Metroid: Dread is a hard game.
It’s not just tough when you’re battling the nigh-invulnerable EMMI robots, all of whom can defeat you in one hit. Even just navigating the map and trying to get to your next objective in this game is a challenge. The basic enemies will require you to pay attention, learn their patterns, and be prepared to use your counter-attack to find an opening.
It makes sense that a game called Dread would work overtime to make you feel a true sense of impending doom. After all, the player character is stranded on a hostile alien world with no backup. Wouldn’t you be a bit apprehensive if you were in Samus Aran’s shoes?
Thankfully for Samus, she’s still outfitted with her suit of power armor, and she’s got her bounty hunting skills to see her through the environments of planet ZDR. The real question isn’t whether she’s got what it takes to survive this, but whether or not this game is a worthy successor to a long-dormant franchise.
Welcome Back, Samus
The last time Samus had a 2D outing was way back in 2004 when the GBA-exclusive Metroid: Zero Mission was released. Zero Mission is a remake of the first game in the series, though, so the last new story in the 2D Metroid series was told nearly 20 years ago, in 2002, with the release of Metroid: Fusion.
There have been Metroid games between the release of Zero Mission and Dread, of course. The beloved Metroid: Prime series took the franchise into 3D, where it has flourished. However, Dread is the triumphant return of the kind of Metroid that made the series so popular back in the 80s and 90s.
At least that’s what it is supposed to be.
The first thing any fan of Metroid will notice with Dread is that it is an extremely precise game. Samus’s movements are tight, and navigating in a Metroid game has never been this smooth. Samus’s new slide dash is a welcome addition to her repertoire, allowing players to pull off speedy dashes under terrain to avoid enemies. Some reviewers have noted that this game can feel almost cold in how precision-based and technically proficient it is.
Metroid: Dread is indeed missing some of the charms of its predecessors. Maybe it’s the move from 2D, sprite-based graphics to fully-rendered 3D models moving in a 2D level. It could have something to do with the music, which isn’t quite as moody or captivating this time out.
It’s no surprise to read the credits for the game and see that the developers behind weren’t Nintendo R&D, but instead MercurySteam. While the game is technically proficient and fun in its moment-to-moment gameplay, it’s lacking that intangible, intimate feeling of place that defined the first several Metroid games.
Don’t let all this talk of intangible something-or-other dissuade you from trying this game, though. Metroid: Dread is an all-around excellent title that offers plenty of challenges and a rewarding story for longtime fans of the series.
Just don’t expect this one to stick in your mind like the opening sequence of Super Metroid or the chase scene in Fusion. Some experiences just can’t be recreated.