As much as we all yearn for new games, sometimes we all crave and embrace a remake/remaster of a classic. I’m proudly guilty of this, as I’ve mentioned before my love for Resident Evil 2 and Shadow of the Colossus.
So it seemed fitting that Metal Wolf Chaos, a game only released on the Xbox in Japan back in 2004, would be right up my street. A fictional setting in the which the 47th president of the US of A saves the nation in a giant mech suit sounds ideal, no?
I even mentioned in our latest podcast that I was keen on this one. But oh how quickly the tables turn, as Metal Wolf Chaos is one of the worst games I’ve ever played. Rarely do Devolver Digital fail to deliver, but this is one of those times. Why is it so bad? Brace yourselves for what I’m considering the “Sonic ’06 of giant robot games”…
Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to love this game. It ticks so many boxes for me: it’s a FromSoftware game, it’s got giant bloody robots in it, and it’s got an attempt at humour by poking fun at the US presidency and its wackiness in a way not unlike Metal Gear Revengeance.
But once I’d gotten over the absolutely bananas introductory scene and got to actually start playing, my heart sunk quicker than the Fallout ’76 player base. I thought I was going to be playing a pre-Dark Souls/Sekiro game; a taste of what they’d go on to be. I was expecting a tough game, but fast-paced combat. I was expecting a worthy challenger to other mech games like Armoured Core, or combat akin to Zone of the Enders (but more grounded). It got my hopes up with the President being air dropped into a military base, dashing through obstructions and taking out units before ultimately decimating the area and flashing a title card at me.
When I got to play, I got a field of view so crammed with HUD and close to my combat suit that it hides most of what’s going on, coupled with sluggish combat so slow that I wondered if the frame rate had suddenly crashed.
I mean, you look at the above picture and probably think, “What is Greg on about? It looks awesome!”. Well, much like the deflating feeling of pre-rendered trailers, that image is not a representation of the final product. Oh, it’s an in-game image, sure enough. But it is definitely not how the game plays.
I had the assumption that the camera would be full 3D: that you’d move independently of the camera, with the right stick being used to see what’s around you. Y’know, like most action games do so much better. Or if it were going to stick to a static camera, like early Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden, then have a larger view and free movement of your character. But in this case, we got neither.
As I said earlier, the HUD doesn’t help either. Cluttered with two separate weapon/ammo counters, a map and an energy/boost meter, it may seem like a nitpick (as most games would have that) but they take up way too much space on-screen. As for a crosshair, or missile aiming reticule, how about a giant lined grid that offers no precision instead? No, doesn’t fancy that? Them tough mammaries, that’s what you’re getting.
If this were an on-rails shooter, then it wouldn’t be an issue, as enemies would be deliberately placed so that you had to shoot them. Whereas MWC has you being attacked not only from every side, but different levels too. Instead of being able to zip and dash around, the action is reduced to slowly stomping through levels and having to wrangle the camera to distinguish where you’re being shot from.
What really ground the action to a halt for me was an event during the second level. About halfway through, you have to take out a building. Looking like an armored multistorey car park, you have to take out many of the levels before the game deems you worthy and destroys the rest for you. What could have been a 3D tribute to the first level of Contra, instead became me just stood stock still, holding both triggers and chipping away for somewhat close to ten minutes. It was painful.
The game boasts over 100 different weapon combinations, that you can find and research, which I’m sure is oodles of fun down the line. However, when you’re on the second mission with the basic loadout, taking on a friggin’ building is a chore. Presumably, the fun is in replaying the levels with better equipment, but in my experience the first time around is meant to be fun before giving you the big guns to play with. This was not the case.
So, terrible gameplay aside, you might be wondering (perhaps out of morbid curiosity) what this game is all about. Well, in a roundabout way, it’s a Japanese attempt at Western satire, built for a Western console that didn’t sell well in Japan. Why they thought this would be the game to change the tide, I don’t know.
Playing as the fictional 47th American president (we’re currently on the 45th… still) Michael Wilson, the game starts with your Vice President staging a coup d’etat on your presidency and the White House. So you do what any logical president would do: build a secret mech suit, burst out of the White House windows, and flee on Air Force One. All the while vowing to save the USA. Because ‘merica, that’s why.
Whilst it screams tongue in cheek patriotism, the Pres doesn’t seem to have any qualms in mowing down his fellow Americans in various degrees of violence. Even the initial escape from the Whisky Hotel, swaths of enemy troops are mowed down in the name of your fleeing. At one point, your secretary, Jody, introduces the Abrams tank as the “pride of the military” with no hint of irony… before you destroy swathes of them indiscriminately. In fact, it’s genuinely quite disconcerting how both she and you, the president, show little regard for your fellow man.
The silliness culminates in the VP, Richard Hawk (or Dick Hawk, if you’re feeling childish), fleeing to a space station and you stopping him from nuking America. This is where my patience and indulgence in the silliness wore off: why would the Vice President, the man who traditionally serves the Presidency and ultimately the country, want to blow the damn country up?! I guess this is what gained Metal Wolf Chaos its “cult following” for its Japanese take on American satire, but it’s so forced that it’s just not funny. It’s akin to Deadly Premonition and its Twin Peaks influences; the novelty wears off when you have it pointed out to you, instead of drawing that conclusion yourself.
It doesn’t help that the voice acting is also terrible. I’d like to say it’s on par with early Resident Evil, but it’s taken that crown and running with it. It’s shockingly bad, and whilst it may have illicited an occasional chuckle from me, they were more out of sheer astonishment that this crap was allowed.
The president himself sounds like someone doing a terrible Quinton Flynn impression, whilst the supporting cast fare no better. Like I said, I dealt with “You were almost a Jill sandwich” as a child, so I’m used to full-on cheese.
At the end of the day, I don’t know who to recommend this to. I’m all for nostalgia, especially a good remaster, but this is such a misfire. I’d heard through the years of the fable of Metal Wolf Chaos, but this is one of those cases of the legend being greatly exaggerated. The behind the scenes makes for much more entertainment than the trash platter that is the game.
It’s very rarely that Devolver send out polished turds. This is the pedigree publisher behind Hotline Miami, Ape Out, Ruiner, My Friend Pedro and many more. Yet this is just awful. This is on par with Left Alive, or even as far back as Operation Winback as “great idea, terrible execution”. Rampant levels of Eastern satire aside, I see no salvageable reason to play this.
Clunky controls, terrible on-screen litter and the slow pace just kill any semblance of enjoyment for me. Even the nonsensical plot and voice acting don’t make me want to play this again.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD is out now on PC and PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro)
Developer: FROM Software
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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