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Metal Slug has been offering arcade and home gamers top quality sideways scrolling shooting action for years now. The new game on the DS (and 360) continues this tradition as well as re-introducing popular features from older editions of the game.
Shooting games present a world in which the character must shoot their way out of dangerous situations. They provide the player with an array of weapons tailored to specific tasks. This unavoidably involves a combination of fisticuffs and gun based fighting that dictates the violent nature of these experiences. Beneath this harsh exterior though is often an intricate tactile game - and this is usually what drives the player.
Although nothing here is particularly innovative for a sideways "run and gun" game, it is rare to find the Metal Slug quality elsewhere. The series, and this game too, provides bright 90's arcade style sprites that are drawn with real artistic flare and attention to detail. Amidst so many computer generate games, this makes Metal Slug 7 stand out from the pack
Players can choose to fight as a variety of characters. The same familiar faces return from previous games, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Marco and his super strong standard weapon. Tarma with durability and enhanced power-ups and super strength Vulcan cannon use. Fio, who begins each mission with the Heavy Machine Gun and has improved weapon supply. Eri with her double pack of grenades that she can aim more accurately. Ralf's super fast attack, who struggles with grenades and receives fewer supplies . Finally, Clark who can perform his 'Argentina Backbreaker' move against most non-vehicle enemies. There's someone for everyone.
Additionally, there are a handful of new vehicles. The Slug Truck is a train-like machine that can have a cannon connected. You can have up to four cannons and they have unlimited ammo, but they are destroyed with a single shot. The Slug Gigant is a giant robot that is capable of massive firepower. Its Wave cannon can neutralize enemy fire with its melee attack. The Heavy Armor has both Vulcan and cannon and can slide at high speed.
The focus here really is on traditionally gaming qualities rather than innovation. As such the DS's touch screen and microphone are rarely used. The bottom screen is used to display a map of your progress, which initially seems to be a gimmick, although as you try and track down power ups or captured prisoners it becomes more useful..
Players often start playing Metal Slug games out of curiosity rather than genuine desire. But as the game continues a rhythm develops amongst the mayhem. Players start to pick out enemies from the seas of bullets, vehicles and tundra. And what emerges is a highly tuned shooting game that asks to be played over and over.
Most levels on Metal Slug 7 can be played through in no more than thirty minutes. Players of different abilities are catered for with three difficulty settings.In addition to the seven levels the game also (re)introduces the Prisoner's List and Combat School mode which was originally from Metal Slug X. The list enables you to keep track of how many prisoners you have found and freed whereas the Combat school sets you targets for a particular level and gives a reason to replay them.
Young and novice gamers, who are comfortable with the idea of guns and war, should be able to have fun running around. Parents should be aware that the cartoon graphics unavoidably depict killing and gunfights, although the gore is relatively low key. Even for those happy with the game's themes for young players, the degree of accuracy required for success coupled with the fine motor skills makes this a hard game for them to play for very long.
Older players and those a little more experienced will rise to the challenge offered by each level. This will bring memories of 90's arcade classics rushing back to them - Commando, Ikari Warriors and the like.
Experts will appreciate the prisoner count that enables them to identify which levels they have left men behind in. The Combat Training mode also offers the hardcore another reason to play the same level multiple times - to get the top rank in each category.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: