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What is there to say about Metal Wolf Chaos XD? It has achieved a level of cult status rarely seen in video games. Even I had heard of it, and I’m not a huge fan of either Japanese games or mech combat. As I started downloading the game I began to wonder why I’d even accepted this review in the first place. Once I started playing I knew there was something special here, it was just a shame I had to wait 15 years to play it.
Developed by From Software and General Arcade and published by Devolver Digital, Metal Wolf Chaos XD will be released for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on August 6, 2019. The PC version was played for this review.
The story of how Metal Wolf Chaos was made is almost as important as the story in the game itself. Made as an Xbox exclusive in Japan in 2004, Metal Wolf Chaos was Microsoft’s attempt at making a mech warfare game that would appeal to Japanese audiences and help sell their console in the region. They asked none other than From Software, makers of Armored Core and later a little series called Dark Souls, to develop this game for them. Microsoft, as an American company, still wanted Metal Wolf Chaos to have an American story and this is where the game becomes truly incredible.
Set in the 2020s, Metal Wolf Chaos XD follows President Michael Wilson and his war mech Metal Wolf fight back against a coup d’etat lead by his Vice President Richard Hawk. And that’s it. There is nothing else going on here and the game is better for it. The tale of a warrior president and his robot death machine is one that screams Japanese anime with a whisper of exaggerated American patriotism.
The plot, and the dialogue that goes with it, is so insane it feels like satire. It very well may be, penned by Japanese writers, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it was intended to be satirical, but I have a suspicion there was a little bit of honesty. I interpreted it as a mostly honest depiction of American values as told by a foreign author. Regardless of the truth, the result is something that has to be seen and heard to be believed. There are some line deliveries in this game that even Nicholas Cage would call over the top, but the game would be worse without it.
The writing and acting are the strongest aspects this game has. Once I started playing it became evident I couldn’t expect much more. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t fun to be had, but the game’s age was very obvious.
The most interesting things that happen while playing happen during pre-mission preparation. There is pretty decent customization for President Wilson’s Metal Wolf. There is a wide variety of weapon types to equip, and money earned from missions can be spent to research new and better arms. Once the mission starts gameplay devolves into a very basic shoot ‘em up. The screen is absolutely covered in HUD elements that are nothing if not distracting. Opting to use large square boxes to represent a weapons effective area of effect, I found myself overloaded with everything happening on screen.
Most of the missions, and there are few, are simple objectives involving destroying all enemies structures. To complete this task all I had to do was aim generally in the direction of my target and spam left and right click until everything was dead. Often frenetic and rarely exciting, it was a very mindless albeit fun spray down. Some missions had special enemies to be wary of but they were few and far between and rarely a danger to be concerned of.
While repetitive and simple I still found gameplay to be fun and somewhat blissful. It was so basic and largely easy I felt very at ease. There were exactly two moments, however, where Metal Wolf Chaos XD was incredibly frustrating. For a game by From Software, there wasn’t much to complain about in the difficulty area. But there were difficulty spikes that were incredibly frustrating. As a fan of the Soulsborne series, I’m no stranger to difficult games and I “got gud” a long time ago, but when a game is simple and straightforward for most of its run time, an arbitrary difficulty spike is unbelievably annoying.
What Year Is It?
While the dialogue in Metal Wolf Chaos XD is wonderfully horrendous, the rest of the presentation is just awful. While the game has been touched up for 1080p gameplay, all of which looks and runs fine, the audio quality is truly unpleasant.
During cinematics various sound effects were either clearly missing or would cut off. The most obvious offenders were helicopters whose rotors would sound for maybe a half second before disappearing altogether. The glorious dialogue was also frequently hidden behind bad sound mixing. Almost every other sound effect was louder than the VO and I couldn’t hear anything. It got even worse once I started a mission. Almost everything sounded like I was listening to it from underwater. I don’t know if this is what the game sounded like in 2004, but in 2019 I found this embarrassing.
Still A Classic
I had some pretty violent mood swings while playing Metal Wolf Chaos XD. I laughed, I smiled, I grimaced, and I yelled in frustration. At the end of the day, a lot of this comes down to simply playing a 15 year old game. Few of them age well and most of them coast on nostalgia. I have to admit I did enjoy myself more than I thought I would, but the difficulty spikes and audio issues are a little unforgivable. The game is also quite short, I rolled credits at just about 6 hours, but I couldn’t imagine enjoying myself for much longer. The gameplay is simple and fun enough to make it worth hearing some of the best dialogue in video game history and I think fans of the genre will find enough to like to play a classic.
~ Final Score: 7/10 ~
Review copy provided by Devolver Digital for PC. Screenshots provided by reviewer.