Metroid Dread Review – Metroid Dread Review – Astro Dreadnought

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The Metroid series is largely defined by its eerie atmosphere and foreboding tone. Inspired by the Alien movie franchise and the work of HR Giger, Metroid was always just a few steps away from the horror genre. Metroid Dread makes the series even closer. The moment Samus sets foot on planet ZDR, she becomes prey. Every deadly creature – and every machine – in the world is hungry for Samus’s blood, and she is trapped miles below the surface of the planet, far from her ship. And the only way out is through the barrel of her arm cannon. While Samus’ latest adventure delivers the classic exploration-based platforming/action we’ve come to expect, I’ve never shaken off the all-encompassing fear that gives this adventure its name… and loved every minute of it.

Metroid helped pioneer the idea of ​​exploring large, nonlinear spaces, so the world of ZDR and its disparate zones are essential to Metroid Dread. The silent underground waterfalls of Artaria stand in stark contrast to the deadly lava flows of Cataris. Meanwhile, Burenia is home to a vast subterranean ocean teeming with carnivorous marine life. These environments feel alive; rainwater flows down the sides of an alien tram system, cool air drifts off the sides of frozen platforms, and exotic insects gather around light sources to scatter to the shadows as Samus approaches.

Exploring these foreign locations is continually rewarding thanks to essential upgrades scattered across Planet ZDR like a breadcrumb trail. The handful of new abilities are incredibly powerful. I especially enjoyed Samus’ new assault missiles, which allow her to target multiple targets before unleashing a volley of explosives. Unfortunately, most of Dread’s upgrades are old standbys that MercurySteam seemed obligated to include. I recognize that Metroid wouldn’t feel the same without the morph ball, which allows Samus to squeeze into tight vents, but it’s not exciting to find this upgrade several hours into a new Metroid game. I wish Samus had started with more of her traditional abilities, leaving room for flashier upgrades. As it is, Metroid Dread feels like it occasionally re-occupies old ground, but this is a minor disappointment in an otherwise great experience.

Fortunately, Dread does a few things to shake up the old formula, and one of the most significant new additions comes in the form of a new enemy type called EMMI. These Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifiers are powerful robots equipped with an arsenal of gadgets that make a starship blush. EMMIs are so tough that Samus can’t beat them in a fair fight; she must dodge or hide them, using a new cloaking device that grants temporary invisibility. These tense cat-and-mouse encounters made me sweat, and every time I encountered an EMMI, I felt my stomach drop as I frantically ran to safety.

At set points in the story, Samus temporarily upgrades her arm cannon so you can turn the tables on the EMMI. Even when fully armed, these encounters require careful timing and quick footwork, as one wrong move can leave you staring at a Game Over screen. Of course, overcoming these challenges is a rewarding triumph. Likewise, the other encounters with Dread’s boss present a major challenge. For example, the giant three-eyed green reptile Kraid returns. This battle takes place in a confined space, and dodging the spikes from his abdomen and then jumping to the sides of the wall to shoot him in the face was incredibly harrowing. Fortunately, every boss has a recognizable pattern, so these fights seem fair. Overcoming each battle mountain left me in a heartbreakingly euphoric state.

Metroid Dread begins with Samus stranded at the bottom of Planet ZDR’s vast unearthed network. This is a reversal of the traditional opening where Samus often descends into the heart of darkness, implying that MercurySteam (the developers of the 3DS Metroid: Samus Returns) is ready to rearrange the Metroid formula. Don’t be fooled; Metroid Dread follows Nintendo’s well-known blueprint for better or for worse, but mostly for the better. This journey is not scary in the traditional sense. I never jumped out of my seat after turning a corner and coming face to face with an alien monstrosity. Nevertheless, Dread’s atmosphere is powerful and its imposing boss encounters are enough to make it earn its title. Despite a few hiccups in this well-worn pattern, Metroid Dread is an exhilarating white knuckle ride that doesn’t scare you.


For more great Metroid-esque games, read our list of the Top 10 Metroidvanias to play right now.

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