Make no mistake, Metal Slug 3 is about as complex as 2 + 0, but it's a lot more fun than any math equation. This is a balls-to-the-walls 2D side-scrolling shooter. Taking place across five missions, you choose from one of four heroes (though don't expect any different gameplay experience between the four) and spend all of your time shooting and dodging. Though you begin with only a basic hand gun (you'll have to tap X constantly to keep up your rate of fire) it's easy to come across new weapons by defeating enemies and freeing hostages.
Some weapons, like the Heavy Machinegun, offer a steady stream of gunfire, but others are more inventive, such as the Enemy Chaser missiles, which track down onscreen enemies and deal devastating damage. There are also 10 vehicles you can hop into throughout your journey, though "vehicles" is a rather loose term as you'll be hopping on the back of elephants and camels along with riding a mini-sub, helicopter, and jet fighter. The controls, even in the vehicles, never really change. It's basic, but that's the beauty of Metal Slug 3. You shoot, toss grenades, and jump. That's pretty much it outside of the Metal Slug attack, which is performed from a vehicle when you want to send it into a suicide ram with an enemy.
The Xbox version of Slug 3 allows for both Thumbstick and D-Pad aiming, which is helpful, with the Thumbstick the better alternative. Though many of your shots are done straight ahead (you can shoot lower by crouching) there are enough times where you'll need to aim diagonally up or straight up that the ability to quickly swivel your aim is a solid asset.
The five separate missions offer different settings and each has its own feel to it. While the initial desert mission may be a bit plain, the others pick things up. My favorite is the second level, which pits you against zombies. If you're hit by their mutant loogies you turn zombie yourself, unable to jump and barely able to move faster than a snail with asthma. You do earn an interesting grenade function, which has you projectile vomiting a line of blood at your enemies. It should be noted that unlike the arcade version, the blood is red and plentiful on Xbox -- so hey, that's one big improvement.
Metal Slug 3 is f'ing difficult, just as tough as in the arcades, so it helps that you can play co-op with a buddy, even if it's on the same machine. Xbox Live or even System Link support would have gone a long way to adding to Metal Slug 3's value. As it is, even the most tried and true arcade gamer will have trouble waltzing through Slug 3. While the first four missions are tough, they can be beating with just a few plays through. It's the fifth mission, which is as long as the first four missions combined, that will give most folks fits.
GAME PACK INCLUDE
1. Metal Slug 1
2. Metal Slug 2
3. Metal Slug 3
4. Metal Slug X