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Metal Slug Tactics preview – A serious departure for the beloved run ‘n’ gun series

The beloved run ‘n’ gun shooter series Metal Slug is set to return later this year, but the action it provides possibly won’t be all that familiar with fans. You see, Metal Slug Tactics does away with the fast-paced side-scrolling antics in favour of thoughtful turn-based tactical battles. Oh, and it has roguelike elements too.

Playing through a PC demo of Metal Slug Tactics, which you can also now play thanks to Steam Next Fest, we got a good taste of the action that it’s set to offer when it launches this year on not only PC but also on consoles. Overall it left a good impression, though we’re not entirely sure that the tactical turn-based strategy and roguelike genres go hand-in-hand.

With our three-strong squad of familiar Metal Slug heroes, we battled against the Rebel Army of the nefarious Morden across numerous missions in one of the game’s multiple locations, the Argun Palm Desert. First you need to assemble your squad in the order you wish, then it’s up to you to make use of their unique skills to complete a range of objectives.

Metal Slug Tactics body 1
Image: Leikir Studio

In one mission you might need to simply wipe out all enemies, for example. In another you might need to escort an NPC to a specific location. In any case, the variety here is very welcome, and means that you’re kept on your toes. We particularly like how the map grows, or scrolls, during some missions, too. It’s a nice nod back to the series’ run ‘n’ gun roots.

The actual combat is about what you’d expect for the most part. When it’s your turn you get to move your units and perform actions with them, then it’s the enemy’s turn to do the same. When it’s your turn, it’s important to consider things like taking cover and elevation, as well as avoiding environmental hazards. Stand under a crate being held aloft by a crane, for example, and you might find it coming down on you if an enemy activates a switch.

Of course, you can do the same if you wish, and sometimes looking out for opportunities like this pays dividends. You can also make use of an advantageous mechanic called Synchronisation if you correctly position your squad, making other members join in when you attack with your primary weapon. There are limits to this, of course, but savvy players will really want to make use of it to get the upper hand.

Metal Slug Tactics body 2
Image: Leikir Studio

In addition to each squad members’ primary weapon, which has infinite ammo, they have a more powerful special weapon available too. This has to be used sparingly, however, otherwise you might run out of ammo when you really need it. There are special abilities available, too, powered by Adrenaline which builds up as you move across the battlefield. Both weapons and abilities can be enhanced during your run, thanks to mods than can be equipped, and upgrades earned by levelling up. There are new skills and passives to acquire, too.

Should you survive long enough to complete multiple missions in a location, a boss inevitably turns up. This is where your skills are really put to the test, just like in a normal Metal Slug game, really. You’ll need to pump these behemoths full of lead while also watching out for their barrage of attacks and dealing with smaller enemies. You might need to keep on the move, too, with bits of the map falling away behind you. Needless to say, Metal Slug Tactics is challenging.

Being a roguelike, when you fail, it’s back to the start you go, with your upgrades et cetera taken away from you. You do seem to earn credits which can be used to unlock permanent upgrades, however. Still, this is the one aspect of the game we’re not all too sure about. It takes a while to make any progress in Metal Slug Tactics due to the slow-paced nature of the experience – to lose everything and have to start back at the beginning when you fail might quickly feel like a drag.

Still, Metal Slug Tactics might surprise us. Jumping in time and time again might not feel as laborious as it initially seems. After all, the full game will feature lots of squad members to unlock, and feature multiple new areas. Right now, though, we feel like we might have been more excited about the game it if was simply a tactical RPG with a traditional campaign, rather than a roguelike. But we’ll give it a chance to prove us wrong.

Metal Slug Tactics launches later this year on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC

Summer Game Fest 2024 is in full swing, and we’re covering the latest, best announcements right here. Want to see everything so far? Head to our SGF 2024 hub right here.

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