Metal Chaos Wolf XD is a third person action shooter which first saw release as Metal Chaos Wolf exclusively on Xbox in Japan way back in 2004. Due to the Xbox’s less than considerable performance in Japan, Microsoft reached out to FromSoftware, the studio behind the Armored Core series, to work on a Mech game for their console debut in hopes of helping setting foot in the Japanese market.
Metal Chaos Wolf XD is set in the United States where the country has fallen into a state of civil and economic unrest. Led by Vice President Richard Hawk, the military launches a coup d’état and gains control of the nation’s government institutions. It is up to the players, as the fictional 47th President of the USA, Michael Wilson, to suit up in a special mech suit and take down the vice-president across a variety of levels. Thankfully, Wilson isn’t alone as he has support from his secretary Jody Crawford.
Obviously, I know what you’re thinking: FromSoftware? Isn’t that the company behind the hard as nails Dark Souls series? Well yes and their habits of having rough difficulty curves began way before the Souls series. Metal Chaos Wolf XD is far from a cake walk. While you do have a high tech mech suit with a decent amount of weaponry, with additional weapons that can be crafted (more on that later), you still have to manage your bullet consumption. Standard weaponry such as pistols and machine guns have bullets in the 4 digits, more useful and helpful weapons such as Rocket Launcher and Sniper have very limited amount supply. So managing your ammo is one of the game’s more difficult mechanic. Keeping stronger weapons for bosses is the way to go, while having you rely on basic guns for the variety of enemies in your path to the level’s end. However, using a pistol or a machine gun on a tank will test your patience as it slowly chips away at the enemy’s health.
As far as mission design goes, navigating levels feels quite cumbersome and a bit confusing. You do have a mini-map on the HUD which can show you nearby enemies, but it won’t offer any guidance as to where to go, so this added to a slow walking mech makes for tedious and boring riding around. You can use a temporary boost, but use it too much and it starts eating up at the mech’s health. Thankfully the Pause menu has a map and objectives are highlighted as yellow dots, but a guiding arrow would’ve been a welcome addition. Depending on your TV size, you might not be able to find yourself on the map so you’ll need to make good use of the Zoom button. After clearing the first few levels, the game “opens” up a bit in the sense that it lets you choose which mission to tackle next; so if there’s a mission being a torn in your side, you can try another one so you can gather more resources and craft better weapons for that one tougher mission.
Your mech suit has selectable weapons on each shoulders. Each shoulders start off with four different weapons and as you progress through levels and pick up material, in between missions, players can upgrade and create a stronger arsenal of weapons each more powerful than the previous one. Considering enemies move relatively quick, mostly on foot soldier, staying stationary is a big mistake thus trying to use the sniper rifle against moving enemies is quite cumbersome; otherwise, it’s power is useful for taking down fixed enemies and prisoner cages.
And this game is not for everyone; it’s an old-school shooter where players have to survive on a single go for each level as there are no checkpoints; thus keeping an eye on the health bar, shield meter and bullet count are key for survival. Your health regenerates (not your shield) after a few seconds, but things can go south really quick if you’re peppered of missiles. Dying at a level’s boss will throw you back to the beginning which can prove frustrating. Having to manage your ammo will prove to be quite a headache in itself: Do you waste bullets on the on-foot soldiers so they don’t chug away at your health or just keep your bullets for stronger enemies and bigger, sturdier obstacles?
As players plow through waves of enemies or save civilians from cages, they will be rewarded with materials and currency which can be used in-between missions to develop new technology, i.e. weapons. Before creating more weapons of mass destruction, players need to invest a bit of money into researching new tech which can in turn let players create new weaponry. Saving civilians can be beneficial to the players. Saving civilians require a bit of delicatess. Most cages will require players to use smaller firearms (i.e. no rocket launchers) or will be attached to a motion detector which will activate a bomb; if you fail to destroy the cage in a timely manner, it explodes taking innocent civilians along the way. Among the civilians, you’ll save scientists. Saving them will benefit your research and development for new and stronger weapons.
Visually, the game doesn’t really stand out understandably so as it is a 15 year old game. When taking down vehicles or towers, the debris left by the carnage vanishes as quickly as it appears. The game’s HUD feels also very cluttered. More recent shooters have had more subtle HUDs, so mostly due to the original Xbox’s limitations, this port has a pretty busy HUD. Trying to focus on the on-screen action while trying to spot incoming enemies on the mini-map, incoming missile warnings and keeping a close eye on your ammo can be dizzying and annoying as it make feel more like a chore than a fun game.
The game’s soundtrack is one of the game’s biggest strength. It has a bit of 80s cliché action movie feel; while far from being a masterful score, it fits the game’s settings quite well and some of the tracks will stick with you; to the point you’ll want them in your mobile device and/or Spotify list. The voice acting in Metal Wolf Chaos XD is laughable and far from credible. It reeks of B-movie dialog and character interaction. While I’m all for a little humor in games, it gets old real fast.
In today’s gaming age, it is really difficult to recommend Metal Chaos Wolf XD to anyone else besides FromSoftware’s diehard fans. The game itself hasn’t really aged well and due to some outdated mechanics, it will turn off a lot of gamers. While I do know we were spoiled with mid-level checkpoints, having to restart a tedious and boring level over because you ran out of ammo at a level’s boss is frustrating; even Mega Man games had mid-level checkpoints and Mega Man is known as one of the most difficult franchises in gaming history. Visually the game shows its age and the often cheesy dialog, while sometimes hilarious, gets old quick. The game’s weapon development is fun to use and manage, but it’s worthiness will depend on your tolerance for tedious repetition.
- Easy to pick up and play
- Fun weapon upgrade system
- Abrupt difficulty curve
- Will test your patience for repetitiveness