There are some games that enter the stage without much fanfare and leave a long-lasting impact. Then you have spiritual sequels, fan-made projects, mods, parodies, and whatnot. Even today, we often read that this or that is game is the Dark Souls of [insert genre]. The combat could be “Zelda-like” or maybe it’s like “Skyrim with guns”. We rarely know what that even means but it’s there to involve a familiar feeling in lieu of “oh, so it’s like that other game we all played? Good!” UnMetal is a game that doesn’t shy away from its inspiration and it owes a lot to the source material. If you played Metal Gear Solid on PsOne, you’ll recognize a lot of references and easter eggs here. But what I want to know is does the game has something of its own or is it just relying on overused references like a bad Seth McFarlane movie. We shall see.
So, you play as Jesse Fox who finds himself imprisoned in a covert military base where he was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. You must now escape using his dry wits, quick words, improvised skills, an arsenal of warfare, violent explosives, quirky gadgets, and an elaborate explanation of what actually happened. If that all fails, you can always punch people to death (or at least enough to make the unconscious). You quickly escape from prison to the sewers all while trying to learn what is happening and why were you framed.
The story is presented through many flashbacks. Our protagonist Jesse Fox is telling his interrogator how he was captured and about his subsequent escape. You are actually in control during those flashback segments and have to do exactly how Jesse explained his escape to the interrogator. It is a cleverly disguised tutorial that certainly doesn’t feel like one. And right off the bat, we get some 4th wall breaking. Depending on how you behave during gameplay, that might reflect on the narrative of the game. For example, if you happen to repeatedly punch a bunch of unbreakable boxes, the game will switch over to the interrogator’s room where he will just directly ask Jesse Fox what was he trying to accomplish with that behavior. The characters will comment on the weird items you find in the field, on your gameplay style, and sometimes the game will create itself as you play. Sounds weird, I know. On one particular occasion, my character entered a large open prison field until he suddenly proclaimed “hmmm, I remember fighting some soldier with grenades here”. And voila, a boss fight started out of nowhere. A lot of gameplay consists of combining items you find and turning them into something else. That something else is usually an item that will grant you access to a new area. And of course, plenty of secrets to find and soldiers to punch. At least at the beginning. Later on, you get a slingshot and your arsenal only grows from there. It’s up to you to decide if sometimes it is better to sneak around the soldiers or get into a fistfight match with them, knock them unconscious and then strip search them. I usually went with the fisticuffs route. After all, no one will notice you if there is nobody left conscious to notice you, right?
Indie at its core. UnMetal comes with pixelated visuals, but the good kind, you know. The kind where you can actually distinguish your character from a background bush. All joking aside, the visuals are distinguishable, high quality, and with a vast color palette, which is pretty impressive considering that the first two sections are set in prison and a sewer. You know, the bane of level designs. Environments are incredibly detailed so much that you won’t have trouble noticing the key items or objects that you have to interact with.
Now, this is something that took me completely by surprise. Especially since it comes from an indie game with (I assume) a carefully calculated budget. All story segments, character interactions, and flashback moments come with voice acting. And it’s a really good one, let me tell you. It’s pretty obvious that the voice of Jesse Fox is a pretty obvious homage to Solid Snake, but it works. It’s endearing and funny. In any case, UnMetal has incredible voice acting that could put many other indie games to shame.
It’s on small feat to make a game that’s an homage, a parody, and a deconstruction of the entire series that draws its inspiration from. Yet, UnMetal did just that. It’s a small game that hides a lot of big things inside. But what mainly impresses me is the story and narration. It’s filled with jokes, references, and playful jabs at Metal Gear Solid. Yet it never feels forced and the humor doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s a fun little game that gives you way more than you expected, especially in terms of story and gameplay.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.