UnMetal is a deliberate Metal Gear parody game that is one of the most intelligently written, fourth wall breaking games I’ve played. Being the massive Metal Gear fan that I am, I was worried such an obvious knock off would sour the wondrous MGS experience but instead was blown away by how smart, funny, and creative this game is from beginning to end.
Jesse Fox is purposely designed to look and act like Kojima’s Solid Snake, specifically from the original 8-bit titles. Instead of sneaking deeper into enemy territory to thwart nuclear war, the objective here is to escape from a military base for a crime you didn’t commit. I don’t want to delve deeper into the narrative here as it will spoil the experience but know that the entire presentation is absurdly well done.
The narrative, which is told through flashbacks, puts humor front and center and never stops. Dialog between characters is funny just watching the story unfold but it is taken to another level when the game actually gives the player choice, sort of like a choose-your-own adventure book. For example, as the main character is telling his story, he will enter a room and face a boss. The phrase “the boss had <blank> amount of tentacles” and the player is given three choices. If the player chooses “2” thinking the boss will be easier because he will then only have 2 tentacles, the main character will then say “it has 2 DOZEN arms” which makes the boss fight even more difficult. Selecting the biggest number actually starts the fight with the lowest amount of difficulty. Despite having a tougher fight, I still couldn’t help by laugh at the humorous and purposeful misdirection.
What makes the narrative so thoughtful and well written is how it merges directly into gameplay. Beyond the player-choice plot options, doing things in game has a direct cause-and-effect with how the characters speaks or how the story unfolds. As an example, punching boxes and walls will not only clear a path, it will also reward the player with an item. Needless to say, the player will just start punching everything with hopes something will fall out, indicated by a small shaking animation. At one point, the Colonel, who calls you on the radio, will ask why you are punching boxes and what you hope to gain by doing so. Instances like these are placed throughout the campaign and serve no purpose other than adding humor and it is always good for a chuckle. At one point, Jesse has an opportunity to escape in a truck but doesn’t do it because he is concerned about pollution. The unexpected stupidity is gold and is a direct result of the gameplay and player input. Genius!
Combining items is another unique feature of the item and inventory screen. Sometimes it is necessary to combine to two items to create a key item to progress, other times you can mix things together and kill yourself in the inventory screen. Either way, it is easy to use and sometimes the player will accidentally encounter unexpected results.
UnMetal is a great and thoughtful game that focuses on the details, right down to being able to customize the controls, but there are a few minor blemishes that will only briefly annoy. There are some moments of tedium, like trying to navigate through a field of dogs that will insta-kill if they pick up your scent, or some underwater navigation in a submarine climaxing with a fight against a massive eel, but it is nothing a little persistence cannot overcome. The Game Over screen also hangs for a few seconds too long and I think I encountered a few glitches along the way. Thing is, I THINK I encountered some glitches but I am not 100% because a game like this purposely trolls the player. There was one dialog tree, for example, that always resulted in Jesse’s death which makes me think it was purposely designed to tease the player or perhaps that segment simply wasn’t programmed properly. Either way, these spots, whether intentional or not, are also minor.
For an indie game made by a relatively unknown developer (Unepic_Fran), this is a shockingly high quality title that is enthralling from beginning to end. Honestly, I could go on and on about the story, the humor, and how it intertwines directly into the gameplay, but that would ruin the experience. If you cannot play this for yourself, I encourage you to at least watch a long play because this is a special game that deserves attention for being its own thing and not just a Metal Gear knock-off.
Funnier Than: Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Better Than: any Splinter Cell game
Wait For It: a full remake of the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MSX)