's also a never-ending stream of helicopters that appear at the top of the screen (one at a time), so you will need to avoid the bullets they fire. You are probably best to not bother shooting down the helicopters as they will be replaced very quickly by another one, so you will only be wasting your ammo.

Keep firing/dodging and eventually the tank will explode. Morden will now make his escape, as per usual. Tarma will now pick you up in a truck and you will make your way to stage 4.

Stage 4



This haunted house area is the one and only stage that is largely dominated by non-human enemies. There is a choice of two paths to take through it, but before you get to make that choice you'll have to fight through a small section containing enemy soldiers and vehicles. Make sure you shoot the lamp-posts in the background as this will reveal some coins that give you a points bonus. Jump on the 4-legged Walker Slug that you find and take advantage of its rapid firing gun turret to take out whatever enemies are left over. Remember that like the camel slug in previous games, it doesn't offer you any protection.

You will now reach the fork in the path... if you go up the stairs you will end up fighting against zombies, while the lower path leads you into a tomb containing mummies. The zombie section looks as if it was ripped from the war torn city stage of Metal Slug 1, while the mummy section is primarily ripped from the tomb sections of the past few games. If you want to get to the boss quickly and easily, go for the upper route... the zombies are tough, but nowhere near as bad as the bad guys in the tomb. Down there you will have to fight not only the mummies, but also human guys in radiation suits that roll balls across the floor that also turn you into a mummy. This is a long section and it's definitely one of the more challenging areas of the game.

Stage 4 Boss: Giant Robot



This boss is pretty easy, and kind of a let down for a boss in the latter half of the game... the stage 2 boss was a lot harder if you ask me. Start off by shooting the arm at the top of the screen, and dodging every time it drops down. For the time being, do not shoot the bosses face, as this will remove its face plate and soldiers will start to come out of it, so you may as well delay it while you can. Once the arm has taken enough damage, it will start to fire a purple laser that makes a big explosion when it hits the floor.

Once it has been destroyed, you should now turn your attention to the head. You'll need to jump over the large missiles it fires at the bottom of the screen and also shoot down the poison balls that it spits out - if they come into contact with you they will turn you into a zombie. As I said though, this is a pretty weak boss and you'll be looking at a pile of scrap metal in no time! Your character will jump into a little box and be airlifted to the next stage.

Stage 5



Jump out of the box and scare the life out of the lone soldier who appears to be hyper-ventilating into a paper bag. Shoot him and then take a look at your surroundings. At first I thought this was some kind of factory, but it turns out it is actually the cargo bay of a boat. There's a few of Mordens troops in here, but the main bad guys you are going to face are sword wielding pirates. These guys are quite tricky, especially when they all start throwing their swords up into the air. Be sure to stay away from the ones that walk towards you waving their blades in the air - if you get too close they will slice you.

When you reach the crank on the floor, you once again get the choice of two routes. Turn the crank to open up a hole in the floor that you can jump into, or shoot the crates that are blocking your path to take the standard route. If you jump through the hole you'll end up on an elevator that will stop every now and then to let on a few bad guys that you'll have to murder. The top section gives you the opportunity to try out the Fork-lift truck or the Metal Crow tank, albeit for a VERY short time. The top section is also the longer of the two, but both eventually lead you to an area on the deck of the ship.

On the deck you will come across a section where you'll have to jump between a number of platforms while taking out some helicopters. Be very careful as it is difficult to judge jumping between these platforms as they are shown at a weird diagonal angle. Helicopters will now swoop in two at a time... jump up and grenade the lower one to get rid of it quickly, then carry on shooting the other while jumping between platforms to avoid its bullets. After this you will see the airship from the first stage in the background. It will unleash four missiles that swoop back round and blow up the boat that you are on! Time for boss number two...

Stage 5 Boss: Submarine



You will be left standing on the remainder of the boat, and a submarine will come out from the water. The sub has two modes of attack - during the first (and easiest) one, soldiers will jump out of the sub and attack, while a very static looking (and invincible) soldier will take command of a missile launcher and fire homing missiles at you. I suggest jumping down on to the sub itself and unloading all your grenades/ammo onto it as quickly as possible, but make sure that you take out the missiles as they come towards you.

