It's very rare to find a comedy game that actually makes you laugh. Comedy is a really subjective genre, which is why comedy movies have this tendency to not review so well unless they having something else going for them. On the one hand, that makes them risky, but on the other hand, it means that when you do find a piece of media that perfectly matches up with your sense of humor, you're in for a great time. This is where UnMetal comes in. A parody game based on the original Metal Gear titles on the MSX that combines just enough pop culture references, nonsequiturs, and straight-up ridiculous moments to actually get a few good laughs in.
UnMetal is a top-down stealth/action game that puts you in the shoes of Jesse Fox, a random civilian who must escape from a military jail after being arrested for a crime he did not commit. As he moves through the prison he meets other characters and becomes embroiled in some sort of plot to start World War III and must do his best to save the world, if he can be bothered. Using a combination of insane stealth skills and pure dumb luck, you have to fist-fight your way out of your cell and face off against numerous bosses, from mutated sea creatures, to machine-gun toating soldiers.
If there was ever a game series that needed to take itself less seriously, it was the Metal Gear series. Despite being written like the author was a 12-year-old conspiracy theorist on acid, Hideo Kojima's most famous series has always treated itself with an air of po-faced seriousness. It's really refreshing to see that exact sort of insane content given the comedic attention that the fanbase has been treating it with since we first heard the words "La Li Lu Le Lo" all those years ago.
Jokes about the series being parodied aside, UnMetal pulls off something that a lot of parody games fail at. It manages to actually be a fun game to play, while still managing to crack jokes at the original game's expense. No Pyst-style snore-fests to be found here. Despite the humorous cut-ins or dialogue moments, you're still stealthing around a Metal Gear-style army base, moving room to room and trying to take out enemy soldiers as quietly as possible.
Stealth is even incentivized by the mechanics directly. You're given a ranged weapon pretty early on, but you only gain experience points if you take out an enemy without being seen. These experience points go towards your level, allowing you to unlock perks that help you out as you get through the game’s different chapters. These perks include things like extra health, quicker item usage, or faster movement speed, and legitimately have a huge effect on how the game plays. Pro Tip: choose faster medkit use. Without it, the mid-to-late stages of the game get much, much harder.
Part of the reason that medkit use speed is so important in UnMetal is thanks to a couple of things. First up, each level will feature at least one boss fight, sometimes more than that. A big factor in the way the game works is that being injured, tends to make you bleed, which causes you to constantly lose health. While you can stop it for free, it takes time to use the bandage to do so, and bosses don’t always give you very long to actually use the healing items. That slightly quicker heal time can be a make-or-break upgrade in some of the tougher fights.
The other reason that healing speed is so important is sort of thanks to one of the game’s jokes. At a certain point, you meet a doctor who tells you not to kill anyone, just before you find a gun. From this point onwards, if you shoot or otherwise lethality injure someone, you have to run over to them and use a healing item before they bleed out, or it’s game over. Once again, there are several scenarios where you’ll be very limited on time to actually heal someone, so the extra speed is a massive booster. Having said that, this does feel like one of the game’s jokes being taken too far. If anything, it might have been better from a gameplay perspective, to let the player choose if they wanted to listen to the doctor or not, rather than forcing them with a game over.
That aside, there’s a lot of fun to be found in the level-to-level gameplay. Much like Metal Gear, UnMetal has a combination of gameplay types. Sometimes, you’re tasked with a specific goal, but have to complete item puzzles to get it done. Other times, you’re sneaking around, knocking out enemies, and hiding bodies. Finally, there’s also straight-up action gameplay, typically when you’re in a boss fight, but also when you’re facing off against robot enemies who can be taken out completely.
The gameplay really works well when combined with the humorous storyline and dialogue. It’s fun to be figuring out these stealth scenarios and item puzzles while having dialogue peppered throughout that’s more humorous than confusing, which is a nice change of pace with this sort of stealth title. The humor even makes its way into the gameplay as well. Periodically, you’ll be given a choice to make, usually with very little information. You’ll have no idea what it is you’re even choosing it, and before long the room you’re in will be filled with sheep or poison frogs for seemingly no reason.
Part of the way that UnMetal gets away with these moments is thanks to the framing device being used. The entire game takes place in flashback, as the hero recounts his adventure. As he makes things up or forgets and remembers things, the gameplay changes. There are even areas with completely hidden sections that can only be ‘remembered’ by completing item puzzles in other parts of the level. This can affect everything from pointless set dressing like the aforementioned sheep issue, or even how hard certain boss fights are, you never know what you’re going to get.
But, does the comedic stuff ever get in the way of having fun? Occasionally, yes. We’ve already talked about the ‘no killing’ thing, but that’s only very minor. The game has a bit of a habit of trolling you, with certain choices that seem like they should work one way but don’t, completely screwing you over in the long run. For instance, there’s a scene where you’re sneaking through some sleeping dogs, and someone calls you mid-sneak, waking the dogs and ending in a game over. Most of the time these moments aren’t terrible, and you can jump back in relatively quickly without much hassle, but they can still be annoying.
Occasionally, ‘comedy over fun’ moments aside, there are a few other factors that do negatively affect what is otherwise a superb stealth game experience. For instance, because the commands for attacking and picking up a body are the same, you can end up picking up a body instead of attacking someone, leading to you getting seen. Also, while the deaths are pretty simple to recover from, the later bosses can get really, really frustrating. Most of them feature some way of the main character being killed in a single hit, which is realistic and sort of funny the first time, but when you’re on your 30th run at a late-game boss, it gets a bit annoying. Especially if you’ve made the wrong level-up choices on your way through the game.
Despite my complaints, UnMetal is definitely worth your time if you want a great stealth game that doesn’t take itself so seriously. If you can ignore the frustrating moments, there’s a lot of fun stuff here, but it’s no understatement to say that these frustrations have a severe negative impact on how playable the game actually is. No amount of fun gameplay and humor can disguise the fact that you’ve had to fight the helicopter boss 400 times because the game made you do some weird choices beforehand that you had no way of knowing the outcome of. Having said all that, this game actually references and corrects the classic “I feel asleep” line from Metal Gear on the NES so it’s clearly a masterpiece.
TechRaptor covered UnMetal on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the developer. The game is also available on PC
- Lots of Genuinely Funny Moments
- Great Items Puzzles With Lots of Different Uses for Solution Items
- Simple but Enjoyable Stealth Gameplay
- Some Later-Stage Bosses are Quite Frustrating
- Easy to Occasionally Pick Up a Guard While Trying to Take One Out Quietly