Critics Are Split on Whether Metroid Dread Was Worth the Decade-Long Wait

AbraxasOctober 7, 2021

To say that fans have been waiting for Metroid Dread for a long time would be an understatement. The game started life back in 2005, but after years of silence — most of them spent sure the game had been canceled altogether — Nintendo shocked fans by announcing it at this year’s E3. Now, after over a decade, the wait is almost over, and critical reviews for Metroid Dread have dropped.

Fans waiting on tenterhooks can hopefully sigh a breath of relief, because the critical discourse surrounding Metroid Dread is mainly positive. According to critics, the Metroid faithful have another great installment to look forward to, with some outlets even giving it a perfect score. However, no game is entirely without flaw, and other have expressed some disappointments with the long-awaited game.

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Critics (Mostly) Praise Metroid Dread’s Chilling Atmosphere

metroid dread exploration

As its title suggests, Metroid Dread leans into the eerie side of series, placing Samus in a desolate environment where terror lurks around the corner. Martin Robinson of Eurogamer writes “the planet of ZDR which Samus embarks on in her ongoing pursuit of the X parasite providing the backdrop to what amounts to one of the finest looking games on the Switch. There are abandoned laboratories lined with partly-assembled bots, whale-sized corpses opened-up on autopsy tables and dark, sparking corridors that connect caverns brimming with lava, all gloriously lit and moodily conveyed.”

IGN’s Samuel Claiborn also praised Dread‘s visuals,  imploring fans “to dock the system to get the full 2D-style Metroid experience on your TV that we’ve been missing in the three decades since Super Metroid on the Super Nintendo…Playing on a big, HD screen reveals sprawling alien scenes in diorama-like backgrounds, lit by the dynamic glow of Samus’s arsenal and projectiles.”

However, not everyone is enjoying Metroid Dread‘s setting, with Josh West of GamesRadar writing that “as good as that sense of isolation feels throughout Dread, it can get on top of you in the opening hours. I don’t think that’s because of the way it communicates progression, but rather a reflection of the rather uninteresting art direction. The 2D Metroid games have always had such a distinct, otherworldly vibrancy to their visual design. So it’s disappointing to see Metroid Dread land with such a sterile, clinical visual theme.”

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Metroid Dread’s Added Stealth Elements Are Divisive

Throughout Dread, players will have several run-ins with the frightening EMMI, a threat that can end Samus’ quest in its tracks. To avoid this, the game introduces stealth elements to the Metroid formula. PJ O’Reilly of Nintendo Life wrote “the tense face-offs and encounters you have with E.M.M.I. robots are standout moments in the game. Each of ZDR’s zones has a designated E.M.M.I. area that you’ll repeatedly have to manoeuvre through, but you need to be quiet, use your cloaking ability, watch your Aeion gauge and creep carefully. It’s hugely atmospheric as the large red glowing signature of a nearby hunter turns up on your in-game map, as your hear doors open behind you with robotic bleeps and bloops, or dodge desperately out of the way of the E.M.M.I.’s ever-searching motion tracker.”

However, this new gameplay mechanic isn’t sitting quite right with all critics, with some finding it an hindrance. In particular, GameSpot’s Steven Petite said these sections were “never nearly as terrifying as [they] could have been, mostly because the stakes are low. If you get caught, you simply get sent back to the entrance, effectively losing at most a minute or two of progress. Rather than feeling like a real foe, EMMIs wind up as more of a cumbersome obstacle at times…especially since the encounters are mostly the same throughout.”

Dread Does What Metroid Does Best

Samus stares down an imprisoned Kraid in Metroid Dread

The Metroid franchise has had an incredible impact on non-linear game design through its exploration and puzzle-solving elements. That trademark Metroid design seems to be back, with Robinson of Eurogamer writing “the planet ZDR provides a neatly recursive map that you dance around like a busy spider, scuttling from power up to power up that gently push that spiral outwards. Which is to say the map is a beautifully designed thing, intricate and dense, plotted with the utmost care.”

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On top of exploration, Metroid‘s combat is another standout feature, particularly its boss battles. This is a point of contention between Metroid Dread‘s critics. Some have praised the game’s big baddies, with IGN’s Claiborn reflecting they “range from the traditional big, drooling monsters with patterns and weak points to learn, to almost Smash Bros.-esque encounters with enemies that mimic your move set. The variation is welcome…I don’t want to give anything away, but these are some of the best boss fights I’ve ever played in an action platformer: Without exception, they seemed impossible at first, but post-victory, I felt like they’d made me a better player.”

On the other side of things, West of GamesRadar felt “the boss fights are poorly patterned and can be weirdly inconsistent. They will force you to navigate cramped environments, push through the occasional bout of frame-rate slowdown, and reconcile with Metroid Dread‘s hand-cramping controls — so overburdened is this game with inputs. Difficulty spikes in Metroid are to be expected, but there’s something routinely off here about the encounters.”

All things considered, it appears that fans looking to dive back into the world of Metroid can certainly expect as much with Dread, matching the new with the familiar. While critics are split on the question of whether the wait was worth it, the game — and the conclusion to Metroid‘s main story — will finally be in fans’ hands soon, giving them the chance to decide the answer for themselves.

Metroid Dread releases on October 8 for Nintendo Switch.

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