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July 30 2014

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  Metal Slug 4 - ©Mega Enterprises/Playmore 2002





Click here to view the image gallery for this game -->


Game Stats
Other:
Players:
1 or 2 player

Type:
Platform Shoot 'em up

Size:
553 Megs
Japanese Name:

Metal Slug 4

Released On:

Home/MVS


Reviewed By:
Top Reviews By This Author:
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Other Opinions - More Reviews On NG4L:
Review 2 - by Raiken



Warning

This is an in depth review, and as such reveals a lot of information about each stage and all the end of level bosses, as well as a few tactics to use in beating them. Although there is no real storyline in the game, if you have not played it before and would rather not know everything about it, I suggest you don't read the "stages" section of the review. I would not want to spoil the experience for you, so I thought it better to mention this before you start reading!


Introduction

With the original SNK dead and buried and with Playmore, the new owner SNK's IP's still trying to get back on their feet, the task of making a sequel to the sensational Metal Slug 3 was handed to the Korean company Mega Enterprises. Before this game was announced, nobody really had any idea who Mega were, so hopes that this game could come anywhere close to matching MS3 were not very high at all.

While the official website that Mega put online for this game looked very impressive, as screenshots and movies of MS4 began to surface, peoples fears started to become reality as it looked as if 90% of the game had been totally re-hashed from past games. Were Mega Enterprises and Playmore about to face a backlash from loyal Metal Slug fans, or would those fears turn out to be unfounded?


Characters



One of the first things that you will notice is that two of the original protagonists, Eri and Tarma, are no longer playable characters. They have been replaced by Trevor and Nadia (above, far right), who while being new characters would appear to be edited versions of the old Tarma/Eri sprites anyway. I don't quite know why Mega decided to do this, but in my opinion they look a little ugly compared to the SNK creations... well, Trevor does anyway, while Nadia is pretty decent.

It's nice having these two new characters in the game, even if they are ripped from other sprites, but it would have been better if you could actually play as all six. It kind of annoys me as Tarma is my favourite character, but it's only a minor thing and probably not one that you should worry about too much.



Tarma and Eri haven't gone completely AWOL however, as they do pop up from time to time in cameo roles. Tarma appears on the back of a truck during the first stage and helps a little by firing at your enemies, although he doesn't exactly do much damage, while Eri picks you up in a helicopter or truck at the end of every stage.


Gameplay

Although MS3 is widely regarded as being the best in the series to date, many people were of the opinion that the amount of non-human enemies in the game turned it into something of a circus, and moved it too far away from the series WWII style roots. For this game the developers must have listened to what those people were saying and decided to go right back to basics and get rid of about 75% of these elements from the past games. This means there are no aliens, no giant crabs and no man-eating plants (etc), so pretty much all the enemies in this game are either human or mechanical (tanks/planes and so on), meaning MS4 is very similar to the very first Metal Slug game. A couple of non human elements like the zombies and mummies have survived however, but for the most part you only fight human enemies.

While most of the enemies look like the regular troops from the past four games, the main bad guy in this game is actually no longer General Morden. While he does pop up from time to time (more on this later), the main threat now is an organisation called "Amadeus", who want to take over all the military computers in the world using a new virus they have created. It's your task to take them out before they have a chance to succeed. While a story for the game does exist, as with the other games in the series it is never really explained properly in game, although with this one it does feel a tiny bit more involved as you can see the other characters on each stage... so at least you don't get the feeling that you are a one man (or woman) army and are the only one going in to complete the mission. I'm still disappointed that there are no cut scenes to move the storyline along, as that would have really added to the atmosphere of the game.

Whatever the storyline, Metal Slug 4 still plays pretty much the same as it always has done. The controls are still the same, with the A button being used for shoot, B for jump and C for throwing grenades or firing the secondary weapon when in a vehicle. However, Mega Enterprises saw fit to finally address one small problem I have always had with this series - you can now press D when in a vehicle to do the kamikaze attack where you jump out of said vehicle and send it towards your enemies to explode and do some damage. Considering the D button wasn't used for anything else, I was always annoyed that they insisted on using a combination of buttons for this attack in the previous games.



Speaking of vehicles, a bunch of new ones are introduced in MS4, but unfortunately most are fairly forgettable, and some turn out to be not all that useful at all. There's a motorbike (found on the first stage), a truck that you just stand on while it takes you for a ride, and then a couple of enemy Slugs that you can occasionally commandeer. The ones you can use are the Bradley, the big tank that has a massive missile launcher on top, and the Metal Crow, a smaller blue tank that fires homing missiles at a very fast rate. There's also a couple of others like the Fork-lift truck (I'm not joking), but I'll talk about these more in the weapons section below. As for the older vehicles, they have removed almost all of them, with the exception of the original Slug Tank and the Slug Mecha (or the Slugnoid as some people call it).

Using enemy vehicle sprites may sound like a cop out, but I actually liked the idea of it in theory as it sounded like it could be fun. In practice it isn't so great though. For instance, the Bradley Tank is quite slow and cannot fire missiles as fast as it can when controlled by the CPU. It's also not the most useful vehicle ever either, and you'll find out quite quickly on the first stage that there is practically no way to dodge out of the way of certain things, especially as it can't duck down like the normal Slug Tank can. The only way past these areas is to use the tried and tested method of jumping out just before you get hit, and then getting back into the tank. As for the other vehicles, none of them impress me as much as the ones that the old SNK introduced into their games, although they are passable. You don't really get to use them very often either.

My first thought upon booting up the game was that right from the start it seemed very hectic; there's an almost constant stream of enemy troops attacking you, even on the first stage. I wouldn't go as far as to say that the early stages are too hard, but you definitely can't walk through them as easily as you might have done with the equivalent stages in the other MS games. It's actually quite unbalanced really, as some of the earlier stages seem harder than certain areas of the later stages. This is even worse with the games bosses, as certain ones are quite challenging, whereas other ones later on in the game seem like a walkover in comparison. For instance, the boss on stage 2 is quite tricky if you don't know how to beat it, while the boss on stage 4 doesn't seem anywhere near as bad, at least not in my opinion anyway. Regardless of the difficulty, I don't think that the bosses are as well designed as the ones we have seen in the past.

Thankfully, Mega did see fit to include multiple paths through the game, just like SNK did with Metal Slug 3. There are nowhere near as many as there were in that game, but it's actually worth noting that some of the paths are a lot less obvious. For example, I had probably played through Metal Slug 4 about three of four times before I realised there was more than one way to get through the first stage, where there is actually a hidden route that makes you avoid riding the motorcycle. It's always rewarding when you find a different way to get through a stage, and as with MS3 it gives you a reason to play through the game a few times.

Another new addition is the combo system, which gives you a new way to score points. When you pick up certain emblems that appear every now and then, a timer bar will appear at the top of the screen. You have to shoot as many enemies as possible while the time is ticking down, and you will receive a bonus depending on how well you did. You actually receive the bonus in the form of badges that appear at the top of the screen... if you die before the end of the stage you will lose them, so it works in a similar way to the hostages. Staying alive is even more important now when it comes to racking up a good score, not constantly pumping in credit after credit to keep yourself going!

While there are some good things that can be said about Metal Slug 4, it is impossible to ignore that the overall design and production values are a lot lower than they were in the SNK/Nazca produced titles. While they all felt like properly produced games that had lots of thought put into them (even MSX), MS4 feels like something that has been quickly slapped together to make a quick profit. Considering the circumstances surrounding this release, what with Playmore still trying to establish themselves, and given the fact that this is Mega's first attempt at a Metal Slug game, I suppose this wasn't to be totally unexpected. Also, even if a lot more effort had been put into it, it would have been very hard to equal the greatness of Metal Slug 3... especially with all the hype surrounding that game since it originally came out.

While a few shortcomings are understandable, it's hard to not feel at least a little disappointed. It really could (and should) have been better.


Weapons

Only one new weapon has been added to MS4, which is a shame, but at least most of the great older weapons are available to use.

Pistol:



Standard issue! Infinite ammo and it can only shoot left and right or directly up when you are standing, and down while you are jumping. It cannot fire diagonally at all.

Close Combat:



When in close combat you still pull out a weapon like a knife to kill your enemy with. Trevor's up close and standing attack is actually pretty cool because he slices his opponent with a blade that is attached to his foot!

Grenades



Same as they've always been - you start each life with 10 and can find more during each stage, and are essential in beating the game!

