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Metal Wolf Chaos XD (PlayStation 4) artwork

There was once a time when Metal Wolf Chaos was regarded as an "unattainable" classic. Released for the original Xbox at the tail end of 2004, this third-person action title by From Software was only available in Japan, with the devs later stating they cancelled Western localization plans due to what might be perceived as a sensitive subject matter for its time. You'd think the game to be loaded with disturbing, gruesome imagery after reading that, right? Not... quite. Instead, the premise places you in the role of Michael Wilson, the President of the United States, in a really cool-looking mecha, where you must single-handedly stop a nationwide military takeover led by the Vice President. If that's not enough to make you do a double take, this all happens in a plot loaded with satire that rival the likes of the first Starship Troopers movie.

Sounds great? Want to play it? Well, get ready to spend hundreds of dollars just for a used copy.

Alternatively, through the good graces of publisher Devolver Digital and developer General Arcade, the game, now labeled Metal Wolf Chaos XD, has been remastered and released in 2019, sporting HD visuals and a widescreen format. Now gamers all over have the opportunity to play this once untouchable title, marching through cities like San Francisco and New York, blasting away countless soldiers, tanks, and helicopters that impede your progress. You'll do this with up to eight weapons equipped, ranging from handguns and assault rifles, to more outlandish stuff like a railgun, each with the capacity for upgrades. Dashing and ground stomp capabilities will also help during crowded battles, not to mention a special attack that allows for all your weapons to be fired simultaneously.

As you make it through the first two or so stages, learning the controls and knowing which weapons kill enemies faster, you're pumped; you're ready to see what else this product has to offer outside of its traditional design, one that requires you to blow up objectives in order to progress to similar objectives that need blowing up. Then you realize this is basically the entire game... what you'll be doing for nearly 14 stages. But the problem isn't really that it uses a very basic structure of going from objective to objective in order to destroy them, but more in the way it's executed.

Take Earth Defense Force as a comparison, a series of silly third-person games where you're a soldier attacking giant ants, spiders, and other huge monstrosities within destructible cities for dozens upon dozens of stages. It too has a very straightforward design, one that's repetitive in nature. But what erodes its repetition somewhat is a sense of urgency; you're trying to wither down the huge army of insects before they surround and tear at your health. You're playing to survive each stage. What does Metal Wolf Chaos offer to counter its monotonous design? Nearly nothing. Worse, the majority of enemies you fight aren't even that strong, as stomping on soldiers and blowing up combat vehicles takes little effort. At its "best," the game offers two stages with brief time limits...

It's not until the last set of stages that you're treated to some sort of "challenge," as three of the four final stages are purely boss fights. Sadly, these are only considered challenging based on the conditions of your weapons. Basically, for most of the journey, you can coast through every stage with your preferred selection of weapons and occasional upgrading. However, once you reach these final battles, if you don't have very specific weapons with very specific upgrades, you're screwed. You can try to piecemeal the fights, but it's tricky and usually forces needless retries to... almost win. Not worth the hassle. So if you don't know or have the weapons needed for these battles, and of course you wouldn't, then you have to revisit early stages to grind upgrades. Because that's just what players want in an action title: backtracking for victory.

With Metal Wolf Chaos' game design and structure not being all that great, how does one explain the title's long-lasting appeal and reverence? It really comes down to its silly premise, which lives up to any hype you may have heard about. The story doesn't take itself seriously, is very self-aware about its own ridiculous plot, and has great campy dialogue.

The opening stage is a fantastic example alone, quickly setting the tone for the entire experience. As a military presence surrounds the White House, the mecha-geared President explodes through one of the building's windows and lands in the front lawn, greeting the troops and telling them it's time to party. Meanwhile, as the President casually demolishes troops, trucks, and helicopters on his lawn, his assistant, Jody, gleefully announces objectives and any incoming forces while cracking jokes. The President eventually escapes on Air Force One, which launches from underneath the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, almost crashing into the memorial itself in the process. As the plane flies off, Michael and the Vice President lock eyes, shouting each other's names as the stage concludes.

It only gets goofier from there as the devs ramp up the patriotism to hyperbolic levels, all while also poking fun at news media outlets. As Michael travels across the nation, cancelling conferences because he's busy saving America, and rescuing musicians from scattered prison boxes armed with explosives, the news media network, DNN, constantly falsify reports of the "demonic" Metal Wolf. A reporter at one point even declares that, and quoting, "Metal Wolf's pilot is meaner than Satan himself." Even stage descriptions are ludicrous, often coming off so outrageous to the point of being hilarious; one such description has the Vice President ordering off the shipment of citizens into white slavery. Daily. All of this really happens and is superbly carried out on a comical level. The game deserves accolades for the way it executes humor.

But ultimately, was it a good idea giving Metal Wolf Chaos a rerelease? Sure. It's always good that once-unreachable, "admired at a distance" products get a second chance and given bigger exposure on multiple platforms, especially at a much more affordable price. It's just that you really need to know what you're getting into with this game's flow; you'll laugh, chuckle, and smirk at all the intentionally over-the-top shenanigans, but you'll also experience a by-the-books, repetitive mecha title that doesn't offer a whole lot of variety beyond the opening stages. If it wasn't for its eccentric brand of humor, the game would have been a forgotten product of its era. Metal Wolf Chaos XD makes for a unique experience, but one with very glaring flaws. Tread carefully.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (November 03, 2020)

Unfortunately, the last time SNES Gradius III has been available for download purchase was on the Wii's Virtual Console.


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