First Impressions: Metallica LE Pinball

metleI visited a friend today and got a chance to play his Metallica LE game. He had it next to a BiBLE and several other “A-list” games. I’d say I put at least 40+ games on the machine and went through a good bit of the modes and thought I might share my first impressions…

Visually the game is very striking and a lot more colorful than the ACDC variants. The hand-drawn artwork really makes the game “pop”. I agree with others that the powder coating doesn’t seem to be as high-quality as it should and things like undecorated siderails and hinges, at the price these things are going for, seems a bit insulting to not include, especially when I can look at the gorgeous siderails and custom-hinges on the ACDC LE which cost quite a bit less. Other issues like the snake sans fangs (apparently the snake on the playfield originally came with long fangs but nobody at Stern realized being hit by the ball would cause them to break, so instead of addressing the issue or replacing broken snakes, Stern simply ground off the fangs for all future games from what I’ve been told) . You’d expect a company that has been in business a few years to do, but not one that’s been producing “the only real pinball machines” for decades. Why include a smaller subwoofer than ACDC? Why not include the shaker motor in the uber-expensive LEs?? At this price, Stern still seems to be making cost-cuts, design snafus, and compromises that aren’t easily forgivable. But as long as people spend their kids’ college fund on these things sight-unseen, I don’t see that changing.

With that out of the way and the quintessential cost-cutting that Stern seems to be famous for and often gets criticized over, I have to say the game feels quite solid. There isn’t an abundance of plastic dingleberries riveted here-or-there, or stupid action figures purchased from Target shoehorned onto the playfield as an afterthought. The toys look great and act solid. The hammer is cool, but it seems lame that there’s a phillips screw smack in your field of view.. like they couldn’t put that around the side? The mechanical design seems to have rudimentary aesthetic flaws… granted they’re minor, but at the amount of money these things are going for, it would be nice to see a heightened attention to detail.

The toys are pretty cool though. The coffin multiball is a fun action. The snake “puking” the ball back at you is neat. The progressive drop targets are a crowd pleaser. Even though there are a number of “hit this X times to make something happen” targets on the playfield, Stern has done a good job of not making you feel like you’re playing whack-a-mole or engaging in monotonous, repetitive behavior. There’s lots of things to hit all around the playfield, and there aren’t a lot of “dead shots” where the ball doesn’t register. There’s a LOT going on with this playfield and the multi-ball sequences are very fun to unlock.. the shot callouts are cool too – and I can see this is an area where things will get even better. Lots of really cool touches.. like the double-bass beats when you shoot a ball through a spinner.. music and light integration is well done (and hopefully will improve even more).

What I like most about this game is that it looks like it has a really nice balance between having a lot going on so a first-time or inexperienced player can have fun, as well as an experienced pro can continue to find challenge. I found my first few games on the machine had long ball times — this game is clearly a lot easier than ACDC, and offers more short-term gratification, but the more you learn the ruleset, the more challenging the game becomes. Contrast this with ACDC where the game is frustrating and hard for both inexperienced and seasoned players, and then proceeds to become even more frustrating and challenging as you learn the ruleset. Metallica is more approachable across-the-board for any type of player. The shots are much more definitive and combos are very satisfying.

I think Metallica is a great hybrid of what is great about ACDC + Tron. ACDC’s rather convoluted and confusing ruleset gives way to a more linear setup in Metallica, with much better flow and more satisfying combo shots and a lot less “dead shots” where you lose control of the ball and start to pray you can get it back. Metallica is both a novice and a player’s game.

In short order, from simply playing, I was able to get an easier grasp of what was going on with the ruleset and how I could stack certain things. Whereas with ACDC it was (and still seems to be) very confusing.

I have to admit that I much prefer ACDC to Metallica from a musical/theme standpoint. But gameplay wise, I think Metallica is a better game. They’re both fun games, but Metallica is a better game – with a layout with more shots and more things going on and a more approachable ruleset. It’s a very good game. And in its software infancy, it will probably get a lot better.

Congrats to the team behind Metallica. Very impressive.