Classic gamers and Hideo Kojima fans of yore will be quick to see a familiar setting they’ve missed for so long. While the inspiration of Metal Gear is obvious, UnMetal locks in on 80s action hero satire. Exaggerating character tropes and arming the protagonist with head tilting logic puts UnMetal on a lane with little to no traffic in its genre.
Gameplay is a top down adventure with a weighted focus on stealth. Minigames are sprinkled in to keep the game moving. Some checkpoints will give you the option to choose how the next section of content unfolds. Unlike other games where running in guns blazing can be a strategic option, such is not the case here. The protagonist doesn’t believe in murder so killing a guard is a no go. Without ranged options of knocking someone out, the hands have to put in some work.
The slow and steady stealth route does have its perks. Knocking out an unsuspecting guard gives the player experience points to level up. With only a finite amount of guards, each encounter becomes important if you’re looking to get the maximum points in each level. Upon leveling up, you get to choose between two perks that will help you through your run. Some choices are easier to make than others. The stat increase or gameplay change will be significant enough to affect your playthrough.
UnMetal is one of those games where you want to punch every wall and breakable object not only to find secrets but to collect all the items as well. Items have a key role when you combine them to create something more useful. The first thing you’ll make is a radio to communicate with allies. By combining a few items together, your new encrypted radio provides you with a secure transmission. Finding these important items can be difficult if you’re not aware of what is and isn’t breakable. The game will tell you what to do but not how or where. While the lack of hand holding can be a mild setback, puzzle solving is hardly trivial here.
There are multiple instances in the game where you also get to choose between a set of options unknowingly how the answers will affect the game. It’s like a fun take on mad libs and this is where some of the game’s best jokes take place. It can be as simple as picking the theme of the room to something way out of left field. How the game unfolds after picking an answer usually generates a laugh and that’s when the game starts to shine. Unfortunately, these special moments are too far from each other. Some jokes drag on for way too long and if a bit didn’t make you laugh, you’re left waiting for the next one.
If you define your stealth gameplay and puzzle solving skills as high tier with flawless execution, I would say this game is probably perfect for you. Replay value comes with choosing different options on the next playthrough. All of us other gamers unfortunately will have to deal with the habit of revisiting the game over screen and replaying a few rooms to get to where we lost. The game over screen alone feels like 30 seconds and getting back to where it all happened can take even longer. The amount of time lost is frustrating and probably my biggest gripe.
UnMetal takes a hit in the game save category. To save a game, you have to use the bathroom. Sometimes there are no bathrooms. There’s an item that allows you to relieve yourself outside of the bathroom too but its limited use until cleaned in a bathroom. Checkpoints are rare and you’ll have no idea when they’re coming. There’s also no file management system which means you’ll have to go through this entire game on checkpoints and the last time you used the potty. If you make a choice you regret and the game saves after your choice is made, sorry friend. Either live with it or start over.
In the end the game is fun when you’re not constantly dying or getting caught. Otherwise, it gets repetitive fast and putting the controller down gets easier and easier. There’s enough substance in the game that will make you want to finish it over time but not without playing something else in between. The jokes aren’t good enough to reward you for your trouble. Dollars to minutes, UnMetal is on the money. But, with so many better options out there, it’s easy to keep this one on the shelf. I’m comfortable rating this as an ok game. If you like retro stealth games and being trolled, bump it up to good.
Add another star to the rating if you like being trolled. UnMetal relies on its writing to keep the player invested. If the jokes can't keep you on your seat, the gameplay won't either.