UnMetal Is Solid, Baby

UnMetal is a homage to the original Metal Gear, delightfully wrapped in 80s action movie cliche and self-aware humour.

UnMetal has the uncanny ability to take you back to a classic era of gaming using old school key finding missions and one of the best 80s action scripts since something like Commando. Not a film that gets praise for its dialogue. Stick around.

All Solid Snake fans have their entry point. While I consider The Phantom Pain one of the best games (as long as you don’t dismiss Quiet), Metal Gear Solid is the one I put on a pedestal. As I’m sure you’re aware, Snake’s first venture was Metal Gear. I’m no loyal fan, as I played this back in the day and hated it. It was too difficult. UnMetal is a variation of that version of Snake, but with tongue firmly embedded in his cheek.

Oh, so this is a Solid Snake game? Nope, but you’ll see the similarities almost immediately. It takes many of the mechanics that worked in the original and make it work into a game much more memorable than the game it was inspired by. The amount of hate Kojima fans must be brewing… Still, you like coffee, I like tea.

UnMetal Review

It does this primarily through wit, and while it’s a pretty mean feat for this to be the work of solo developer Unepic, it makes sense as the tone is consistent throughout. It has a signature without feeling like a throwaway parody. So, what’s the UnMetal game all about? Well, let’s just say you’re imprisoned for a crime you did not commit.

UnMetal Review - Looking for turtles
Looking for turtles. Source: Steam

As Jesse Fox, you have to escape a military prison through stealth and guts. Armed with some enviable pythons, Jesse will knock out guards and punch through lockers, salvaging a plethora of useless but fun stuff. Listen to 8bit tunes on a Walkman or don a pair of shades because, well, 80s. But there are helpful things too, and you’ll need to locate items then combine them.

This part of UnMetal gameplay isn’t anything like the absurdity of a point and click. Still, it isn’t always clear where to find items, so I had the unenviable experience of backtracking in a few areas where I really wish I didn’t have to. Pacing back and forth, looking at the same stunned enemies and exploring the same corridors got a little monotonous in places. But that’s the only real damper.

Woah There, Nelly

The pace is erratic, but perhaps that’s the mixture of action and flashbacks. Jesse’s story is told by him while being interrogated by those who captured him, for that crime he didn’t commit. Jesse has a bit of a chip on his shoulder and tends to think with his fists, but that pigheadedness is what makes him an amusing character.

Almost everything that comes out of his mouth is a cliche, but it’s executed with such finesse that I was often laughing out aloud and doing that line you see in a novel: he chuckled to himself. The deadpan delivery is a little like Charlie Sheen circa Hot Shots, and the gravelly voice can rub you up the wrong way a few times, but it’s intentional.

Starting this UnMetal review afresh on PS4, reliving scenes where he gets scolded for beating a man on the toilet, Jesse replies, “I beat the shit out of them”. It’s not all puerile comedy, but the self-aware humour, parodying and respect that Unepic has for their players is spot-on.

Where Did You Get The Noose?

UnMetal, in some ways, is a choose your own adventure. Sure, the main action of stealthily taking out guards, locating items and unlocking doors to the next area is set in stone, but there will be options where Jesse will recollect a scene, and you can choose an option.

UnMetal Preview - X Factor
X Factor. Source: Steam

In one scene, you can recall that it was full of rats. If you think you’re clever by not choosing this option to make your life easier, they become squirrels instead with mock bushy tails, but essentially rats. Further on and you can select the number of tentacles a boss has. Choosing four, for example, won’t depict four tentacles but four pairs of tentacles. Yes, it makes your life harder, but it’s a funny concept.

This frequent action path keeps you on your toes and second-guessing the outcome, which usually isn’t as predictable as you think. That said, there’s a lot of trial and error, so saving your game (visiting a urinal or carrying around a potty) is well advised.

Hello, My Name Is Mike

Not knowing how to get past a section or perhaps selecting the ‘wrong’ answer can prove challenging, such as having 100s of sheep appear in a room that stops significantly slows you down when trying to race against the clock. Coincidentally, the timer is tighter than a duck’s arse.

UnMetal is a challenging game. The focus is on stealth here; distracting a guard, then knocking them out is the preferred choice, but even when you’re armed with a gun and shoot them, you immediately have to heal them or face the consequences of their death on your hands, and getting on the wrong side of a nurse (it’s a game over if this happens).

UnMetal Preview - Stuff
Stuff. Source: Steam

But both the challenge and variety are the highlight. Yes, the script is brilliant and the delivery perfect, but having a story with unpredictable and absurd results is refreshing. More so, when you have to implement different tactics to beat a boss, it reminded me of the ingenuity of the Psycho Mantis battle in Metal Gear Solid.

Bandanas Are Back

Visually, this UnMetal game is the next step up from the original Metal Gear. It’s not great, but it isn’t bad either – a definite throwback to 90s gaming. Graphics aren’t so important, but it’s a little hard to decipher the odd asset now and again, but all is forgiven as it comes with scanlines. Rejoice!

I’ve had ample time playing this on the PC, and there are tons of things to unlock in terms of achievements, secret paths, and uncover a skill path that differs each time. However, playing the UnMetal PS4 version was my preference. It feels like a console game, in the case of sitting in front of a big telly, but perhaps your PC is in the lounge, or maybe you have a ‘I don’t worry about a mortgage’ TV in your lair? Whatever the case, get this game.

UnMetal - Jessssssssseeeeeeeee!
Jessssssssseeeeeeeee! Source: PR

That’s a bit forward, but if you like Metal Gear and have a sense of humour, that’s what this is. I could pretend to be flying the flag of ‘support indie devs’ – which I fully back, but I highly recommend UnMetal based on the gameplay experience for you; the person putting their hands in their pocket or pinching your parent’s credit card to buy it. UnMetal is a hilarious game, and for all the frustrating trial and error events, the rewards outweigh them.