Is there a gamer left on this planet who hasn’t at least tried a Metal Slug game? With numerous releases over the last fourteen years, it’s hard to imagine there’s someone out there who doesn’t have, at the very least, a passing familiarity with the titles.
The side scrolling shooter series has now evolved from its original roots on the Neo Geo and this latest downloadable release, Metal Slug XX (a port of the PSP / DS title), isn’t the first one to see the light of day on Xbox Live Arcade. We’ve already had the 2008 release of number three, a game that is highly regarded as the pinnacle of the series, so what does XX bring to the table?
Since it’s a Metal Slug game, the response to that is most definitely “not much”. Even fans of the series would be hard pressed to argue against the fact that the games have stagnated a long time ago, so there’s still lots of shooting, crazy weapons and big enemy bosses to take down. But it’s when you start playing XX that you quickly come to realise that there’s a bigger problem than that. This is a very quick and dirty port of a title which wasn’t necessarily the best in the series to start with and it’s received very little love or TLC in its transition from handheld to big screen.
You’re given the choice of either playing it in 4:3, or having it horribly stretched and smeared by forcibly fitting it into a widescreen mode. Given that the download services have been established for some time now, and recent games like Final Fight Double Impact have proven that games don’t need a massive HD remake, rather a little bit of attention to detail to make the game suitable for the HD age, SNK Playmore really didn’t seem too fussed that this would end up looking pretty awful.
Neither did they seem to be too nonplussed about the awful control issues which hamper the ability to play the game smoothly and leave you floundering about like your controller is electrified. Using the analogue stick the games controls are very twitchy and trying to shoot diagonally is nigh on impossible. There hasn’t been any optimisation from the handheld versions which naturally used the d-pad, so you’re forced into trying to use the Xbox controller’s d-pad. Anyone who’s ever tried that will already know it’s absolutely horrible and possibly the worst and most unresponsive d-pad ever to be included on a controller, therefore offering very little improvement over the analogue stick.
XX does have some things going for it; there’s online play and it does weigh in as the most approachable Metal Slug game yet. Whereas previous games in the series have always had a severe difficulty level, here the normal setting doesn’t feel like an insurmountable, super-human challenge. Although it would be extremely cynical of us to suggest this was necessary to compensate for the horrible control issues…
Any positives for Metal Slug XX are negated by the asking price which currently sits at 1200 Points. Given all the games glaring issues and the general shoddy nature of the release it’s the ultimate insult and makes the title one for only the most utterly diehard of Metal Slug fans.