UnMetal is a 2D stealth action-adventure game that starts quite strongly, but losses momentum as it overstays its welcome. I still quite liked it though.
You are Jesse Fox, a man arrested for a crime he did not commit and must escape a covert military base using his wits and fists. He just wants to escape, he is not a hero or so he says, but during this escape attempt, he kinda prevents a nuclear attack saving millions of innocent lives… or so he says.
I say “so he says” cause you will play through Jesse’s own retelling of the recounting of the events that supposedly happened. You see, after he managed to escape the military base, his escape chopper was shot down by allied forces. They capture and start to interrogate him on what exactly happened. But Jesse’s narration of events goes a level deeper or higher, depends on how you see it, as he is narrating this whole thing to his girlfriend while they are on a drive. Confusing? Good. So to say that Jesse is an unreliable narrator would be an understatement.
The initial hours of the game thrive on that unreliable narration. You start the game by escaping the prison and the army investigator asks how you managed to escape, Jesse responds by saying that he wrote a note. The investigator continues asking where he’d found paper and Jesse responds toilet paper, duh. Then the army man asks how did you write the note, what did you use and Jesse says that he pricked himself with a rusty wire and used his own blood. This whole event plays out in-game and you see Jesse “hanging” himself and as the guard enters the cell and is reading the bloody note, Jesse knocks him out, takes the keys, and gets out of the cell. “Wait a moment,” says the army man, “where did you find the noose Mr. Fox?” and Jesse responds “I’ll tell you later”, so I will also tell you later.
Things kinda spiral from that point on and Jesse starts to build himself up. He is not an assassin, he does not kill people, he hates guns but knows how to use all of them, he is an expert fighter, he is very eco-friendly and big into recycling, he doesn’t smoke and so many other seemingly random things… but remember who he’s telling this whole story.
Anyway, when you start a new stage, Jesse would say to the army investigator something along the lines “So I found myself inside the base and the ground was clean, no, it was dirty, and there were boxes and barrels and other stuff around me. Oh, and there were also 2 guards” and you see that level being “generated” in front of you where elements shift and change based on what Jesse is saying. That’s funny cause you never know what bullshit Jesse would say next. So for example, while introducing the Grenade Dude boss, he says to the army man something like “I couldn’t reach the bastard to punch him as there was a big ditch between us filled with tentacles, bloody spikes and fire. Oh and there were also human arms trying to grab me and..” and the army man would stop him from talking. Then you defeat the boss and Jesse would say “So I went over and searched him and found a key” to which the army man would reply “But wasn’t there a big ditch in the way Mr. Fox?”. “Yes,” Jesse would follow “but there was also a bridge, which I forgot to mention before”.
Very often you have the ability to choose what Jesse would say next. For example, and I burst out laughing with this one, as I entered this random room Jesse said “And as I walked into this room…” and I had three different options, each looked like a bunch of random characters so I just choose one, and Jesse went “I found 250 sheep inside it” and the room quickly filled with sheep with a bunch of “baa” playing at the same time. This moment was so random, unexpected and so stupid that I was laughing so hard I had tears.
The entire first half, maybe even two-thirds of the game is filled with weird, absurd, and incredibly stupid moments like these that will have you burst out laughing very hard. I mean it’s a stealth game and you sneak around, but when a guard sneezes Jesse says out loud “Bless you” and the guard responds “Thanks man” seconds later realizing that you are the prisoner who escaped and sounding the alarm. Or how every guard in the base is called Mike. Yeah, UnMetal might be the funniest game I’ve ever played, ever.
It wouldn’t be as much fun without the excellent delivery of the voice acting. Jesse’s voice actor, hey dude, if you are reading this review, mad props to you my man, you fucking killed this role. I didn’t really want to mention it in this review cause I know that every other review will basically start by saying it, but UnMetal is basically a spoof of the first two Metal Gear games, the 2D ones, in terms of looks and gameplay. However, Jesse’s look is based on Snake’s look in the Metal Gear Solid games, the 3D ones. And Jesse’s voice is a perfectly crafted fake gruff badass David Hayter sounding voice. It’s funny as fuck to hear Jesse deliver lines that basically make no sense or contradict what he just said or is just plain weird with that real fake intensity. No matter what I say, you just need to hear him himself and then you will understand.
Fuck, I still haven’t talked about gameplay, haven’t I? Well, it’s a 2D stealth action-adventure game so there you have it. Each level usually has a couple of objectives to complete, a couple of useful items and gadgets to find, a couple of guards to knock out and a boss to defeat at the end. Jesse can punch and kick guards to knock them out, but later his arsenal expands to a slingshoot that shoots depleted uranium pellets, a pistol, grenades, a bazooka and a chloroform dipped rag if you want to go the stealth route. As I said above, Jesse does not kill people, so when you shoot someone, you have to save them by using a med-pack on them. Jesse must deceive, adapt, and do whatever is necessary to escape… even if he has to impersonate a cat. You also can MacGuyver a couple of gadgets by combining different items that will prove extremely helpful during some intense situations. Oh, you also save your game by taking a piss in a toilet, so there’s also that.
The story and gameplay are a lot of fun until they are kinda not which was weird to experience. In the last few stages, most of that witty and stupid fun kinda goes away and gameplay gets kinda annoying. There’s no constant autosave or frequent checkpoints in the game, meaning that if you die, you can lose some progress. Yes, you can piss in a potty to quicksave, but those are limited. Where it gets annoying is when the game presents some sequences where failing means restarting to the last checkpoint and that checkpoint can be quite far. For example, there are some sequences where you need to find the correct dialogue path, which is long and all but one of the options is a fail state. Another one where you had to avoid being seen by some cameras got annoying really quick and the whole basement labyrinth sequence, just take that thing out of the game already. Also, the funny, burst-out laughing moments, were so few and far between that the game felt like it was just dragging. Maybe if some of the later stages were cut and merged into one, the game would have kept the pace.
So keep that in mind when you play UnMetal, cause you have to play this game. You have to experience Jesse Fox’s batshit insane funny as balls journey. You have to. Oh and about that noose well, broccoli… you’ll get it when you play the game. Thanks for reading.
The game was reviewed on a PS5 (via BC) using a PS4 review code provided by the publisher. UnMetal is out now for PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Switch.