It's been an exceptionally long time but we finally have a new Metroid game and the action-packed Dread is certainly one of the best.
Metroid Dread brings the series back to its roots by offering 2D gameplay where you gradually amass an arsenal of weapons and abilities only to backtrack and expand your capabilities even further. It's all familiar stuff yet it features some innovative additions that make it stand out as a unique experience. For starters, it's developed by MercurySteam who also created Metroid: Samus Returns which initially made me hesitant as I had my issues with that game although I still thoroughly enjoyed it as a whole. For example, its counter-attack system didn't click with me and felt out of place and it returns here but the good news is that it's much more streamlined with obvious onscreen prompts which makes stunning foes who are about to hurt you intuitive and enjoyable. Well, we're off to a great start!
The main stand-out aspect of Metroid Dread is its collection of E.M.M.I. robots that relentlessly hunt you and can end your life instantly. In total, there are 7 throughout the game world and they only show up within designated areas. The good news is that you can actually defeat them after collecting powerful albeit temporary energy which grants you a cool weapon that you can use to slay the nearby E.M.M.I. All of this works together quite well, especially considering how each E.M.M.I. unit has a wide sensing range that can hear you perform certain actions. At the same time, I didn't find confronting or running away from these robots to be all that dread-inducing because Samus is incredibly agile and they're very easy to outrun and outsmart. The only time I got caught is when I was cornered.
In fact, that's my main issue with Metroid Dread; it's surprisingly unchallenging. Even when an E.M.M.I. catches you or you accidentally run out of health which likely won't happen often, you simply respawn a screen or 2 back. It actually made me wonder what the point of the save spots are because in previous games, they were a much-needed safe haven. On top of that, there are plenty of contraptions that restore your health and missiles scattered about which takes away from the survival element that previous games had. With all of that in mind, I found the actual boss fights (not the E.M.M.I.s) to be a great deal of fun as figuring out winning strategies is a blast.
I should mention that Metroid Dread is a great-looking game. It might help that I mostly played it on my brand new OLED Model but I found the use of neon highlights and intricately-designed stages to be impressively immersive. This is especially true when you consider that many parts of the game world feature clever scenarios that make traversal an even more engaging experience. Primarily, there is an unexpected amount of cinematic moments and many of them actually show you strategies. For example, you'll encounter a new E.M.M.I. and it'll show Samus using her Phantom Cloak ability or during a boss fight, you'll perform a counter attack only to watch Samus grab the boss in a headlock then you mash the shoot button to fire a bunch of missiles at its head. It's awesome stuff for sure!
Last but not least, I should discuss some of the abilities that you'll gather along the way which expand the gameplay in clever and rewarding ways. Of course, Samus has been stripped of her power suit so it's up to you to gather new gear and abilities and the collection here is quite cool. My favourite upgrade is when you unlock the Wide Beam which allows you to fire 3 simultaneous shots at various heights as it not only makes beating enemies more fun; you'll also destroy false walls easier. There's also a Spider Magnet ability that lets you cling to certain walls and ceilings which is fun and the previously-mentioned Phantom Cloak is nifty to use when facing an E.M.M.I. The only downside to all of this is that the controls become slightly cumbersome and it's easy to forget certain actions.
Metroid Dread is one of the best Metroidvania games out there with its awesome collection of abilities and its action-packed E.M.M.I. areas. It may not provide as much challenge as old-school fans would expect but it's still an undeniably incredible adventure.
- + Action-packed Metroidvania campaign full of rewarding secrets and cool abilities
- + Awesome visuals and memorable scenarios
- + E.M.M.I. adds an extra layer of fun
- - Not as challenging as I hoped it would be
- - Controls are slightly cumbersome