The only person that can save America is the President and his giant Killbot! Time for some Metal Wolf Chaos XD.
I’ll happily admit that I wasn’t familiar with Metal Wolf Chaos XD until the reveal of its re-release during one of Devolver Digital’s ever insane E3 conferences. This shouldn’t really be much of a surprise as it never received a release outside of Japan. With that said, it’s become something of a cult game, especially amongst collectors and fans of FromSoftware’s early work, and Devolver decided that now was the perfect time to bring it to the west.
With very little changed from the original beyond upscaled textures and remastered voice lines, Metal Wolf Chaos XD is as close to the original game as you’re likely to get. But how does a 2004 Xbox title hold up by today’s standards?
You take on the role of Michael Wilson, the president of the United States of America ㄧ something that he constantly likes to remind people ㄧ who is forced to fight to reclaim his country from a military coup led by his villainous vice-president, Richard Hawk. He does this in the most presidential way imaginable, by donning a giant mech suit and battling his way across the states! It’s a silly story, but even for a fifteen year old game it still strikes a chord with the political upheaval in America these days. Much of the story is presented through propagana-esque pieces via a news channel that paints Metal Wolf as a villain and Richard Hawk as a great hero. The use of media to manipulate the population’s mindset, as well as commentary on immigration and political rhetoric, are far more on-point than a decade and a half old mech shooter has any right to be.
Everything is utterly over the top in Metal Wolf Chaos. Right from the outset you burst out of the White House wielding bazookas, shotguns, and assault rifles and proceed to wipe out infantry, ground vehicles, and helicopters. This acts as a tutorial of sorts, but at no point do you have most of the mechanics or controls explained to you, with the game leaving it up to you to work it out. It does point out that light weapons won’t really cause you damage whilst missiles will, and that you need to destroy set targets in each mission, but that’s about it.
Each mission takes around twenty minutes and tends to be quite intense. The objectives always boil down to ‘destroy all the stuff’, but the way those objectives play out can be different. Sometimes you are stalked by a super powerful enemy, or there may be a time limit in place. It’s nice to have these differences to keep you on your toes as you fight off your opponents. There are a lot of enemies too, although most don’t really pose much of a threat.
In some ways it’s similar to the Musou games as you cut a swathe of destruction through weaker enemies before having to put a bit more effort in against tanks and defensive structures. The combat is fairly satisfying, with the weapons feeling punchy and your ability to dash and ground pound giving you plenty of ways to engage and disengage as you wish. Along the way you can collect power-ups and rescue hostages to increase your score.
Between missions you spend money and resources on developing and manufacturing new weapons for your mech. These fall into a variety of categories such as machine guns, missile launchers, shotguns, railguns, and so on. You really do need to spend some time doing this, as your starting weapons won’t be much use later in the game. With that said, there are a few weapon types that aren’t terribly useful. Pistols and flamethrowers aren’t really much use against the hordes of soldiers and tanks that you’ll be taking on. Having all this variety is rather nice though, as it keeps the combat quite fresh as you try out new equipment.
Metal Wolf Chaos is really quite enjoyable to play on the whole, and it’s a testament to the quality of the original that a re-release that’s barely been touched since then can still be so enjoyable. The controls are sharp, the sound and visuals hold up better than they have any right to for an original Xbox game, and the cheesy voice acting is utterly brilliant nonsense.
It is, however, not without its flaws. I played the PC version of this and ran into more than a few problems. I found that playing with a keyboard and mouse is really not enjoyable, but that’s easily rectified by using a controller. The lack of graphical options can somewhat be forgiven due to the age of Metal Wolf Chaos, but something more that Low/Medium/High would have been nice. What’s less forgivable is the number of crashes and bugs I came across: I fell through the floor, buildings stopped taking damage, the game crashed when I tried to restart some missions or skip a cutscene. I can’t comment on the console releases, but the PC version seems as though it could have done with a bit more work than upscaled textures and remastered sound.
There are general problems too. The navigation of some stages can be a real pain as it’s not always clear where you need to go, and the complete lack of checkpoints in missions is nothing short of criminal in a modern release. This is compounded when the hardest parts of missions tend to be at the end, sending you all the way back to the start should you fail at this point. I know FromSoftware are now famed for games with punishing difficulty, but this just feels archaic. I realise that this is a remake of a comparatively old game, but a few modern conveniences wouldn’t go amiss.
In spite of the issues, Metal Wolf Chaos XD is still really quite enjoyable. I wouldn’t consider it a must play, but for something of an oddity in terms of western game releases, it’s certainly worth a look. It holds up well for the most part, and can stand up (even outdo) a lot of modern mech shooters around. Having finished the game and unlocked Hell difficulty, I may well pop back and see how much tougher it gets. And the reason is…I am the President of the United States of America!