Party with the President – Mecha Style!
The original Xbox was a pretty influential console here in America. It gave us Halo, Xbox Live, and firmly cemented Microsoft in the third seat of the major console manufacturers. The Xbox was primarily western focused, which made obvious sense given its American origins; but even so the system yielded some unique Japanese-flavored exclusives. Games such as Jet Set Radio Future, Shenmue II and the utterly ridiculous (and huge, expensive and complex) Steel Battalion were just some of the Japanese developed games that showed the Xbox could do more than just the gritty western first and third-person action and shooting games the console became famous for. However, the console didn’t fare so well in Japan. Outside of a niche audience, the system never really hit the mainstream there. Still, some Japanese exclusives did make their way to the console and were pretty darn good. In the case of 2004’s Metal Wolf Chaos, the results were EXTREMELY good.
Metal Wolf Chaos is a mecha action game developed by FromSoftware (yes, the Dark Souls people) and made from their Otogi game engine, which also happened to be Xbox exclusive games. By melding Japanese interests with western action sensibilities, they decided to make the game about the President of the United States piloting a giant robot saving America. No, I’m not joking. That actually is the premise of the game. Metal Wolf Chaos follows the fictional 47th US President Michael Wilson being overthrown by his treacherous Vice President Richard Hawk. Using a power armor style mech suit and his own personal army, Richard takes over the White House and throws you and your crew out. Unfortunately for him, you have a mech suit of your own and are armed to the teeth with weaponry. One state at a time, you free the United States from Richard’s control and win the favor of your constituents (and the media constantly painting you in a bad light) back.
Despite the almost comical amount of America oozing from Metal Wolf Chaos’ game disc, the release inexplicably remained a Japanese exclusive, never to see western shores. Sure, you could always mod your Xbox (or get a Japanese model) and import a copy, but given the cost the original game goes for nowadays that’s not exactly a cost-effective method. Years have gone by, and hilariously enough all it took to get this game in the US was a tweet from Devolver Digital – “#FreeMetalWolf” indeed. Partnering with FromSoftware to work with the source material and General Arcade to give the game a modernized polish, Metal Wolf Chaos XD is finally here in the States after a long 3-year wait. After spending the last week with the game, I quickly learned why the game is so revered, and I could not stop smiling.
“Welcome to the White House”
Metal Wolf Chaos shows a blatant disregard for subtlety right from the very start of the game.
From the very start of the game, Metal Wolf Chaos XD establishes itself as action-packed and absurd to the brink of parody. With Richard and his army surrounding the White House, Michael comes crashing out of the front window piloting Metal Wolf with his stupendous catchphrase “LET’S PAAAAARRRTTTTYYYYY!” to take the army enacting the coup d’état on his Office. The gigantic pods mounted on Metal Wolf’s shoulders open up, revealing the veritable stockpile of weaponry inside, and that’s when the real fun begins. Metal Wolf Chaos XD is played in a third-person run and gun shooter style, and FromSoftware could not have picked a better format for the game. The controls are super tight, and when rampaging among the smaller grunt units and vehicles, you feel like an unstoppable powerhouse, though the larger enemies and bosses can make short work of you if you’re not careful. Each weapons container on your back holds four different weapons you can switch to on the fly, and both can be fired independently or in unison. This can lead to some very interesting combinations with later weapons you find/unlock, and feels very natural on a controller as your primary weapon fire is tied to the left and right triggers. Additional weapons can be either found in levels or manufactured through research and development in between levels.
Making your way through the front yard of the White House to a hidden bunker, you make your escape in Air Force One to the California where you begin your own personal war to win America back from Richard Hawk’s influence. Trekking across America, you hit a number of landmarks and major US cities. Starting out liberating San Francisco and its neighboring China Town, defusing bombs in mansion-filled Hollywood, fighting it out in the Grand Canyon, riding the Chicago monorails during a poison gas attack; Metal Wolf Chaos XD is filled with scenic visits that never feel too same-y. Aside from mowing down enemies, there are also hidden weapons to find, energy pods to expand your life gauge, and POW’s to find that unlock musical tracks to listen to and unlock special weapons you otherwise wouldn’t be able to make.
