Action Adventure Review Stealth

UnMetal – Preview | Slapstick Stealth, Half-Baked Havoc

Ever wondered what it would be like if Metal Gear Solid didn’t take itself at all seriously? Upcoming game UnMetal from developer @unepic_fran and publisher Versus Evil looks like the answer to that question. I got a chance to preview the game ahead of its launch later this summer, and I’ll be sharing my impressions of the first three chapters.

Unmetal - Wrongful Imprisonment

Let Me Tell You How It All Started

UnMetal follows lone wolf commando Jesse Fox’s wild escape from a military prison. The story begins post-escape with Jesse in custody under interrogation. Top brass demand to know who he is and what the hell has been doing. Jesse claims it all started when he was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, at which point he immediately devised a plan to escape and uncover the plot behind his imprisonment. You experience Jesse’s story through flashbacks as he narrates his ordeal. It’s a tale of grit and desperation—with a whole lot of ridiculous nonsense along the way.

Jesse’s over-the-top personality and antics are hilarious for the first 30 minutes or so. But he doesn’t develop past his initial caricature, so the jokes can start to feel samey after a while. Some of the running gags also go on too long without any kind of change or subversion. And as UnMetal progresses, the story and dialogue move toward more exposition dumps. At times, the experience felt more like a straightforward action movie than a satire. There are still funny moments, especially when things cut back to Jesse’s convoluted narration, as well as plenty of silly references. But I would have preferred terser exposition and more humor that felt like it was building to something or giving new insights into Jesse’s character.

Narration

I Thought It Was a Good Idea

UnMetal also delivers comedy through the things you can make Jesse do. For one, he’s clearly an unreliable narrator, and you can have him “embellish” his accomplishments. At various points in Jesse’s retelling, you’ll be prompted to choose from several options about what he found or did. Maybe to get to a computer terminal, Jesse had to fight his way through a crack commando squad armed with only a pair of tweezers. But once Jesse makes a claim, you have to play it out in the game. This is a clever way to let the player help shape the story and adjust difficulty on the fly.

Jesse also has many ideas that are, shall we say, less than solid. Unlike most games, UnMetal isn’t going to stop you from doing something just because it’s stupid and will probably get you killed. Like that chloroform you just brewed up–don’t you wonder what it smells like? Why not take a whiff? You know, to find out. What could possibly go wrong? Like Jesse’s embellishments, his bad ideas also tend to make the game harder if you indulge them. But they pay off with some hilarious scenes, and I found myself taking the bait every time. Just try not to blow yourself up because you will die.

Unmetal - Sneaking

They Won’t Notice a Thing

The gameplay in UnMetal takes inspiration from the old-school Metal Gear games. You’ll have to navigate your way past patrolling guards and all kinds of other hazards on Jesse’s escape. You can neutralize enemies with your fists as well as the weapons you’ll find along the way, but if you’re seen or raise suspicion, the guards will call for backup and search for you. Despite his gruff attitude, Jesse is fragile, and you’re better off being sneaky than trying to shoot your way through. As further incentive to use stealth, Jesse can earn experience and unlock upgrades by neutralizing foes—but only if he does so without being noticed.

I played on normal difficulty, and my experience was no walk in the park. For one, I sometimes found it difficult to tell exactly what enemies’ fields of vision were. And the gaps you need to exploit to get by undetected can be quite small and require precise timing. Facing backup is dangerous if you don’t find somewhere to hide. Luckily, the backup isn’t very good at tracking you down if you can escape the initial push. Some of the areas had instakill hazards, but I found it wasn’t too hard to avoid these if I moved carefully.

Unmetal - Inventory

That Oughta Do the Trick

Jesse also needs to locate various objects and combine them in different ways to MacGuyver his way past obstacles that can’t simply be punched into submission. He might need some sort of flotation device to cross a body of water, for example. Items themselves are found in boxes or looted from the cold unconscious hands of the enemy. They can then be quickslotted or combined with other items on the inventory screen. In addition to what he actually needs, Jesse can find some unusual stuff. I never figured out how to use much of it, or if it even had a use at all. It might have some purpose later, or maybe it’s just included for laughs.

UnMetal mixes up the gameplay with its boss fights. There’s a lot of variety, both in the bosses themselves and the mechanics of the fights. In fact, many of the bosses I encountered had some unique mechanic featured in their battle. I largely found the boss fights enjoyable, but there are a couple of downsides to UnMetal’s approach. For one, beating a boss is often about understanding the gimmick, so it can be hard to win on the first try. And while there’s variety in the mechanics, it’s rare that any particular mechanic is explored in much depth.

The same can be said of the gameplay in UnMetal more generally. It touches on a number of different areas but tends to keep things simple in each area. Stealth consists mostly of using obstacles to avoid the enemy’s field of vision. In combat, Jesse can either punch or attack with his weapon in the four cardinal directions. Many items are used in one specific task or area and not revisited. UnMetal rarely chooses to build on its mechanics, instead relying on its humor and variety to keep things interesting.

Unmetal - Jesse VS

Do I Look Like I’m Joking?

UnMetal’s look is reminiscent of Metal Gear, though with a distinctly more modern and realistic flavor. Environments are drab and often dimly lit, with a palette heavy on gunmetals and army greens. While you won’t be admiring glorious vistas, this is effective for communicating the information you need. Jesse and other actors can be spotted at a glance. When the game cuts back to Jesse’s narration, those involved have detailed sprites, and these have a lot of character. The steely look in Jesse’s eyes is almost enough to get me to take him seriously. Almost.

The voice acting is glorious. The officer interrogating Jesse comes across exactly like the annoying bureaucrat he probably is, and guards sound just a stupid as they act. Jesse himself has the gravely tone of someone who chain-smoked for 30 years straight. It’s so over the top that I can’t decide if he’s actually the most badass dude on the planet or some wannabe tryhard who talks that way because he thinks he is. The rest of the cast excel in their roles too, and the delivery and timing of the jokes is always spot on.

Overall Impression

UnMetal’s gameplay is solid, but I’m not sure it will be deep enough to drive the experience by itself. Likewise, there weren’t enough jokes to keep me laughing nonstop. Fortunately, neither element exists in a vacuum, and the way UnMetal weaves the humor and action together via Jesse’s narration and choices is quite clever. If you’re a fan of both games like Metal Gear and over-the-top humor, UnMetal is shaping up to be a fun ride.

 KEEP AN EYE ON UNMETAL

If you would like to see more games with Stealth, you may be interested in our review of Phantom: Covert Ops.

Many thanks go to Versus Evil for a PC preview code for this title.

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