Metroid Dread Review
After nearly a two-decade hiatus Metroid Dread arrives on the Nintendo Switch to conclude the epic saga, was it worth the wait? My full review.
Intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran has finally returned bringing with her an epic adventure 30 years in the making. Metroid Dread stays true to its action platforming roots while modernizing gameplay in satisfying and meaningful ways. It adds new stealth elements and brings back free aim and counter attacks from Samus Returns. After a long development cycle, Metroid Dread has returned in stunning fashion shooting its way to the top of my “Game of the Year” list. Let’s explore what makes the game one of 2021’s best titles and a new benchmark for the series.
Metroid Dread details
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Developer: MercurySteam, Nintendo EPD
Modes: Single player
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
An epic 35 years in the making
The development journey of Metroid Dread is almost as interesting as the story within the game. It also explains many of title’s influences from visual style to new additions to gameplay. Dread began its development in the mid-2000s originally slated for the Nintendo DS. It never saw the light of day due to technical limitations of the handheld.
After Metroid: Samus Returns in 2017, Mercury Steam was entrusted to develop Dread. After this, the game entered a sort of “development purgatory,” with fans like me fearing the worst. Fortunately, Samus has returned in top form delivering the best game in the series, and one of the best action platformers in years.
"Samus has returned in top form delivering the best game in the series, and one of the best action platformers in years."
Story – Hunt or be hunted
The game puts you into the cybernetic boots of Samus Aran, once again dealing with an alien menace. Dread picks up right after the events of Metroid Fusion with the X Parasites re-emerging on planet ZDR. The X organisms can mimic any being that they infect making them incredibly dangerous. In response, the Galactic Federation dispatches E.M.M.I. (Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifiers) robots to ZDR to eliminate the threat. They lose contact with their super android fleet and send Samus to investigate. She is then trapped by a mysterious foe and overrun by hostile aliens and corrupted E.M.M.I.s. It’s up to you to outwit foes and make a desperate attempt to escape the deadly planet.
Visual presentation – A stunning side scrolling experience
The art style and level design in Metroid Dread is superb. This is hands down the best-looking game in the series, with the richest most detailed environments yet. The backgrounds are stunning, with plenty of simulated depth and animations that make the planet come alive.
Enemies pop off screen with their own 3D effects and lifelike movements. The lighting effects and explosions created by Samus’ arsenal also looking stunning as you are taking out foes.
The Nintendo Switch does a great job keeping up with all the action and doesn’t miss a beat. I didn’t notice any slow down with all these visual fireworks. Metroid Dread looks excellent in handheld and docked mode and the perfect game to compliment the brand-new Switch OLED.
Gameplay – A blend of action, stealth and fear
I was pleasantly surprised by Metroid Dread’s fusion of classic and modern gameplay, they worked so well in tandem. It can be difficult to strike a balance between the two, especially with a beloved classic but developer MercurySteam nailed it. Dread feels like a culmination of all the 2D Metroid games that came before it, synthesizing the gameplay formula down to its best parts.
"Dread feels like a culmination of all the 2D Metroid games that came before it, synthesizing the gameplay formula down to its best parts."
The core gameplay loop is what veteran players are used to from the series. You guide Samus through a labyrinth of underground areas, discover new powers and face off against powerful bosses.
The more traditional sections are broken up by E.M.M.I encounters, where you are hunted by an ultra-powerful foe. The only way to survive is to avoid detection or sprint from the E.M.M.I until you reach the end of these sections. You can counter their attacks, but they are very difficult to parry, messing up is an instant game over. The ultimate goal is to gain control of the area which allows you to unlock the Omega Cannon and destroy the almost unstoppable enemy. These encounters are what makes the game live up to its Dread namesake. The E.M.M.I showdowns are super intense and only get more difficult as the game progresses.
"The E.M.M.I showdowns are super intense and only get more difficult as the game progresses."
Along with E.M.M.I showdowns the counter system from Samus Returns is back along with a stealth ability that allows you to cloak. These two abilities help to make the gameplay even more engaging; the counter is great rewarding players with more items for a perfectly timed parry.
Final thoughts – A fitting conclusion to an epic saga
Metroid Dread is grand finale that fans were hoping for, the wait was long, but it was worth it. The story ties up the saga in a satisfying manner and the gameplay is very addictive making it hard to put down. The new abilities paired with tense E.M.M.I sections help to keep the gameplay fresh after hours of battles. This is the best Metroid game yet and it’s an absolute must play for players old and new.
Metroid Dread PROS
+ The game has a beautiful visual design
+ Massive sprawling world with plenty to explore and unlock
+ Refined combat feels excellent
Metroid Dread CONS
- Not enough time with new weapons before others introduced
- Cramped controls
- Boss fights can be an overly frustrating experience
Overall Rating: 36/40 (90%)
A copy of this game was provided by Nintendo for the purpose of this review.