Metroid Dread review: cranky, cryptic, and often frustrating

From the very beginning, Metroid was to feel lonely. The games typically drop players into a harsh alien world stripped of most of their abilities and with little guidance on how to survive and escape. When it works, it’s amazing; there’s a good reason the series spawned a whole genre of 2D exploration games. Even with a host of modern contemporaries, there is still something about MetroidThe special blend of sci-fi loneliness that remains distinct.

Terror Metroid, the series’ first main entry since 2002 – and a game that took a long time to move from concept to reality – widely understands this. Its world is dark and cryptic, both a place to explore and a puzzle to unravel. He nails the classic Metroid ambiance while adding a new sense of dread in the form of relentless robots that will chase you like a resident Evil monster. It is the closest Metroid has become a full-fledged horror game. At a time, Fear also wants to be an action game, with lots of boss battles and surprise fights against fast-paced enemies. During the game, these two parties constantly feel at odds and never come together in a satisfying way.

The game begins, like Metroid the games still do, with bounty hunter Samus Aran following a distress beacon to a planet where something mysterious has happened. Her job is to investigate, but instead she finds herself trapped on a hostile planet called ZDR, which consists of a number of underground locations – ranging from a research center to a vibrant forest to an ancient shrine – all linked together by various tunnels and a very convenient transport system. Samus once again lost her powers upon arrival (the game calls it “physical amnesia”), and the goal is to get them back so she can navigate the maze and return to her ship.

Metroid has never been very rich in history in the traditional sense. It’s not a series filled with cutscenes and dialogue. (That said, the game opens with a helpful intro from its predecessor Metroid Fusion came out almost two decades ago.) Fear continue this tradition; There are a handful of long story moments, but most of the time you’ll learn more about the planet as you explore it and occasionally update your AI assistant Adam.

But there’s still a lot of world-building here, and that’s mostly coming from the places you’ll explore. Although Fear is a 2D game, its graphics are three-dimensional, and the artists have used it to create fully fleshed out environments with a lot of visual depth. (3D elements are strictly aesthetic.) In the background, you’ll see terrifying and brutal experiences unfold, the ruins of ancient statues and buildings, and wildlife that scatters as you approach. One section was completely dark and covered in cobwebs until I managed to press the button that turned the power back on. It was deliciously scary. I was especially impressed with an area in the middle of a large aquarium, where you can see all manner of alien sea creatures scurrying about and occasionally bumping into the glass as you approach. There’s a great sense of scale too, and the camera will zoom out to show you how small Samus is compared to a huge machine or monster. Sometimes these visual touches hint at things happening in the game, like a horrible enemy boss coming up, but most of the time, they serve as a welcome showcase that makes sense of the place and purpose of the world. .

As for the way he plays, Fear is classic Metroid, and it is largely based on that of 2017 Samus returns, a remake of Metroide II for Nintendo 3DS. This means it’s a side-scrolling game where you navigate narrow, interconnected levels using a variety of skills. Going back is a hallmark. The idea is that you’ll come across areas – a weird doorway, or a ledge that’s just too high, or maybe a lava-filled room that’s just a little too hot for comfort – that you can’t access. until you get the right capacity. At first there isn’t much more Samus can do than shoot his weapon and jump, but you will gradually regain access to his arsenal, from the iconic morph ball to a double jump to frozen missiles. When you have the right ability, you can return to previously inaccessible areas to open up new paths. It’s a familiar structure now, but it still works because it’s so satisfying to finally be able to overcome those obstacles that got you stuck early in the game. I also love watching the map slowly fill in as I go. venture into new hidden corners of each area.

With Samus returns, Nintendo and its partner studio MercurySteam took a slightly more action-oriented approach, and that continues here. Samus can move fast with a new dash move, and she has a melee attack that lets you knock back enemies if you time her right, as in Samus returns. This has certain advantages; it makes the average encounter with an enemy more exciting and dynamic, and it turns some of the boss battles into fast-paced fights. But there are definitely downsides. For one thing, the controls are heavy, especially later in the game when Samus gets a lot of abilities. Having to hold down multiple shoulder buttons to fire missiles at a goopy alien scurrying around the screen isn’t really fun, especially when you too must memorize their movements and rush so as not to die a twelfth time in a row. The controls just don’t feel up to the action.

Not all bosses or big encounters are that frustrating. Many are exciting. Metroid fans will know how satisfying it can be to take down a towering alien after finding the right model to hit their weak spots. And Fear has lots of cool monsters, from tentacle bared sea creatures to chained dragon-like beasts. The problem is, there are just too many of these large-scale encounters. In addition to the main bosses, there are faster fights against Samus-sized villains like ancient warriors and robotic soldiers that require quick reflexes and often cost me lots and lots of deaths.

the terror of the metroids

The problem isn’t that these battles are difficult, it’s that there are too many of them. Sometimes it feels like a boss rush mode, where every few plays you’re faced with something new. To make things more frustrating, Fear has an annoying habit of frequently blocking your path just before one of these encounters, so you have no choice but to complete the battle before you can continue. There were plenty of times that I would have appreciated being able to take a break with a little exploration before returning to a difficult boss. The amount of fighting also takes away the solemn and brooding vibe that is so intrinsic to Metroid, and it’s shocking to be constantly withdrawn from the calm atmosphere.

The good news is that FearThe most notable addition of, robotic sentries called EMMI, do a lot to add to that vibe. Basically, there are sections of the ZDR that are under EMMI protection, and they will hunt down and kill anything that doesn’t belong to them. All you can do is survive. One of Samus’ new abilities is called a “ghost cloak,” and this makes her invisible for short periods of time. Since you can’t fight, whenever the EMMI approaches you have to either run or hide. This creates some incredibly tense moments, where you’re crouching in a corner or hanging off a ledge as the bot lurks, hoping your cloak doesn’t run out before you leave. These scenes really turn up the tension, making you feel lonely and, at times, helpless on this violent planet. And by limiting EMMI to specific areas, the game’s designers have helped keep it from being too frustrating; Once you figure out what to do, these sequences usually only last a few seconds, after which you can finally breathe.

This makes Fear all the more frustrating because it does so much good. It nails the classic feel of a Metroid game while updating it with wonderfully detailed visuals, more satisfying combat and new areas that briefly turn it into a stealth horror experience. But it all comes to a screeching halt when you have to fight three bosses in a short period of time, each requiring either quick reflexes or memorizing patterns to pass – or both. Instead of punctuating leisurely exploration with intense battles, hearty boss encounters turn into a chore instead. Fear presents some of the most beautifully dark and solemn moments in the franchise – but you’ll have to be prepared to really fight to see it all.