UnMetal is the second game from Unepic_Fran. Their first game, UnEpic, was one of my favorite games. It was a 2D platformer inspired by D & D and I truly enjoyed my time with it. UnMetal is their homage to the stealth-action games of the 16-32-bit era. With a thick layer of satire and humor, does this live up to the epicness that was their first title?
- Game: UnMetal
- Genre: Stealth Action
- Developer: Unepic_Fran
- Publisher: Versus Evil
- Release Date: September 28, 2021
- Platform: PC
- Price: $19.99 USD
- Reviewed on: PC
The story of UnMetal has you playing the hero, Jesse Fox, and you’re definitely NOT an elite commando. You find yourself on a hidden military base, arrested for a crime you claim you did not commit. You need to escape and all you have is your wits and a mean punch.
The story plays out through Jesse telling his story to his girlfriend about his interrogation with the US Military about his escape. It’s all very meta and funny at times. This game does not take itself too seriously. In fact, that kind of comedy is pretty rampant throughout. Sometimes it hits perfectly but there are also some jokes that just fell flat for me. Keep in mind though comedy is subjective and nothing here was necessarily offensive.\
Unmetal wears its inspiration on its sleeve and is not afraid to show that. Metal Gear Solid is a great series that takes itself far too seriously and has some over-the-top unbelievable storylines. UnMetal runs with that over-the-top feeling and gently points it out and mocks how ludicrous these stories truly are. It becomes the 1 man against the odds kind of story the Metal Gear is famous for.
Throughout the story, you will be speaking with people via radio and reluctantly taking orders to save the world. Small little jokes come up constantly. Jokes like Jesse being unable to remember names so everyone is named “Mike”, or taking on a nuclear submarine all by yourself “because they shot missiles at me.” But one of my favorites is when you sneak into the medical bay only to find the wounded and terrified guards you’ve knocked out previously.
A clever mechanic
The game breaks the fourth wall quite a bit by bringing your choices in-game into the story as you play. These instances are used to spice up the story and add more enemies or change the ways the environment is constructed around Jesse. One of the memorable examples of this was when I was asked how many rats I had seen while traversing the sewers. I said “a lot” and that “I felt like a piece of cheese”. After this comment, my avatar turned into said slice of cheese as rats flooded the room toward me and Benny Hill music played. I died but I was laughing my ass off through this clever mechanic.
In one section I had to traverse vents of fire that would turn on and off. This took a great deal of time to navigate. When I made it out in an interrogation scene I was asked why didn’t I just use the thermal protective suit I had acquired earlier. This not only made me feel stupid but it got me to laugh out loud that I didn’t even think to try that option. I loved that the game called me out and I wondered immediately how that would have transpired if I had used it.
With each chapter, you play the game starts out with Jesse describing the environment. This plays out by showing Jesse standing on a blueprint and as he describes the area it fills out. It’s an interesting way of world-building that works really well with this game.
You start out with nothing but your fists so punching and choking out enemies is your only means of takedown. Stealth is simply coming up from behind or waiting around a corner for an unsuspecting enemy. You do have a few tricks are your disposal though. You can toss coins to pull a guard from his post and distract them. Chloroform and a gun become available to you later to knock out enemies.
Despite having a gun, Jesse has vowed to not kill anyone. Every enemy shot with a gun will need one of your medkits before they bleed out. Failure to administer medical aid results in mission failure. I truly enjoyed this mechanic because using that gun adds another step to covering your tracks and often made me find an alternative way to take a guard out.
As you go through the levels there are plenty of objects to destroy and collect. You will find things like bandages to stop bleeding, radios, and circuity boards. Within the inventory, you’re able to combine certain items together to create something new. Like the radio with circuit boards; combine those and you get an encrypted radio to communicate with the commander you have befriended.
Even with these items, The humor doesn’t stop. You use urinals to save your game but carry bedpans to quick save if you need. You will also carry the full pans, unable to use them again until you find a urinal to empty them into. To make chloroform I had to find two bottles. One labeled Chloro and the other Form and then combine them.
The graphics for UnMetal are straight out of the PS1 era and it’s great. They are truly trying to work for that nostalgic retro feel and I feel they nailed this. The sprite work is detailed, the environments look great and well thought out, and their cutscenes are gorgeous. The cutscenes are large drawings that are detailed and beautifully colored. Animations are done well and make sense. It doesn’t do anything new or phenomenal but they do an amazing job of capturing that era’s games sans the game engine issues.
Following along with the visuals the sound is very retro and done well. There often is some light ambiance as you sneak around and if you get caught an alarm goes crazy while enemies franticly look for you. The sound here reminded me so much of Metal Gear Solid. The alarm sounds, when you get spotted, the radio chime, the sound when you die, to even how the characters talk. It’s not a direct copy, it all has its own sound but it is obvious in its inspiration.
Throughout my playthrough, I did run into some issues with UnMetal. The game plays well but it’s not perfect. The humor, while not offensive, laid it on super thick at times and it was just cringy. This could be just me but there were far more times that low-hanging fruit was being taken and it made some of the jokes feel hollow and forced.
UnMetal also doesn’t do the best at explaining certain aspects. For example, the first mission where leaving bodies out could cause a fail state took me roughly an hour to get through half of it. I would take out enemies, hide them, and would get to the save point, get caught, and have to start this 15 minutes section all over again. Every time I tried to quicksave to make my life easier all it would say is that I can’t save with enemies nearby (there was a patrol walking the area). I just assumed I could not save here.
When the stars finally aligned and I got to the save point, the game then told me that the only way I could save was if each body was hidden indoors. I had to start over, hide them all indoors, which then allowed me to quicksave to make this area easier. It was incredibly frustrating and this information was never explained before I would have needed it. Often I felt this frustration as I fumbled through areas not having all of the information I felt I needed to succeed.
I was unable to finish the game because of this lack of information. I’m unsure if this was due to a soft-lock or just something I am not seeing. I got completely stuck in what I truly feel is one of the final missions and could not find a way out. I felt I have combined everything I can and done everything the game has told me to do but I cannot use the item it had me create and I have no way to find out what I am doing wrong.
Timing is Everything
My final issue was the length of the game. I was enjoying my time with this game but it started to feel that every time I thought “this is where we will start wrapping it up” the game added another twist and then another. The jokes were getting old, one random obstacle to success would always show up, and I found myself becoming less invested with the story and hoping that the end was around the corner.
For fans of Metal Gear Solid and other stealth games, UnMetal is a great homage to the older games of that genre and even captures the insanity of the over-the-top nature of those games. It fully captured what it was like to play these games and I believe they did a good job at setting out to achieve that nostalgia feeling. The game was fun and had me laughing out loud a few times. However, the general lack of guidance and the drawn-out story took away from what was a rather enjoyable experience.
UnMetal will bring a lot of nostalgia and laughs but the drawn-out story and lack of guidance could be a deterrent.