After a while the submarine will partially submerge. During this mode of attack it will launch some massive warheads at you, which you can avoid by just standing in the right place. Things are complicated by the airship which is still flying in the background... I knew I shouldn't have called it lame earlier on! Every few seconds it once again fires four missiles which will come swooping back round and fly horizontally across the screen... the best thing to do is to just shoot one of them down so that you have enough space to just stand there and avoid the remaining ones.

If you still haven't destroyed the sub by now, it will come back out of the water and go back to attack mode 1. Repeat the process and this reasonably easy boss will be a goner in no time at all.

Final Stage



The final stage of the game kicks off with a bit of a spooky music, but that soon changes into a heavy guitar riff. For the first section of the stage you will be attached to a rope and lowered into a pit leading down into Amadeus's HQ. You will be able to maneuver yourself in all directions while attached to this rope. Try not to rush downwards too quickly and when you find the enemy chaser weapon, try to hang on to it for as long as possible as it will make this area simpler... this is easier said than done though as a lot of other power-ups will appear and bounce around the screen.

You'll be back on solid ground again after this. Take out the soldiers and sensor robot (duck out the way of its laser), and turn the crank to release a heavy machine gun. Take out the cameras at the top of the screen and make your way further into the enemy base. The next area is a small red room - there's a scientist in here who will turn you into a monkey if you let him shoot you. The next area is another small corridor that is populated by security cameras and soldiers amongst others. There's another scientist here, so unless you want to turn into a monkey make sure you shoot him ASAP.

You'll soon find yourself in a corridor... and faced with General Morden. Just like in the final stage of Metal Slug 3 though, you will soon find out that this isn't the real Morden... this time it is in fact an android. Shoot him a few times and his skin will peel off. While he is like this he wont harm you, but if you shoot him again his head will fall off... electricity will begin to come from his body and it will explode and kill you if you are too close. The same goes for the head if you get too close. Go into the next room and turn the crank that is near the start of it, as this will give you the Slug Tank! This will prove useful in battling a number of fake Mordens that you will come up against next.

A little while after battling with the fake Mordens you'll find a TNT barrel - don't destroy it right away because there will be an executive guy sitting on top of a floating platform above it. Jump on the barrel and free him as he will give you some extra ammo. Move into the next room and you will lose the tank if you still have it. It's not time to see face the sub-boss of the final mission...

Final Stage Sub-boss: Bearded Soldier



Take a look at the setup of the platforms here... look familiar? Yep, you guessed right, it's the setting for a battle against our soldier friend once again. You can use the age old tactic of staying directly below him and firing upwards to kill him, but there are a couple of surprises. First off, his ammo belt whip attack when you get in close doesn't kill you anymore; instead it sends you flying across the room. Secondly, when you kill him, he doesn't die straight away; his skin partly melts away to reveal that this is another android! Kill him once again and make sure you pick up the ammo belt he drops as it will give you a heavy machine gun. Jump in the elevator to move on to the final boss of the game.

Final Stage Boss:



You'll find yourself in a lab and confronted by a cackling old guy who is in a little pod. He will call forth a number of different machines to attack you.

Part one is a large robot that comes from the right - stay close to it (but not too close) and keep shooting. It occasionally fires the green energy hoops that the robots in the final stage of MS3 fired at you, so let them come over you and then jump out the way. A second robot will now appear from the left - this ones primary attack is a gatling gun that fires Vulcan cannon shots in a variety of set angles, and they are not all that difficult to avoid. It will eventually shoot out some satellites that fire green lasers, which you can shoot down.

When you have polished off the second robot, it's time for the final phase of this boss. This one is in the center of the screen and has a variety of different (and dangerous) laser attacks. First off it fires some purple lasers that bounce around the place. The second attack is where a bunch of security cameras appear at the top which fire lasers either directly downwards, or diagonally. To beat these you need to stand in-between the two lasers that are facing downwards... when the cameras start firing, a circular laser shoots out from the center of the screen that you will need to jump through - if you are not standing the correct place and try to jump, you'll go head first into one of the lasers.

