I’ve got to admit that back at its reveal during E3 2018, I was skeptical of Metal Wolf Chaos as I wasn’t familiar with it. But as I got to know more about the game, I was more and more won over by its cheese factor that you could smell from a mile away, and fortunately got the opportunity to playtest the game with the Steam version.
The United States has plunged into an age of chaos thanks to a coup détat led by Vice President Richard Hawk, who now fully controls the country. The 47th President of the US, Michael Wilson, arms himself with a secretly-developed mecha suit and flees the White House in order to liberate America city by city.
As you can tell, the plot is delightfully silly, and this is only emphasized further thanks to the over-acted hammy voice acting that permeates through the game. Even within the first mission, we get lines like ‘Let’s partyyyy!’ during the opening cutscene, to ‘Richaard!’ at the end. There are some themes that appear in the story that do echo back to the early 2000’s, like the President essentially blowing everything up in sight to achieve his goal, and the DNN fictional news network spends its time airing thinly-veiled propaganda for Hawk, but the game never takes itself seriously, which honestly is for the best.
Combat is focused around the two trigger (or for the PC version, left and right mouse buttons), which each control a firearm in each hand. The Wilson’s mecha has backpacks that store up to four weapons for each arm, and the weapons are swapped by pressing the weapon switch button, manually cycling to the right one, then pressing the switch button again. It’s a tad tedious and complicated for what should be a quick process, but it’s an essential action to learn, as weapons range from assault rifles, to rocket launchers, and even a pistol that is your starting firearm. My favorite move is the mecha’s stomp move that easily destroys enemy transport and even objectives.
During each mission, you’re asked to fulfill particular objectives, such as rescuing POWs and destroying enemy bases. Completing missions earns you President Points that can be poured alongside money into upgrading the mecha, as well as developing new equippable weapons. From info on the original game, it seems that there are more than 100 different weapons that can be collected, although to be honest, this particular aspect didn’t interest me too much. Instead, I loved the explosive glory that is playing through each of the stages, which feels like comfort food in the same way Warriors-series games are like.
That said, this game isn’t without its faults. At its base, this is a 2004 game that uses functional but rudimentary 3D gameplay, and enemy AI is nearly nonexistent beyond firing their guns. Meanwhile, the graphics look crisp, but textures in places that aren’t the mecha itself leave something to be desired. I wish that more could have been done on the graphical frontlines, and while this didn’t bother me personally, it must be noted that the game is capped at 30 FPS. Keyboard and mouse controls are also hampered by the fact that the camera only turns at a modest speed even with sensitivity at max, harking back to its Xbox origins. There is also no tutorial, probably because the original game came with an instruction manual. These are all things that can be overlooked, but do cause some trouble when you start off and aren’t used to it.
Even more of an issue for the PC version is its numerous bugs, which still haven’t been fully fixed. The first time I entered the game, I was greeted with a glitched game intro that had audio screeching and massive audio lag. The game says straight-up that integrated graphics cards aren’t supported and may cause glitches, the game managed to freeze up at least once at some point during my various gameplay sessions, which really sucks when you’re doing particularly well. These issues seem to be missing from the PS4 version for the most part, so I’d recommend picking that version.
So what does one make of this game in the end? I love its connection to From Software’s past as a mecha game maker rather than its current fantasy-inspired bent, and its idiotic but charming story and voice acting is enough to overcome its flashy but mundane game design. Just make sure to get the PS4 version if you intend to try out this obscure gem from the early 2000’s.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD is available on PC via Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. The PS4 version is getting a physical release starting August 20.