The new Metal Slug game has been officially announced by TiMi Studio (part of the Tencent company, which is the company behind WeChat), with it being released on 22nd August 2023. The game has brought back all of the vibes from the original series and implemented it in this new release, with now an upgraded graphics and art styles.
The game now shifts from 2D to semi-3D (still retaining that side-scrolling genre), and packs a bunch of new features that were absent in previous titles, such as upgradable weapons and the ability to switch characters on-the-go. Is the new game a good thing for Metal Slug veterans out there? Or has it improved in ways that we all can appreciate? I have taken a look at the game, tried it, and now here is my verdict which I hope you — Metal Slug veterans — can agree with.
Shooting and Moving Around Feels Different Now.
Yeah, it does feel different. There is an updated mechanic to how you move around and shoot in the game. Before this, the characters shoot wherever they face. If they face left, they shoot left. If they face right, they shoot right. If they face up, they shoot upwards. But if they press down, they duck, and still shoot forward (either left or right). In order to shoot downwards, they have to jump and press down. It was a simple mechanic.
But now, the game adapts to the control on mobile phones. There are two joysticks — one for character movements, and another for controlling the direction of your shooting (it acts as a button to shoot, too). So you can strafe while shooting, which is a welcoming feature, of course. I genuinely find it a good addition to the game, because I, often than not, always “soft-locked” my character when shooting as enemies were approaching from the other direction. You couldn’t do this in older games, so this new feature is definitely an upgrade.
The problem starts when you cannot shoot and throw bombs rapidly anymore.
Back then, the character could shoot and throw bombs as fast as your finger could tap the button. So someone with an ability to tap fingers rapidly (to a worrying extent) can easily shoot a pistol like an SMG, and throw bombs like they cost 10¢ each. A lot of Metal Slug veterans have no problems pushing through a field of enemies like a pile of leaves.
Now, unfortunately, players are restricted to how the game dictates the rate of fire (RoF, as this game calls it). Want your gun to shoot faster? You can upgrade your weapons before every mission to improve RoF and firepower! It sucks, I know. That is one drawback I’m honestly disappointed with. Sure, you don’t want to tap your screen like a madman to shoot fast and destroy it, but the feeling of having control over how fast you can shoot is one trait all Metal Slug fans know and love. I take that over the directional control for shooting that they’ve introduced.
Missions are Super Expanded. Are They Good?
Props to the developers team for expanding the game. Now we have larger numbers of missions to complete compared to the regular 5-7 missions in previous titles. The storyline has expanded along with the missions as well, so the players are well-occupied with how the story unfolds as they complete each mission.
It feels weird to see Marco speaks for the first time, along with Fio, Tarma, and Eri. But it’s not the first time I heard their voices, really. I played Metal Slug 3D before, and they too had voice lines. But to have expanded storyline, I suppose voice lines are necessary — the plot in previous titles were quite simple, and was expressed in facial expressions and flashbacks, along with whatever that was happening at the time. It’s kind of like old cartoons — no voices were present; just gimmicks and expressions.
Is it a bad thing? Not necessarily.
The storyline is fine. It’s about the Pharaoh trying to take over the town of Kemut, and there are four gems locked away and protected by four different guardians (which are bosses in this game). These gems are said to be the key in ‘cleansing’ all the evils (in this case, the Pharaoh). The missions to obtaining all these gems are expanded — meaning that you have 2–4 missions/areas to clear before reaching the mission where you will obtain those gems. So the game does feel long.
I have no complaints on the length of the game. I do, however, find it irritating that you need to be at certain levels (in this game, it calls it “Team Power”) in order to progress. So far, I’m not locked away from progressing through the missions because I’ve been upgrading my weapons prior to starting each mission. But it is a bit of a turn off to know that upgrades are required rather than optional to progress through the otherwise a simple game with streamlined missions.
So if you’re playing the game to keep with the plot of Metal Slug, best to keep your weapons and team upgraded. Otherwise, you’re locked and kept in suspense from seeing what happens next.
Mini-games and Multiplayers are Available to Play.
Yeah — multiplayers are available on the latest Metal Slug title now. It’s less of a cooperative gameplay, and more of a competitive one. So no, you can’t play couch co-op on the story mode missions. But yes, you can still play co-op in the game. There are side missions in the game, which the game calls as “Joint Operation”. In this mode, you can play with your friends and complete missions to get rewards for various purposes — weapons upgrades, character perks and so forth. I still wish we could play multiplayer on story missions though; it was a thing before this release, and they have made co-op possible for side missions, so why don’t they do the same for the main story?
Speaking of side missions, they are supposedly “side missions”. But sometimes when you’re playing the story missions, there are cutscenes (after completing some missions) that will take you to Andrew Town, where you will meet other Metal Slug players to add friends and play with. But that’s not why they take you to the town; sometimes playing the side missions are somewhat compulsory.
The reason I said ‘somewhat’ is that it is not necessary, but the game adopts what most games nowadays have: hand-holding. “Press this”, “then press this”, “tap this” — I just want to play the game. It felt compulsory to finish all the things the game tells you to do before you can enjoy the main story of the game. Some will definitely tolerate it, some might even love it, but I definitely don’t. It’s okay if they tell you that “here’s where you can do side missions; feel free to join in anytime” for the first time, but if it’s a repeated occurrence, it does start to get annoying.
The game offers multiple mini-games: “Joint Operation”, which is the first mini-game you can play with friends, “Arcade Carnival”, where you can play various challenges to earn rewards, “Hot Pursuit”, which is a series of challenges (up until level 60) you can complete to earn even more rewards, and other mini-games such as “The Maze”, “Prime Showdown”, and “Ultimate Arena”, which will be unlocked as you level up.
Expect Stamina Bar and Microtransactions.
It’s a free game after all, so why wouldn’t you expect this to not be in the game? Doing story missions will take away a bit of your character’s stamina, the side missions take away a bit of your character’s stamina, and doing miscellaneous tasks such as digging for treasures also takes away your character’s stamina. Once it runs out, you either: a) wait for the energy to replenish (which obviously takes a day), b) get item recovery found in story or side missions, or c) buy energy with sapphire, the currency in this game. To get sapphire, you can convert rubies, which are minerals found in both story and side missions. But you can also buy rubies, using real money.
There are even passes like modern games now — “Support Pass”, which allows the players to receive free weapons upgrades and equipment. You can either subscribe to basic support pass, or the super support pass, which allows you to get a premium skin. There’s monthly card you can buy, too — for RM23.90/month, you get rubies, wishlist treasures, Ultimate Arena reward count, and daily rewards such as sapphires, item recoveries, and weapon upgrades. It’s confusing to new and casual players, honestly, but it’s just how the game works to keep it sustained. Am I complaining? No. Am I fond of it? Not either. It’s just there if you want to splurge your money to get ahead of other players faster.
The Game Overall is Fine.
I can’t see myself playing it for a long time. The updated graphics are welcoming, the expanded story missions are great, the mini-games are entertaining to keep the players engaged, and they do find ways to earn from the free game through micro-transactions. But as I said, casual players like me would prefer something simpler — something that offers replay values rather than promoting grinding and competing against others.
But if you have absolutely no problems with that, you can try the game out. It’s fun. For casual players? Maybe. Who knows you might find more fun in the mini-games you can play with friends? Regardless, Metal Slug: Awakening is a refreshing update with new features that invite both love and hate, depending on what you see.