Summer Game Bang Preview: Metroid Dread

Metroid Dread has spent fifteen years as little more than a rumor. Development has been officially confirmed to have started and stopped on the game at least twice. Fans could do little more than speculate about what the sequel to Metroid Fusion would have been like as they watched focus shift from 2D Metroid titles to the first-person Metroid Prime series. Then the disastrous Metroid: Other M released, and the entire franchise seemed to go on pause. Metroid Dread became little more than a hopeful rumor, a fringe possibility in the minds of a fanbase starved for a new adventure. Then, out of nowhere, Metroid Dread was announced, got a gameplay trailer, and got a release date. In just over two minutes, the rumor had become reality.

The Metroid Dread trailer, revealed as part of Nintendo’s E3 2021 Direct, shows Samus in a new power suit in a rather spooky-looking corridor. The camera moves to a first-person perspective, amplifying the feelings of tension and isolation, before a large robot drops from the ceiling. Samus’ weapons prove ineffective against the menacing automaton, who then chases Samus as she runs from the room. A gameplay segment is shown next, featuring some fast-paced platforming as Samus attempts to run from the persistent robot. The mechanical menace eventually corners Samus, and just as the killing blow is stuck, the trailer cuts to the title.

Metroid Dread’s title is an intentional nod to how the player is supposed to feel as they move about while avoiding detection. There will be multiple robots, called E.M.M.I.s, that will use sound to try and locate Samus before beginning an active pursuit upon making visual contact. A “phantom cloak” ability was briefly shown, which conceals Samus from the E.M.M.I.’s visual sensors. The phantom cloak is limited by a depleting energy gauge, and it won’t save you from physical contact. As shown in the trailer, being caught by an E.M.M.I. will almost always result in a quick death, having an escape route in mind at all times will be essential to Samus’ survival. The oppressive atmosphere and nearly invincible pursuer took me right back to how it felt to play Metroid Fusion, running from the parasite SA-X. 

Appropriately, given the importance of escaping pursuit, Samus is going to move with a speed and fluidity previously unseen in 2D Metroid titles. It’s difficult to be certain from previews alone, but Samus seems to run, jump, and climb quickly, and the transitions between those movements look buttery smooth. Samus also has access to a new slide ability, which should make squeezing into narrow passages feel much more fluid than having to stop, crouch, and go into her morph ball like in past entries. Samus’ counter ability, first seen in Metroid: Samus Returns on the 3DS, can now be used in conjunction with a dash, further enhancing her mobility.

Being the first brand-new 2D Metroid game in 19 years, not to mention being the conclusion of the story of Samus and the Metroids, Metroid Dread is going to be up against some pretty lofty expectations. Developer MercurySteam Entertainment is, on paper, an excellent choice to make the long-awaited title, given their previous success with Metroid: Samus Returns. We won’t have to wait long to find out if MercurySteam Entertainment can meet our expectations, Metroid Dread releases on the Nintendo Switch on October 8, 2021.

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