by Nathan Rowland
reviewed on PC
Metal Wolf Chaos XD blew its way into existence with all the subtlety of an apache helicopter, re-released in this remastered edition fifteen years after its initially limited publication back in 2004.
In this 3rd-person mech shooter, you assume the role of the incumbent President of the United States, Michael Wilson, whose sole mission is re-taking the continental United States after a devious coup d’état enacted by the Vice-President ejects him from office. To aid him in his task the President and ‘Metal Wolf’, his anatomical mess of a mecha, take to the streets and the skies to blast away all of the ‘coup forces’ before finally ridding the nation of its mastermind villain in a fitfully bizarre space battle.
This camp, bombastic narrative is thrust upon you in the very opening moments of the game, where a monotone aide named Jody placidly guides the player through various mechanics and story titbits. The initial structure is something of a mess, but one which had this reviewer cringing through fits of giggles throughout. In the outset of the game, the player will be cycling through a rudimentary arsenal of weaponry kept hidden within the president’s mech suit. These weapons are rather formulaic in their design and implementation: lower-calibre machine guns for dealing with grunt units and heavier-ballistic weapons for dealing with vehicles and targetable structures.
Within this arsenal the game bases its player progression. With currency and materials accrued throughout the game’s main story missions the player can invest and construct in new and increasingly powerful weapons spread across various categories including shotguns, bazookas, railguns and missile launchers. Yet their nuance and variety is a face-value commodity. The player will suffice in improving only one category of ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ weaponry in order to combat the painfully sparse variety of opponents and feel that any improvement in their weapons is only felt in numerical values rather than a visceral strengthening of the player-character. Unfortunately, the pitfalls do not stop short of gameplay. Repetitive music loops through the game’s various menus often intersecting and obscuring much of the game’s dialogue (one of the best parts of the game when listening out for its slapstick humour) and can be obnoxious once heard for the dozenth time over.
Best in the West
Yet these issues can be forgiven if you understand before clicking play that this game is something of an oddity. More of a parody of westernised hawkish and militaristic attitudes rather than a re-creation of empowering tactical gameplay that one might find in a Call of Duty title. FromSoftware, the renowned developer of Souls-borne fame, was previously known for Armored Core, considered the foremost series in the mech-combat genre. Thus, the original Metal Wolf Chaos was born when Microsoft secured the exclusive release of a new mech title developed by FromSoftware for Japanese audiences, meant to encourage sales of the Xbox in a market heavily dominated by their competitors Sony and Nintendo. The result is the parody of America viewed through the eyes of Japanese-game developers, in the wake of massive changes in the cultural zeitgeist of America, following the years of 9/11 and the Iraq war. The game touches on topics of domestic terrorism, financial corruption, propagandist medias and many other salient issues of American society, however sarcastic their representations may have concluded. The result is a subjective experience, technically limited to its time and bound to the bias of its creators but one that is unique for the perspective it grants.
For a western audience it is a fascinating insight into the eyes of the ‘other’ and how American culture has been refined down to its most base and stereotypical depictions. As such, a cult following grew outside of its mainland release in Japan and with the help of Devolver Digital, was able to secure its remaster and re-release for PC, Xbox One and PS4 in the decade and a half since. Today, it offers an interesting parallel for comparison to modern American society and political institutions like the presidency. To those who go into this game with the mindset that they’re not getting the most technical or comprehensive edition from a remaster, but instead a refinement of early noughties comedy, they’re sure to enjoy it.
This levee ain’t so dry
Not so bothered about a quirky piece of niche comedy bundled within a clunky action-shooter? Then it probably has your vote of no confidence. Instead, perhaps consider Platinum Games’ Vanquish, re-released on Steam in 2017, which is a fun and frenetic mech-styled shooter with all the class and trimmings expected from a Platinum release. Yet this reviewer cannot deny that despite obvious flaws and frankly boring interludes in Metal Wolf Chaos XD’s gameplay, it is a game that will be remembered fondly.
Funny deadpan dialogue, mech action, a faithful re-creation
Obtrusive sound design, limited weapons, uninspired level design