Instruments of Destruction
Metal Wolf Chaos XD sports a sizable arsenal, resulting in tons of different possible weapon loadouts
Of course, Metal Wolf Chaos XD does what it does best and doesn’t rest on its laurels with just the story to carry it along. The levels themselves get ramped up on the ludicrous scale as well to keep the player invested, to great effect. Early on you assault your way through Alcatraz Island and destroy a giant cannon mounted to the top of the prison. A boss fight is the White House itself converted into an armored fortress. You fight Richard in a casino in Las Vegas mecha vs. mecha and hitch a ride on a space shuttle for a final showdown on a space station. If it weren’t for the name FromSoftware being at the start of the game, I’d have thought I was playing some weird prototype game Platinum had made back in the day.
Accompanying you on your adventure is your secretary Jody Crawford. Providing mission briefs and status updates on your current exploits, she’s also a source of some of the funniest (or cheesiest) dialogue in the game. Making one-liners such as “I guess these guys won’t be voting for you next election!” and “This fat boy needs a diet, Mr. President!” had me dying, and the quasi-House of the Dead-tier acting made it that much sweeter. With the updates Devolver Digital and General Arcade applied, nothing was changed with the original voices aside from the audio being remastered. The original Metal Wolf Chaos had the same English voice actors with Japanese text, but as is the usual case of most Japanese media enlisting native English speakers for help, the actors aren’t exactly the best at delivering their lines. Fortunately, the horrible voice acting doesn’t take away from the game. It only makes it better. Also in the plus side of the audio department is the game’s excellent soundtrack, with plenty of heart-pounding, blood boiling rock music to keep your pulse music while you’re mowing down enemies left and right.
Between the awesome controls, superb music, frantic action, and crisp updated visuals, Metal Wolf Chaos hardly disappoints.
Adding on to the updates applied to Metal Wolf Chaos XD, aside from the obvious 4k support, 16:9 widescreen support has been implemented with reworked UI menus to make things fit properly. All the work General Arcade put into the game really make this classic look super sharp. Granted, Metal Wolf Chaos is a 15-year-old game, so it does show its age. Some environment assets are pretty basic, as are some of the simpler enemies like Army grunts and basic vehicles like trucks. That said, the game still oozes personality and many of the more fantastical enemies such as the giant spider mech boss fight in New York City, the more detailed, unique architecture you encounter and even Metal Wolf and the other mecha suits you encounter all look great, even taking Metal Wolf Chaos’ age into consideration. The updated textures really make the game pop. The game is unfortunately locked at 30 fps, but even so, I didn’t feel that I was playing an outdated game.
Though the updates are certainly a welcome addition to an already amazing gem of a game, some elements need further work post-launch. During my time with the game, some of the audio balancing seemed way off. During cutscenes, voices would be either normal or unbearably loud. Yet during mission briefings and in-game they would be almost whisper quiet despite my volume settings being maxed out. The worst instance I heard was during the Alcatraz level, where the steam sound effects from the giant Alcatraz Cannon’s generators completely overwhelmed the chatter between Michael, Jody, and a pesky news helicopter looking for a story to spin. Were it not for the subtitles being on, I would have had no idea what they were talking about. The sound effects in some regards are seriously that unbalanced, and I hope they get patched soon because in all regards, Metal Wolf Chaos XD is incredible.
Mech America Great Again
Audio issues aside, Metal Wolf Chaos XD is everything I’d hoped it would be and then some. There’s plenty of content for people to experience in the game’s 14 stages, along with plenty of hidden collectibles and weapons to find, and even high scores to aim for with the game’s more arcade action-oriented gameplay. Though it’s a crime the game never made it over here in the past, I’m so glad it finally did. Although the game is currently digital-only, a physical PS4 version is set to release as a GameStop exclusive on August 27th. While I already have the game in my Steam library thanks to the review code I got in my inbox, I’m already set to double dip on this one just to finally have this game as a permanent addition to my library for a reasonable cost.
Though opinions on what makes a good president may differ, I think we can all agree on a president personally fighting for America in a giant mech suit is probably one of the coolest things we could ever hope for in our lifetimes. At least we have Metal Wolf Chaos XD to tide us over.
Final Verdict: 4.5 / 5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4; Publisher: Devolver Digital; Developer: FromSoftware, General Arcade; Release Date: August 6th, 2019 (PS4, Xbox One, PC Digital), August 27th, 2019 (PS4 Physical); ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $24.99 (Digital), $29.99 (Physical)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Metal Wolf Chaos XD given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.