I reviewed the fantastic Metal Slug 3 (my review) last year and now SNK Playmore has finally come out with the Metal Slug 4/5 compilation on Xbox that came out on PS2 earlier this year.

The unfortunate thing about Metal Slug 4/5 is that most people won’t pick it up simply because each game will last you about 45 minutes to beat and after that there really isn’t much more to do than go through the game again. However those 45 minutes are pretty darn fun if you want to get down to brass tacks.  I think to even be interested in this type of game you have to have grown up playing games like Contra, games that took a while to beat even though they were actually pretty short.

There is of course a reason they combined Metal Slug 4 and Metal Slug 5 into one release, but only people that have played these on a NeoGeo would probably know what I’m talking about. The fact is that Metal Slug 4 is the far weaker of the two here simply because it borrows a lot of assets from previous Metal Slug games and the stages really have nothing to do with the backstory of the game.  Plus the fact is they put 2 new characters in along with 2 old ones.  On the other hand, Metal Slug 5 has a lot of new stuff like guns, different paths and a sliding move in it that had never been seen in the series before.

The games are still 2D side-scrollers, so you can’t expect jaw-dropping graphical effects. Metal Slug 4 came out on the NeoGeo in 2002 and Metal Slug 5 came out just last year for the same system. Even though those dates are considered modern day, the Metal Slug series has never gone beyond the 2D world and I certainly wouldn’t wish it to be any different.

The porting of the games has come off pretty well with just a few instances of pixilation on the screen, more prevalent in Metal Slug 4 than Metal Slug 5. The explosions and animations are fantastic, although Metal Slug 4‘s borrowing of assets from other games in the series make the animations not as smooth as they could be or even as smooth as what was shown in Metal Slug 3.

With Metal Slug 4‘s reliance on old assets from the series, the sound will sound very regurgitated to anyone who has played the previous games. The sampling of the sounds even has some hissing and cracking as they are being played.

On the other side of the coin is Metal Slug 5 which at least sounds like it has some new sampling on it and is easily the better sounding of the two games presented here. I’m not sure why SNK skimped with Metal Slug 4, especially considering how expensive those NeoGeo games are and how beloved this series is.

Control is simple: shoot with the X button, jump with the A button and throw grenades with the B button. You can fire both horizontally and vertically and you aim the guns on certain Metal Slugs with the analog stick. In many cases the Slugs will fire in all directions, but some have guns on a turret, so you have to go through the motions of turning them to the direction you want to fire.

Metal Slug 5 has a new move tied to it in a ground slide done by pressing down and the A key. Overall the Metal Slug series is as easy to play as the original Contra with a lot more firepower available.

I’ve talked above how Metal Slug 4 is the lesser of the two games here and that brings down the score a bit. I’m not sure what SNK was thinking when they borrowed bosses and enemies from previous Metal Slug games with the same animations, but it really brings the quality of the game down along with the bad sound sampling on it. Basically you choose one of the four soldiers (Marco and Fio along with newcomers Trevor Spacey and Nadia Cassel) and you go through the stages to the end of Metal Slug 4.

The story from Metal Slug 4 is summed up that a cyber-terrorist group known as “Amadeus” has created a computer virus that will be unleashed through the internet and allow them to take over all of the world’s computers. The team is sent off to take the group out. The honest truth is there isn’t a whole lot of stuff that has to do with computers in the game and it just kind of falls flat.

Metal Slug 5 is an all-new experience with very little borrowed from previous games. The soundtrack and new guns make the game that much more fun to play. The storyline is a little more streamlined in the fact that unknown forces have taken information regarding the Metal Slug secrets and it is up to Marco, Tarma, Eri and Fio (the original 4) to recover the information.

Metal Slug 5 is the better of the two games as there is more vertical movement and you can choose some paths up or down if you like. There are new enemies and some really good boss fights except for the stupid last boss who seems way out there versus the rest of the game. I had a lot more fun playing this game than Metal Slug 4.

One of the biggest additions this time around that was not in Metal Slug 3 is that when you continue you start off at the same spot and don’t have to play the whole stage over again. This makes the game quicker to go through, but I think it also makes the game that much better because you won’t be frustrated by being stuck on a level like you were with the Xbox release of Metal Slug 3.

One odd thing to note is that the games actually are on separate discs. I’m not sure why they decided to do a 2 disc release when I’m pretty sure both games could fit on one DVD, but what do I know? The only problem this creates is that you have to get up and put in the other disc if you want to play the other game.

I find the Metal Slug games to be addicting and fun and can easily see myself playing through Metal Slug 5 again, but probably not Metal Slug 4. The former is a heck of a lot of fun and brings the series back up to its glory days in my opinion.

Obviously if you are only going to play through the games once you aren’t going to find a whole lot of replay value in them, so it would be best to rent or not play it at all in that case.