Stone:



MIA since MSX, the stone is back! Another type of secondary weapon, where you throw big rocks at your enemies. Fun to use, but not exactly the most powerful! As far as I know it is only found on the mummy section of stage 4.

Fire Bomb:



Fire bomb is another name for "Molotov cocktail", and is basically a more powerful version of the grenade. When it hits the floor the resulting explosion spreads out for a few feet. Incredibly powerful when in fat mode!

Heavy Machine Gun:



The Heavy Machine Gun is more powerful than the pistol and fires at a much faster rate, as well as being able to fire diagonally. As with most weapons in Metal Slug however, you cannot fire diagonally constantly; basically if you are firing to either the left or right and then press up (or up and then left/right), you will fire a few shots in a diagonal direction in between.

Dual Machine Gun: (New Weapon)



The only new gun for this game, get ready for some two-gun action... definitely John Woo inspired stuff here! Not the most imaginative weapon, but still very cool and quite effective. It works similarly to the standard heavy machine gun, but is almost twice as powerful; the only downside is that you cannot fire diagonally at all. This is the first powerup you will find.

Flame Shot:



This gun unleashes a blast of fire that is very powerful. It will set enemy soldiers on fire, which sounds nasty but is actually very funny to watch, especially with their comical death screams. Best used for getting rid of large groups of enemies.

Enemy Chaser:



Similar to the rocket launcher, but not as powerful. It does have a better homing ability however, hence the name.

Rocket Launcher:



The missiles that the rocket launcher fires have a lot of power, and also have a slight homing ability which is very handy.

Super Grenade:



Quite powerful rockets that fire directly left/right/up/down. Similar to the rocket launcher but doesn't have a homing ability.

Drop Shot:



Drops bombs that bounce across the floor.

Iron Lizard:



Fires small rockets that look like planes, which shoot across the floor.

Shotgun:



Still my favourite weapon, although you don't find it too often. It has a very short range, but the feeling of power when you wield this gun is unmatched.

Laser:



Very powerful and fires a constant beam that goes the whole way across the screen... although you can only fire left/right/upwards, or down when jumping. It does not fire diagonally.

Fireball POW:



Absent from MS3, but restored in all his glory here. Unfortunately I have only found him once later on in the game, but it is nice to see him back. When rescued this POW will follow you and launch Hadoken style fireballs at your enemies.

Thunder Cloud:



When collected, this cloud floats across the top of the screen and electrocutes your foes with burts of lightning. Found on mission 5.


Vehicles

As I mentioned above, Metal Slug 4 ditches most of the old vehicles and adds some of its own.

Tank Slug:



Still one of the most common vehicles, and still as useful as ever. As before, you are granted a couple of seconds of invincibility when jumping in and out of the tank, so you can still use this to your advantage! The tank seems to be able to take more hits than it did before.

Slug Mecha:



Works the same as it did in MS3. It has 2 turrets on either side that fire the same sort of bullets as the Tank, and has a cannon that fires directly down - as soon as these shots hit the floor though they sprout legs and run towards your enemies! One interesting thing is that as it gets damaged the turrets on either side get blown off, one by one. If you only have the cannon left, then you are probably better off jumping out of it and firing your normal gun.

Motorcycle: (New)



You'll find this if you take the upper route on stage 1. Your character will jump into the sidecar while a POW will drop down and do the driving. The motorcycle can be moved left and right as you speed along the road, you can fire your standard weapon and throw grenades, and you can also make it jump. Unfortunately this vehicle doesn't offer any protection at all however.

Truck: (New)



Similar to the motorcycle, except you have no control over the truck whatsoever, although you can run left and right on it as it drives you to your destination. Found on stage 2.

Bradley Tank: (New)



This is one of the enemy vehicles you get control of, and it can be found on stage 2. It has a rapid firing gun turret and a massive missile launcher which can either fire missiles upwards in an arc, or directly forwards. It's not exactly the most useful Slug in the game, and you can get it destroyed very easily if you don't use it properly.

Metal Crow Tank: (New)



Found on stage 5. The Metal Crow is quite fast and has the ability to duck. It has a gun turret that can be aimed 360 degrees and also fires missiles that are identical to the enemy chaser weapon. It's a shame that you only get to control this vehicle for a very short time...

