UnMetal game review: Classic Metal Gear turned funny
- Parodies old school stealth games like Metal Gear
- Piles on the jokes and referential humour
- A surprisingly fleshed-out adventure
If you’re old enough to remember the PS1-era Metal Gear Solid, then UnMetal from Versus Evil will speak volumes to that part of you that first fell in love with the bizarre covert world of Solid Snake. It’s from the same mind as UnEpic, a game that liberally lampoons dungeon crawlers in sometimes hilarious ways. The science here is much the same, as UnMetal parodies late-90s stealth action games while at the same time putting their mechanics to pretty good use throughout.
Set in 1972, the protagonist is Jesse Fox, perhaps the most unreliable narrator to ever front a video game. After his stolen helicopter crashes he’s arrested by the US government and forced to explain how he came to be piloting said chopper and what the hell he’s been getting up to.
Jesse himself is perhaps UnMetal’s biggest and most prominent punchline. Everything he says and does is a parody of 80s action heroes, from his raspy dudebro voice to the bandanna holding his mullet back.
Naff action hero
Almost everything he says is pretty clearly a lie. From his account of breaking out of prison to the tentacle junk monster, he fought in the sewers. At key moments the reins are handed to you to provide answers to the interrogator’s questions.
Were there rats in the sewers? is a fairly innocuous question, and since I couldn’t be bothered dealing with rats I said No. So instead of hordes of flesh-eating rats, Jesse’s mind conjured swarms of bloodthirsty squirrels. UnMetal punishes you for trying to take the easy road and laughs its head off as it does so.
As you pick your way through the grid-like levels, Jesse’s interrogator changes from a CIA agent in a dark grey room to an attractive sidekick in the passenger side of a jeep, with Jesse reimagined as a charming Nathan Drake-type. This just happens, for no reason. I thought I’d missed something but no, replaying through confirmed that, like everything else, this too is unreliable. It switches back and forth for no reason regularly.
Thankfully, UnMetal is consistently amusing if not anywhere near as funny as the writer believes it is. Most of the jokes don’t really land, but the situations that present themselves had me chuckling now and then. Jesse’s penchant for punching things to search them, for example, is usually remarked upon by either the man himself or his interrogator. And there are moments where the game rewards your bad behavior.
An example is when I found a guard in a toilet cubicle. He asks for paper, which I gave him, but then started wondering. I went back and beat in the door, knocking him unconscious in the process, and was reprimanded by the interrogator for my actions.
Each stage is set out in a fairly formulaic way. You’ll usually need to explore and loot things until you find an item you need to continue, and the process repeats. Now and then, there’s a boss fight to contend with or some other obstacle such as the world’s most infuriating minefield.
These boss fights usually take time to understand, and can often be fiddly due to the grid-based nature of the game world. And if you fail, you’re often sent back to before whatever cutscene triggers the fight. Having to sit through the same cheesy one-liners over and over isn’t fun. You can level up though, as you earn XP for knocking out unaware guards.
Each level offers a choice of power-ups such as faster health regeneration or a reduction in the time taken to apply a bandage. Like in a point-n-click game, Jesse’s inventory slowly fills up, and you’ll often need to combine items to proceed. A meathook tied to a rope, for example, allows you to rappel down into the sewers.
You’ll be in fairly regular contact with a couple of different NPCs via Jesse’s encrypted radio, who will offer advice or just more chitchat when contacted. Jesse himself is pretty verbose, remarking on most events and items you find as you progress.
The stealth element is surprisingly tight, too, as you use tossed coins and high crates to silently take down patrols. You’ll need to hide the bodies, too, as you can’t actually kill any guards and other patrols will find and revive their downed comrades. You have a slingshot made from an eyepatch and a y-shaped branch that you can use to pelt the enemy with depleted uranium balls, but you’ll occasionally unlock new weapons that are usually temporary.
There’s nothing overly difficult about any part of UnMetal. A few of the boss fights are infuriating, and there were a few times where I just felt lost because I’d missed a crate containing an essential item. The map isn’t the best, and I often found myself running back and forth looking for a solution.
Graphically, UnMetal looks pretty good for what it is. As a pixel-art game it doesn’t set outlook amazing, but the animations are on point, the environments sell themselves well, and everything is clear to see and workaround.
Achievements and completion
UnMetal is surprisingly long for the type of game that it is. Running through the main story alone will take you around 8 to 10 hours, though if you really want to see every joke and find every item, you’re probably pushing closer to 12.
That being said, there’s not much of an incentive to go back and replay UnMetal, or even attempt to 100% complete it. Once the story is done, you’ll probably move on.
Final thoughts on UnMetal
- Solid stealth mechanics
- Pretty funny in places
- Some wacky ideas
- Story makes no sense
- Boss fights can be infuriating
- Not all the jokes land
Final Score: 3/5
UnMetal is a game that refuses to take itself seriously in any way. From childish, immature humor to a liberal sprinkling of pop culture references and anachronisms, the plot itself is as unreliable as its narrator. It’s very silly, and it knows it.
But, if you’re looking for a solid old-school stealth game that also happens to be pretty damn funny most – if not all – of the time, then UnMetal delivers. If nothing else, it treats the player with a certain amount of respect by actually playing very well, and that’s perhaps the most important thing.