Metal Slug Tactics

Preview: Metal Slug Tactics Blends Roguelikes And Strategy Into A Bombastic Mix

Metal Slug Tactics, the newest entry in the classic Metal Slug franchise, is nothing like the past games in the series. While Metal Slug is known for its run and gun sidescrolling action, Metal Slug Tactics instead chooses to capture the chaos in one single screen. Tons of enemies, big explosions, and substantial synch attacks litter the screen at all times, forcing you into corners and making you blast your way back out. Adding in a roguelike layer on top of the excellent strategy gameplay sweetens the deal while maintaining the Metal Slug DNA that fans love.

Slug It Out

Metal Slug Tactics features a simple story, boiling down to stop the bad guys before they wreak havoc. Donald Morden returns, bringing back the classic antagonist for another run. Metal Slug Tactics brings together heroes from all over the franchise, starting with Marco, Fio, and Eri. As you progress through the game, more heroes will be available, each offering different abilities and weapons. Marco, for example, has a pistol and an assault rifle with limited ammo. His first unique ability lets the next character chosen attack twice on their next turn.
On the other hand, Eri is an explosive expert, throwing grenades and touting around a limited-shot grenade launcher—her special throws multiple explosives. Using the right team combination will be incredibly important, as stages carry different mission objectives. The three you pick will stay with you for the length of that run, so carefully picking each character’s skills and weapons will be entirely necessary. There are several weapons and load-outs unavailable in the demo that I’m excited to get my hands on.

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N-Synch

So far, one of my favourite parts of the combat system is the synch ability. If characters are positioned correctly, they’ll join the lead attackers’ assault. If all three are placed correctly, you can quickly mow through targets. When considering friendly fire, positioning becomes even more critical because you can easily hurt teammates if they’re blocking one another. Keeping an eye on where your teammates are is always important, especially because, so far, Metal Slug Tactics is not a walk in the park. The game constantly overwhelms you with enemies and reinforcements, pushing you to use your team to their full potential on every move. It reminded me a lot of Into the Breach, where things can seem almost impossible at first, but taking a second to understand the lay of the land and your characters’ abilities can lead to victory.

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Vertical Escapes

The environmental design is also well done. Each map, at least so far, is small enough to see on one screen but can have multiple layers of verticality and cover. Cover is critical, helping make sure your crew can take less damage on any given hit. The different layers play into positioning, as some enemies can’t shoot at higher layers while others can. Some maps have different structures you can utilize, including cranes with precariously hanging crates or tanks that can be taken over. These condensed maps allow for proper planning and strategizing, making it feel satisfying when things go according to plan.

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Metal Slug Match-Ups

The main map screen shows a roadmap of scenarios with objectives and subgoals to work through. One instance may have you surviving for four rounds while keeping under a certain damage amount. Completing these leads to more experience, respawn refills for your team, new weapons, mods, or abilities, and so on, making the route you plan to the end of the area essential. Characters also gain experience as they level, rewarding you with choices of active or passive abilities as you progress. Do you choose a passive that allows bonus moves upon completing certain conditions or an active ability to heal a teammate? Each run can feel different depending on which crew you bring in and how you spec them as you go, nailing the roguelike formula.

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Yet To Come

So far, Metal Slug Tactics feels excellent. I feel like I barely scratched the surface, with multiple maps, weapon mods, abilities, and much more locked. The promise of deep customization, varied runs, and tactical planning focusing on turn-based strategy gameplay makes it feel different from many other roguelikes. It manages to keep the chaos of the original Metal Slug series while changing the formula to something new. There’s a lot of potential here, and I’m excited to see how the entire game feels on launch.

Metal Slug Tactics will launch in Q4 2024 on Steam, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch. Wishlist it on Steam here.