Four Legged Walkmachine: (New)



This Slug looks reminiscent of the mutants you had to fight in Metal Slug 2 and X. It's kind of similar to the Camel Slug as it offers you no protection and doesn't have a cannon.

Forklift Truck: (New)



My first thought when I saw this was "What in the name of...?". It's a very screwy idea for a vehicle, although it turns out that it controls similarly to the Drill Slug in Metal Slug 3, because you can raise it up and down. It's special attack with the C button is a quick poke from the lift part of the truck, and it does more damage than you might think. This vehicle doesn't have a gun turret though, so your character will just fire whatever weapon they have equipped.


Status Ailments

You can still be turned into a mummy or a zombie, and you can still become fat on certain stages if you eat too much food, but there is also something else that you can be turned into in this game...

Mummy Mode:



This can happen to you while you are in the tombs on the haunted house stage. It happens if you get hit by either the potions that the bats drop down, or the mummies breath. While in this mummified state you will be VERY slow, you will only be able to fire the pistol, and grenades will take an age to throw. If you get hit by a mummies breath or one of the bats potions again, it will kill you. The only way back out of Mummy mode is to either die and re-spawn, or to pick up one of the "HUMAN" items that are littered about the stage.

BIG Mode:



This doesn't happen as often as before, but it is still in there on some stages. It is very funny and perhaps a little politically incorrect, but in some ways it can actually help you. While it does slow you down a bit, your weapons become more powerful and also look very different. The most hilarious part of big mode is when you get close to an enemy soldier - instead of using a knife to kill them, you will use a fork!!!.

You'll come out of big mode when you find a diet pill, or if you die and then re-spawn.

Zombie Mode:



Being a big fan of zombie movies, this is one of my favourite parts of the game! The zombies on stage 4's upper route spew out some vomit every now and then, and if this touches you it will temporarily turn you into one of them! This makes you very slow and stops you from being able to jump very high, and if you get hit by a zombie again you will die.

Life as one of these flesh eaters does have its advantages though: Other zombies may still be able to kill you, but normal shots from Mordens troops will have no effect. Your C attack will also switch from grenades to a vomit attack that is extremely lethal, and very helpful at times! It does have a lot of lag though, so be careful when you use it.

If you die or collect a first aid box power-up, you will come out of zombie status.

Monkey Mode: (New)



You may remember that in Metal Slug 3 you could rescue a monkey on a couple of stages who would help you out in return by running along and shooting at enemies with an Uzi. Things are taken a step further here however, as you can actually turn into a monkey now! This happens on certain stages if you get shot by a scientist; the first time it can happen is on the lower route of stage 1.

Monkey mode makes you walk very slow, but you can jump quite high and will be carrying an Uzi that rapidly fires shots that are quite small. On stage 1 you can actually hang off the ceiling and move along that way, which is a lot faster... and it looks cool because you will carry the Uzi on your foot and shoot it with your toes!

Items occasionally appear that get you back out of monkey mode, or you will become human again if you die and respawn.


Graphics

Upon first inspection this game looks pretty good, and at least of the same quality as the other games in the series... after all, it is using a lot of the same sprites etc. However, this re-hashing of material from older games proves to be its graphical downfall. While Metal Slug 2/X/3 all reused material, there were always plenty of new additions that kept the game looking fresh. Metal Slug 4 however features about 80% old material and only a small amount of new stuff. The first few stages are almost total rehashes of various areas of older stages and the majority of enemy sprites are all recycled.



The new material in this game stands out quite badly from the older stuff too, as a lot of it just doesn't look very pretty at all. The bosses are very average looking for the most part. Take the tank on stage 3 for example; it's not a bad boss, but it has nowhere near the level of graphical detail that similar bosses in the past games had. The new backgrounds that Mega drew for the later levels also look very average and don't feature the same amount of detail either. You can't really shoot and damage background objects like you could with the SNK designed ones, and many seem very static... they really do look like paintings rather than convincing and interesting stages.

One plus point is that the presentation is fairly decent. The artwork that is used for the (rather short) intro sequence and the character select portraits are done by Tonko, who was the same person that did the end sequence artwork for Garou: MotW, and that can never be a bad thing. As I said before, it would have been nice if there were a few cut scenes in between stages to explain the storyline properly, as these would have looked really cool had Tonko done the art for them!


Click here to go to page 2 (Sound, Stages and Overall)

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