To give you a sample of what the Metal Slug experience is like, allow me to relate this evening’s extended session on the explosive arcade romp that is the X-Box version of Metal Slug 3:
(Bear in mind that throughout all of this, the air is filled with screaming bullets, thunderous explosions, soldiers’ agonised death-shrieks, disintegrating vehicles, weapon reports, blood-spewing corpses flung like broken dolls in all directions, and the power-up announcer bellowing “SUPER GRENADE! HEAVY MACHINE GUN! ROCKET LAUNCHER! ENEMY CHASER! HEAVY MACHINE GUN! SHOT-GUN! LASER! HEAVY MACHINE GUN!..”)
The final level begins with your character blasting apart a small hanger and absconding with a Harrier, in order to take the one-man war against the mutinous and traitorous General Morden to the skies. Hurtling through the thick, rouge-tinted clouds, you suddenly find a small blizzard of hapless paratroopers liquefying themselves as they’re sucked into your aeroplane’s engines - those few soldiers sufficiently rapid to react lob bazooka rounds at you as they descend. With Morden’s perimiter thus breached, his interceptors scramble and within a few short seconds you must shoot down an entire flight of them as they swing in from every edge of the screen, whilst simultaeneously weaving a hazardous path through the homing missiles that they deploy at you.
That threat soundly despatched, your aeroplane (or your character strapped to a rocket-pack if you’ve been sufficiently inept to get shot down already), plummets through the clouds and levels out to be skimming along the ground, whipping through the branches covering a forest track, along which is roaring a convoy of Morden’s troops, ferrying equipment for who-knows-what diabolical purpose in the depths of his jungle base. Tanks mounted on the backs of lorries belch shells at you; attack helicopters shred a path through the foliage to similarly hack apart you; A small zepplin decides to stick its oar into the mess; a man after Rambo’s own heart leans out of a low-flying transport craft to riddle you with oerlikon rounds and pelt you with stick-bombs.
Strafing a bloody and explosive swathe through all of that material, you touch down at the fringes of the central rocket launch pad. Understandably your reputation precedes you after four previous levels of inflicting a dozen varieities of gruesome death on Morden’s troops, and they flee from you as you push through the shrubs! Morden’s bodyguards, however, determinedly make a stand, practically queuing up to be kneecapped and gutshot by your vengeful firepower.
A Chinook thwaps and thops its noisy course over your head. Its side doors slide open, and General Morden appears to deal with an infernally obstinate runt such as yourself personally! You grasp the trigger of a nearby oerlikon gun yourself to oblige him. It’s the final showdown - or so you think…
Defeated, General Morden tumbles out of his crippled helicopter (which smokily plunges down to explode itself) and dashes himself against the ground in a bone-crushing impact. A few loyal soldiers gather round to hear their beloved leader’s final words - only to find him vomiting grey gunk instead. Suddenly, a hideous squid-like being erupts from his skin-bag - he’s an alien!
As the terrified soldiers flee, the alien utilises a ray-gun to imprison you. An UFO swoops overhead (with the real General Morden screaming pitifully, strapped to the side) to collect the alien and his captive, and powers off into space! One of your other characters throws himself into the breach, and Morden’s troops - now defecting back to your side at the drop of a hat - guide you to a rocket, to blast into the heavens and exact revenge on the evil alien meddlers!
You and a whole host of Morden’s troops punch through the clouds, and the run’n’gunner turns into a scrolling shooter as you must duck, dive, weave, blast and blaze your way through five waves of UFOs and four meteor showers before you have an opportunity to destroy a lightning-cannon mounted on the base of the alien mothership, entering the vessel through the hole you’ve just rent in the hull.
You’re now thrusting your way through the vast spaceship’s innards - repulsive bio-mechanical monstrosities worthy of R-Type - defeating yet more defence drones and smashing your way through constricting barriers. Eventually, a Morden Army missile blasts its way through a solid floor plate, which you pop through to continue the attack on foot.
Flamethrower in hand, you must scorch and immolate a host of evil squiddies with cleansing hydrocarbolic oblivion, and quite literally jump through hoops - only these are lethal ray-gun hoops fired by brains in jars, which swing and jerk about the landscape and where even a light brush with one is sufficient to deal a lethal shock.
A fair amount of swearing later, you’re tasked with defeating the prison guards incarcerating Morden (he’s strapped up to a painful probe machine), the irony of assisting the villain you’ve spent the entire game fighting not apparently considered by the game designers. He directs his troops, who’ve also boarded the mothership, to join forces with you on a charge to the central core. The only problem being, though, that it’s guarded by a swarm of nimble and scuttling spider-bombs and thirty feet-high walkers which defecate explosive blobs of bouncing jelly, and require more exactingly pixel-perfect skill to dodge than you needed in the conveyor-belt room in Jet Set Willy.
Grind down the access doors to the alien mother’s inner sanctum, and get prepared for your blood-pressure to skyrocket to shoot down passing aeroplanes as you have to run around in circles like a dog chasing its own tail in order to dodge orb after relentless orb of fearsome psychic force, with barely a sixteenth of an inch of breathing space and only the odd quarter-second to nip in with a shot at the odious monstrosity’s head (what you think is its head, anyway). When this beast is eventually defeated, several continues later, surely it’ll be time for the credits to roll?
Of course not, silly - you’ve got to get out now!
With the critically-damaged mothership beginning to shed rubble from the ceiling, it’s time to exit stage right - but your Morden Army allies are being gunned down by… your imprisoned character? Only it’s not him/her at all, it’s a putrid pus-bag clone - and hundreds of them, too! The offences to existence must be mercliessly mown down with a machine gun set to full-auto, and crushed to a fine mulch beneath the wheels of a conveniently-placed tank. A few more hoop-blasting brains appear to spoil your day, but thankfully another Rambo cosplayer chips in to lend you a hand.
In the next chamber, you find your fellow character, floating in a stomach-churning cyst. You must break it - only dozens of clones are popping out of tubes every second to stop you, naturally.
With your compatriot liberated, it’s now a race against time to escape - not only is the ship crashing down around your ears, but acid-spewing zombies are now shambling up behind you! What better way to ruin your day than laying tough blast doors and even more of those bloody-minded hoop-brains across your path? With more button-mashing, life-losing and frenetic prayers, though, you hop into a tank and blast off through an airlock, as the mothership rends herself asunder in an extravagant display of pyrotechnics. You transform into a golden comet as re-entry begins, but the tank’s durable and you push through into a glorious blue sky. Now wouldn’t it be a wonderful moment for the victory fanfares to play?
Is it hell. A claw swipes up your tank from off-screen - the alien mother has survived and is back for one last crack at you!
Then you die. All continues expended. Game over.
In my long and devoted dedication to the intricacies of the great and unmatched English tongue, I have gained knowledge of the perfect word to describe situations like this:
…same time tomorrow then, X-Box?