Metal Max Xeno is something of a momentous occasion. For the first time in years, a Metal Max game has actually been released outside of Japan. (The last one in the series to show up in other regions was Metal Saga for the PlayStation 2.) This means that people might for the first time be realizing what this Mad Max sort of series is like. Basically, we are plopped into a dystopia where humanity is practically extinct, machines ruled by an advanced AI are trying to finish the job, and only finding and using tanks allows you to fight back.
Tanks are a way of life in Dystokio, Metal Max Xeno’s vision of Japan. When the game begins, you find yourself as one of only four humans still alive in the area. After losing your mother and a mentor in an attack where NOA’s machines were eliminating humanity to stop global warming, you come across a lone tank in some ruins. After hopping in and reaching Iron Base, the last bastion of hope, you pretty much are declared the last monster hunter. While you do have a prosthetic that makes it possible to fight the mechanical creations when exploring ruins on foot, the only real way to ensure survival against these superior creatures is to stay in your tank whenever you can to fight them.
Things start off small in Metal Max Xeno. You begin with one tank, but others can be found in the world as you find your way around Japan. Each one can hold up to three party members in it at a time. The type of chassis determines the sorts of engine and weapons that can be equipped. So, as an example, a heavier tank like the starter R Wolf would allow you to equip a cannon, machine gun, and S-E weapon. The Monster Buggy, which is more like a glorified jeep, would allow machine guns or S-E weapons. The former is heavier, has heavier combat power, and higher max power, but I found the Monster Buggy would be lighter (and faster), have higher shields, and higher general power. Initially, most parts come from drops off of the monsters you face or items found in chests, but eventually you develop the ability to craft new parts. Maintaining a nice roster of different pieces, especially duplicates of weapons you like in case a battle gone wrong or you want a different vehicle to also use it, can be important.
Tank maintenance is relatively painless. Jingoro, the equipment manager at Iron Base, handles all repairs for free and automatically refills ammo for weapons that aren’t machine guns whenever you stop by. A fast travel system makes it easy to quickly pop back home when Po-M warns you about some sort of imminent danger you might want to be careful about or when you notice either your ammo is low or your tank is well, maybe kind of on fire? This is extremely helpful, since the encounter rate is quite high in Metal Max Xeno and guns that are not machine guns could have under 40 shots in them. There are also some odd power spikes, where you might encounter a SoNs enemy that isn’t a “boss” for a mission, but it is more powerful than anything else in that area. If it wasn’t for the fast travel option, people would have to trudge across the big, empty desert for over ten minutes to get to specific places. This could have been dangerous, since if a tank’s shield drops, your parts can possibly be permanently broken if you fall in battle.
At the same time, if you aren’t digging the tanks and vehicles, then I could see some people having trouble getting into and sticking with Metal Max Xeno. The world can be rather empty, with a lot of buildings and ruins you can’t explore and the only points of interest being little boxes, Xs, and icons on the map directing you to treasure boxes, story-related locations, new vehicles, fast travel unlock spots, and enemies. Rather than taking in the surroundings, I could sometimes feel like I was going through the motions to trigger the next big objective. If it wasn’t for treasure boxes occasionally holding research materials needed to boost up Iron Base’s research levels and unlock new items, I would probably have stopped collecting them.
The tanks in Metal Max Xeno are a big deal. These vehicles are the only way to properly fight the mechanical menace roaming NOA has inflicted on Earth. If you make sure to create and find new parts for them, collect new varieties when you see them on the map, and make sure you have a good crew with you, you might have a chance of defeating SoNs and decreasing humanity’s extinction index. But, keep in mind that they are such a big deal that if the idea of constantly working to make vehicles stronger isn’t appealing, you may want to spend more time learning about this Mad Max sort of world before jumping in.
Metal Max Xeno will come to the PlayStation 4 in North America on September 25, 2018 and in Europe on September 28, 2018.