For over thirteen years now, SNK has been releasing much the same videogame over and over again. In mechanical, visual and thematic terms, Metal Slug's developments are measured in minutiae: tweaks to format indiscernible by all but the aficionado. What other series continues to use the same sprites, sound effects and ideas found in its debut more than a decade ago?
Perhaps the secret of Metal Slug's success lies in its predictability then. There's an assurance that these firecracker shooters will always offer the same precise run-and-gunplay, presented on a backdrop of a slapstick war waged by coward Nazis, dripping zombies and mecha-camels. Indeed, Metal Slug's expressive hand-drawn sprites, birthed on that Bentley of 16-bit consoles, the Neo-Geo AES, are kept alive through choice, not necessity. Metal Slug's disastrous foray into 3D in 2006 ensured that for this, the seventh sequel to the series, SNK Playmore has retreated to a Tom and Jerry cartoon approach to the crimson horrors of war. It's a wise decision to stick to tradition, and one taken despite the fact that, for the first time ever, the console version has no arcade release to which to adhere.
Metal Slug 7's fundamentals remain immovable despite the platform change. As ever, you control a single soldier (one of six men and women), and must work your way through 2D environments shooting enemies before they shoot you. You've no health bar: it's one shot one kill and your default pistol (or machine gun if you're playing on 'Beginner' difficulty) is holstered next to a clutch of grenades. Scattered throughout each level are a number of ageing POWs, naked save for a linen cloth that cups their modesty, who supply you with new weapons. Finally, should you find any vacant vehicles along the way, you can ride them into the glorious cannon fire.