Metal Assault Preview: Blood and Babes
by Nic van't Schip (Nilax), OnRPG Journalist
Be sure to check out our video preview!
At first sight Metal Assault looks like the wet dream of any Metal Slug fanboi and fangurl. The game is wholly unapologetic about being a multiplayer version of the original arcade shooter. I know Metal Slug itself was multiplayer as well but hey, you couldn't play with 20 of your buddies at the same time could you?
Our friends at Aeria Games are bringing this game to us and frankly it was about time we saw something new from them. They didn't really have a side scrolling game yet so this will round out their impressive portfolio nicely.
The game is currently in beta still and we were not able to test the item mall. Everything else seems to work just fine however so let's get to the testing!
Metal Assault gives you the choice between four distinctly different characters and even lets you customize them a bit, but more on that later.
Carl is your standard "in the middle" kind of character. He doesn't rule at anything but he also doesn't suck at anything. Many gamers will argue that this means he sucks at everything and rules at nothing but that's merely a matter of perspective.
Burton is the tanky type character. He reminds me a lot of Barrett (FF7 but I didn't have to tell you that right?) because he's a big guy with a big gun and a black beard. Lots of people seem to play him like the Heavy in Team Fortress 2. To me it seems like he takes a serious hit in all his stats compared to Carl for a small increase in hitpoints. In fact if we count the number of little blocks on both characters we'll see that Carl has 57 and Burton only has 51... What an interesting concept of balance huh?
Marie seems to take the cake though in the "Box Counting Competition" with a whopping 65. She's the sniper of the team and according to her bio on the Metal Assault website she goes by the name of "Lil ‘Miss Headshot". I can imagine that with stats like hers headshots should be quite easy. She trades about a 3rd of her hitpoints for a massive advantage in stats.
Ai is our fourth and last choice and rather than whine about her stats I want to in stead quote her background story from the Metal Assault website:
Ai's childhood was a struggle against her perfect sister, Maii, to gain their parents' attention. Unlike Ai, Maii excelled at everything she tried, from gymnastics to ballet to sharpshooting. Maii later became a war hero in the R.O.C. Ai's love and jealousy grew until an incurable illness struck Maii down behind enemy lines.
Hoping to both surpass her sister's memory and alleviate her own guilt, Ai became determined to join the R.O.C. herself. She strives to both follow in Maii's footsteps and outperform her at every opportunity. Quick and nimble, Ai complements the team well as a forward scout.
Holy heavy back stories Batman, where did that curveball come from? But I guess a bit of family intrigue, guilt and a healthy inferiority complex has never hurt a game's lore. I could mention FF7 again here but you get my point.
Getting Metal Assault to run and play perfectly can be a bit of a hassle. I know LOTS of people who had no problem what so ever but the OnRPG team was unlucky I guess. Some of the other writers were unable to get it to run at all and I had to mess about with the sound settings to get it to behave well. We could have simply had some bad luck and the game IS still in beta so we hope these issues won't plague the game when it releases.
Once in the game you are asked if you want to take part in a Tutorial which I accepted. While being extremely basic and perhaps a tad slowly paced this part of the game does do a good job of showing that Metal Assault has character and a real sense of humor. The drill instructor type dude that is guiding us through the exercises cracks a joke or two and does a pretty effective job of teaching me how to run, jump, crouch, shoot and grenade my way through the game.
The first quest he sends me on my way with is obviously designed to teach me how the shop and item system works in the game. For a side scrolling shooter the quest system seems fairly sturdy and the "Town" is nice and busy with lots of players... or is it?
Most of the people in this screenshot seem to be bots, people that logged off with a certain message clogging up the town interface. It does a good job of populating the town I guess so let's not fret on this too much.
But now I'm eager to get to the real shooting. Via a lobby system we can join or start games. When I was online two maps in particular seemed extremely popular; Cursed Forest and Great Escape. Cursed Forest is a static map in which you have to defend your base camp against a constant onslaught of Zombies and Great Escape is a basement which, the name says it, you have to escape from.
As you can see in our game play video, the tactic of spawn camping in Cursed Forest is both extremely popular as well as ridiculously effective. The zombies simply aren't powerful or numerous enough until the last couple of rounds of each game to really endanger the players and this is a bit of a shame. This results in 80% of a game being a basic grinding exercise with only the last couple of rounds turning into the hectic and epic shooting and running that we expect from this game.
Again, as this is only the beta of the game I really hope that Aeria gets the developer to tweak this a bit. Two or three easy rounds at the beginning of a game would be nice as a warm-up but the majority of a game should feel like a challenge and not just the last two rounds.
PvP is extremely hectic and if it's your kind of thing I can imagine it'll be good for a lot of fun!
It will be interesting to see what the item mall will have in store (puns always intended) for this game and a couple of weeks after the game launched officially we'll be back with a full on review!