Games don’t typically get localized 15 years after they were initially released but little is typical about FromSoftware’s METAL WOLF CHAOS XD. A remaster of one of the few Japanese-developed Xbox exclusives, the third-person mech action game has the player defending the United States of America’s honor by having the President defend against a coup d’état led by the acting Vice President. Nearly everything about the game is completely ridiculous from its premise to the levels that see the player going through, and partially destroying, various landmarks such as Alcatraz, the Grand Canyon, New York City’s Statue of Liberty, and the White House. And while ridiculous can smooth over some rough patches, it can’t smooth over all of them.
The port was handled by the experienced team at General Arcade and the team has kept the 2004 design completely intact. That’s a good thing for purists that want to experience the previously Japan-only title for the first time, but it’s also not in the game’s favor from a pure quality standpoint. From a lack of in-level checkpoints to a terrible difficulty curve that is too easy during most of it and spikes suddenly near the end, there are plenty of issues that hold the game back from reaching its full potential. The only thing that is really new is the addition of English subtitles as the Japanese release already featured English voice acting, which is just as bad as you would want it to be for a B-level title.
One constant highlight is the story, which has some interesting subplots in how the media initially pushed the Vice President’s agenda and later woke up to his deception, and is constantly over the top. The whole narrative is deeply rooted in post-9/11 patriotism, the extreme type of pride and prejudice that had Americans calling French fries by the embarrassing name of “freedom fries.”
However, anyone looking for a deep read on nationalism will probably be disappointed, as it’s mostly just a caricature of how ridiculous Americana can be rather than a complete deconstruction of it. That being said, these themes are just as relevant under the “MAGA” era as they were in 2004, given the bastardization of patriotism and harmful extremes present in both eras. Also, whether on purpose or just a coincidence, the game also has plenty of humans that are locked away in cages that need to be freed by force rather than diplomacy, which is a bit more on the nose in 2019.
Despite the fantastic premise, Metal Wolf Chaos is a pretty by-the-numbers mech game from a gameplay perspective. Each map is littered with enemy bases, which are sometimes optional but typically mandatory, to destroy. Making your way to them is typically a breeze as regular ground soldiers can barely put a dent in your well-equipped mech and even these bases only take a few stomps or rockets to destroy them. Sometimes a boss fight will pose a challenge, but typically their attacks are easy enough to dodge but that it isn’t a real issue here. The game is just not mechanically engaging, as it wasn’t revolutionary in 2004 and there are better mech action games with more in-depth systems. It was mindless then and it is almost more mindless now.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD Review | The Good, the bad and the ugly levels
The truly shining moments in Metal Wolf Chaos are few and far between because the core gameplay of destroying military bases with your weapons is a dull and repetitive affair, but they are definitely there. For example, its Phoenix level that takes place in a ghost town turned military base is a fantastic homage to American Westerns. Players are essentially put in a great duel against several other invisibility-equipped mechs, that are being controlled by the commander-in-chief’s former colleagues. Hunting down the foes and disabling their stealth abilities is a blast because it’s one of the few instances where the foes pose an intriguing threat to the player.
Sadly, most levels aren’t nearly as compelling. A lot of inventive locations are wasted on some boring stage designs, a lack of interesting enemies, or an annoying structure that make accidental deaths all too easy. The Grand Canyon stage epitomizes most of the game’s flaws as there is nothing remotely challenging about the level, as the player can usually make quick work of the few enemy helicopters with missiles without any challenge.
However, the developer was in love with the idea of destructible environments and that means that the bridges you are crossing can get destroyed in just a few seconds and the player will plummet to their death and have to start the entire level again. This isn’t an example of overcoming a challenge, but just sticking with the game due to its frustration.
For the most part, the story is enjoyable enough to make up for the subpar level design as you’ll still want to see what will happen next even if you’re not having much fun. However, near the very end of the game there is a gigantic difficulty jump where the player will be absolutely screwed if they don’t have the necessary firepower (and it’s easy to invest in the wrong areas and be left broke when you need it).
Gaining new weapons is a lengthy process of using in-game currency to develop and then manufacture the costly new weapons. To get the necessary high-level weaponry that make some of the later boss fights doable will require you to replay bad levels in order to get the currency necessary. This is a pain even if players can grind through the easy Miami stage in just a few minutes. Once you’ve got the optimal weapons equipped, these later levels aren’t even difficult to get through, but you simply have no chance at it if you’re underpowered.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD Review | A good port of a mediocre game
General Arcade’s port is weirdly a huge success is in its trophy and achievement design. While it’s a very difficult Platinum, there are a lot of fun trophies that reward the player for playing in different manners such as getting through a level without firing any guns and finding secrets on certain levels. You might never see the hilarious dialogue exchange that happens after destroying your father’s statue if it wasn’t for the trophy list that nudges you in that direction. Any time that trophies can enhance the playing experience like this is a win.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of Metal Wolf Chaos XD will come down to how much you are willing to stick with some archaic design choices in order to see more of the ridiculous story and the few levels that do hold up. And because of its dated foundation, Metal Wolf Chaos needed a remake instead of a remaster. The general premise and FromSoftware’s commitment to its ridiculousness is almost worth the trip in and of itself, but the levels tend to be either offer no challenge or such a steep one that players will have to grind to get past it. Yet despite this, it’s still great to see it being released worldwide for the first time. Unlike FromSoftware’s latest titles, this one will stay a cult title within its niche rather than being enjoyed by the masses.
GameRevolution reviewed Metal Wolf Chaos XD on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.