Metroid Dread hands-on preview: How Samus got her groove back

Everyone's favorite bounty hunter is about to blast off once again in Metroid Dread and we got a hands-on sneak peek ahead of takeoff.

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When Metroid Dread was revealed a few months back during a very special Nintendo Direct, I kind of flipped out. A few members of the Shacknews crew and I were live on Twitch and we had predicted, or more accurately hoped, for the reveal of a new side-scrolling Metroid. The original Metroid for the NES made a big impression on me as a kid for a number of reasons and I still consider Super Metroid to be one of the greatest games ever. To say I have been elated for the upcoming release of Metroid Dread is a gross understatement. So when the opportunity arose to get some in-person hands-on time with Metroid Dread before the game’s launch I quickly jumped at the opportunity and headed to the Big N’s office.

We went hands-on with Metroid Dread ahead of its launch next month.
We went hands-on with Metroid Dread ahead of its launch next month.

Fans may recall that we got a side-scrolling Metroid a few years back in the form of Metroid: Samus Returns for the 3DS that was merely a remake of the classic Nintendo Game Boy sequel Metroid II: Return of Samus with a few new bells and whistles. This is the first time in 17 years that we’ve got an entirely new side-scrolling Metroid game and I gotta say it’s great seeing the franchise get back to its roots while implementing a lot of modern mechanics and concepts.

Metroid Dread takes place after the events of Fusion and will have players heading to a new planet known as ZDR. Intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran has been dispatched to ZDR after evidence that the X parasites she thought she had already destroyed appears. However, before Samus was dispatched a group of AI robots called EMMI were sent to ZDR but have since gone radio silent.

Part of Samus’ adventure in Dread will entail dealing with these rogue EMMI units. Throughout the game, Samus will find herself being hunted down by these bots in certain sections of each area on ZDR and will have to run for her life. If one happens to catch her it’s basically lights out, although if you have impeccable timing, and a whole lotta luck, you might be able to pull off a counter and escape. It’s quite difficult to pull off the counter though, so your best bet is to book it when you encounter an EMMI.

Samus Aran is back and ready to rumble.
Samus Aran is back and ready to rumble.

I found myself getting caught quite a bit during my demo, but fortunately, the punishment for dying isn’t that bad as you basically respawn in whatever section you were in before entering the EMMI area. Even with all my deaths, I didn’t feel discouraged at any time, if anything the EMMI sections felt like a new kind of puzzle to figure out that really cranks up the intensity by turning you from the hunter to the hunted. And while the EMMIs are invulnerable to Samus’ regular arsenal, there will be moments where her arm cannon will get a special charge that will be capable of taking one down in the form of an Omega Blaster upgrade. The Omega Blaster will allow Samus to charge up a shot capable of taking out an EMMI, but it's not always that simple. At one point I had to use a rapid fire option to heat up a face shield on an EMMI before I could use the charge-up shot to take it out. I’m not sure if this will pertain to every EMMI you encounter in the game, but I was able to take out one after I finished a boss fight.

As one would expect from a Metroid game, players will unlock a number of special weapons and abilities throughout their adventure that include several classics, as well as a brand new stealth ability that will drain Samus’s energy and slow her down, but also offer additional evasion options when trying to sneak past an EMMI. The new stealth option will also offer a way to get past doors with motion detectors on them, once again continuing the series' fine tradition of locking off certain areas until you have the right powers to unlock them.

Samus will once again take on a number of alien creatures during her adventure.
Samus will once again take on a number of alien creatures during her adventure.

Gameplay seems like it’s going to be a nice blend of classic Metroid action mixed with a few new mechanics here and there to bring it into the modern era. For instance, the counter attack ability from Samus Returns is still intact along with the new unlockable cloaking skill which adds even more variety to combat and exploration options. And while I didn’t make it to the morph ball unlock, Samus did start off with the ability to slide her way through tight spots.

All of Samus’ new moves felt like they were on full display in the game’s first boss fight against a scorpion-like alien named Corpious. Taking on Corpius took me right back to the days of playing Super Metroid in my bedroom, but is also a great example of how the combat system has been upgraded. For instance, there were moments in the fight where I could disorient Corpius and slide under it. If I timed my counter-attack just right when coming out of the slide, I could trigger a quick-time-like event that allowed me the opportunity to blast Corpious in its monstrous face with a barrage of missiles. There were also moments where if I timed it right I could get the creature to stab its tail into the wall and open up another attack opportunity. It was moments like these during my demo that have me very optimistic about Metroid Dread.

Metroid Dread is shaping up to be a promising entry in the long-running series.

From a visual standpoint, Dread is looking clean, vibrant, and polished. I found myself stopping to take in backgrounds full of stuff like volcanic debris or underground lakes that appear to have something mysterious swimming around in them. Even the save rooms had some amazing looking Chozo statues hanging out in the scenery. Creature designs are on par for the series as well, and the EMMI units add a nice mecha component in a game that has always had mostly organic creatures for you to fight.

Even with everything new, my Metroid Dread experience really felt like it was taking me back to the series’ roots. So much of what has made the Metroid franchise such a solid, endearing franchise seems to be encapsulated in Metroid Dread. I tend to reserve my elation for a game until it comes out, but from the moment I started playing to when I had to put down the controller it felt like home. I just jumped in headfirst and didn’t look back during my hands-on time and it was like riding a bike. Fans who grew up with the Metroid franchise should be in for quite a treat when Metroid Dread launches for the Nintendo Switch on Oct 8, 2021.


This preview is based on a hands-on demo for Metroid Dread using the Nintendo Switch OLED model. Metroid Dread will launch exclusively for the Nintendo Switch on October 8, 2021 at an MSRP of $59.99 USD and is rated T for Teen.

Reviews Editor

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 27, 2021 6:00 AM

    Blake Morse posted a new article, Metroid Dread hands-on preview: How Samus got her groove back

    • reply
      September 27, 2021 6:41 AM

      Nice! Looking forward to it.

    • reply
      September 27, 2021 7:04 AM

      Sounds cool so far. Interesting to see a Metroid where you can slide before morph ball.

    • gmd legacy 10 years mercury mega
      reply
      September 27, 2021 11:02 AM

      Metroid Not Prime 4 DREAD looking pretty hot

      https://kotaku.com/hands-on-metroid-dreads-first-hour-is-legit-kinda-terr-1847742944

      Going to go ahead and preorder it for no reason what so ever. I should probably pick up a real controller since playing with the joycons is just painful, wish those 8bitdo's actually woke the console

    • reply
      September 27, 2021 11:39 AM

      How pervasive is the counter compared to Samus returns? My least favorite part of Samus Returns was needing to constantly stop and wait for an enemy to shoot me so I could counter them and kill them.

      • reply
        September 27, 2021 11:46 AM

        You don't have to stop now. I haven't played it and so can't say how frequently you need it, but they've expanded it to include running and aerial counters so you can do them without interrupting your movement.

        You can see it in a couple of the videos they've released.

      • reply
        September 27, 2021 1:17 PM

        Here, this guy also got a hands on and covers that:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u86txKB4UIk

        He talks about it about 2 minutes in. Says it's much less "forced" and shooting is often much safer.

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