The next attack is a number of laser beams that come down either the left or right side of the screen. They will shoot you either at head height or at your feet. What you need to do is duck down for the ones at head height and jump for the ones at your feet. It gets very hard at times because sometimes there will be lasers that come down that don't fire... these try to fake you out into jumping straight into one of the other beams. It takes a lot of practice to be able to beat this attack without dying. The only other things to look out for are the extremely weak small robots that appear occasionally and the huge blue laser that will fire a massive blue energy blast. Just keep shooting and this tricky boss will soon be done and dusted!

It's now time to make good your escape. You'll have to run away from the explosions that are happening behind you. This isn't quite as dramatic as it sounds and you will still complete the game even if you get blown up by it (not that it's hard to get away)... but depending on whether you get blown up or manage to escape, you will get a different ending, which is a nice touch.

Guess what??? "MISSION ALL OVER!!!". Bit of a short game this one... at least it is short compared to MS3.


Overall

For me, this is the hardest of all the Metal Slug games to review, as although it's an enjoyable game it is hard to really recommend it to anyone. For the majority of hardcore Slug fans it will be a total letdown compared to the previous game, while casual MS players might find themselves getting frustrated by the unbalanced difficulty and almost constant stream of enemies. Newcomers to the series (there can't be many these days though) will probably think that the game is OK, but if you haven't played an MS game before, I wouldn't advise you to start here.

After playing and completing MS4 the first time, although I didn't think it was terrible it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, especially after going back to the earlier games and seeing their quality. For some time I just couldn't really be bothered to play it again, but I eventually came back to it so that I could prepare to write this review. After playing it again, I have actually started to enjoy it and just appreciate what they have achieved with it, rather than be aggrieved at what they didn't achieve. What's here is a fun but very flawed and unbalanced game, but look past the flaws and you should be able to squeeze some enjoyment out of it. This is a game that has the power to split its audience right down the middle. On one side of the fence there are people that feel it is underappreciated, and on the other there are people who hate it with a passion. I personally walk a fine line somewhere in between.

I suppose the main fault is a lack of class in the overall design, which is totally unlike the ones produced by the original SNK/Nazca, which looked and felt like they had a real labour of love put into them. It almost seems like a fan made game, or at best the sort of extra mission add-on that you can buy for games on the PC, which are usually sold at a reduced price. What's unfortunate is that this isn't an add-on, but instead a supposed "new" game that is sold for far more than it is actually worth. As an MVS cart at a decent price I'm not 100% sure I would tell someone to buy it, and I definitely wouldn't recommend paying the full asking price for the home cart. Completist collectors will buy it no matter what, and some people will still enjoy the game no matter what they pay for it, but the fact remains that you don't get as much value for your money as you would with one of the other Slug games, in particular its predecessor.

Although comparing this game with the wonder that is MS3 might seem a little unfair, especially as this is Mega's first attempt, those comparisons are inevitable, and it is clear that this game was rushed out; it just doesn't have the same class and quality of that game. Metaphorically speaking, if the two games were athletes and in a race against each other, MS3 would be so far in front of MS4 that it wouldn't even remember what it looked like... MS4 would be a tiny dot to MS3. I certainly think that it's the weakest in the series and that it could have been a lot better if some more effort had been put into it. However I don't think this game is quite as bad as some people say. Give it a chance and you might be surprised... or even if you have previously played and hated it, try again and you may grow to like it as I have done. If you have never liked MS before then I think it goes without saying that you should stay WELL clear.

Overall, this is a very average game, albeit one with a superb soundtrack and a well established and popular brand name that will attract people to it no matter what. It still looks and sounds like a Metal Slug game, but the fact that they recycled too many sprites and backgrounds, added some really uninspiring new stuff and didn't bother polishing it up properly before release hamper the experience greatly. A passable game, but I think we all expected a lot more than what we got with this one.

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 9/10
Game play: 7.5/10
Replay Value: 7/10

Overall Rating: 7/10




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