On paper Metal Wolf Chaos XD is the perfect game, almost custom-made for me and a lot of others filling all the required boxes:
A mech game. Check.
A mech game made by FromSoftware. Check.
Obscure Japanese title that was stuck there for years. Check.
Made in the early 2000’s. Check.
Parody-levels of bad voice acting and cheese. Check.
When it was announced that Devolver Digital would be picking up the IP to spruce up for modern systems and release it on current consoles (save for Switch) and PC, it seemed like a dream come true.
Unfortunately, after having actually played the game, it’s left me wanting. How did such a sure-fire formula not result in a good game? Well since this is only the first few paragraphs, I’m sure you see where this is going.
If you didn’t catch it from the retrospective above, this game is an update of Metal Wolf Chaos (notice the missing “XD” which signifies this version) which was originally made by FromSoftware and released back in 2004. After years of being unlocalised, its come to the West with support for modern hardware and resolutions, together with slightly better visuals.
In Metal Wolf Chaos XD you play as the president of the United States who has to save his country after a military coup from his vice president. To do this the president has a mech with a giant metal backpack filled to the brim with weapons.
This is a third person affair where, at any time, the mech can be armed with two weapons with one being assigned to each arm. These can be swapped out at any time and upgraded.
Like wielding a pair of miniguns to lay down hundreds of bullets in a short amount of time? Sure thing. Want a long-range missile launcher complemented by a shotgun? Go ahead.
Once you get control here there’s a pleasant balance of weight and speed. The mech feels suitably heavy but not so much so that it feels like a tank. There’s also the ability to use a jet boost for added speed – or to fly short distances – but this boost is very short and needs to recharge over time.
The weapons are fun to shoot and playing around with combinations and upgrades never gets old.
The setting and general feel of the mech are the two strongest things Metal Wolf Chaos XD has to offer, with everything around it being rather poor.
While it is fun to move and shoot, what you’re up against is rather drab. The enemies, while designed well, are rather brain dead and will usually just stand in one place for you to pick off, or move slowly around the level waiting for the same thing.
On top of that most missions require you to destroy targets, usually taking the form of buildings and other structures that have mounted guns. Standing idle while you unload a few misses into a defence tower is just not fun, especially considering how much health they have.
This is a problem that the non-building enemies have too. Save for basic soldiers which die from a strong wind or an errant sneeze, the enemies here are the worst kind of bullet sponges. Even after the endgame weapon upgrades, it just feels like they take way too long to kill.
While pouring endless lead into them you also have to deal with some poorly designed and sometimes unfair situations. All levels have instant death areas like endless falls and outer areas you cannot cross. Avoiding them is easy until a few dozen enemies are shooting you through walls (which we hope was a bug) or with homing missiles. You also need to avoid other BS like landmines which knock off a lot of your health and almost perfectly blend into the ground.
These design decisions are exasperated by technical ones with the worst offender being the sound and audio issues on offer here. The different effects in this game are not at all balanced. Machine guns, for example, are as quiet as a mouse and sound like Nerf darts being shot into a pillow. Enemy explosions, on the other hand, are so loud that they are physically uncomfortable to listen to, even when you’re playing over speakers instead of headphones.
This isn’t just a balancing issue either. On the first non tutorial mission of the game there was an audio bug where the loud sound of passing air played in a loop throughout. This sound was meant to simulate skydiving in the missions’s intro, but it played after it had ended.
These problems persist throughout the game and we’ve checked with other reviewers who have experienced the same thing.
Even when the game is trying to do audio right – like the intentionally bad voice acting – it just becomes obnoxious. As you can hear in the trailer in this page the voice actors here are really hamming it up to The Room levels of bad. While it’s fine for a two minute trailers, after hearing it for hours its just downright unpleasant.
The voice acting in this game sounds like a drunk text to speech programme. Like some Russian hacker was able to distil vodka into a virus which was then uploaded to the Metal Wolf Chaos XD code. Even for fans of “so good it’s bad” media, this is just too much.
All of these problems culminate in a game that is fun for about ten minutes but then grows tiresome and irritating as you go on.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD is a lot of different things depending on who you ask. It’s a cult classic due to its past. It’s a piece of gaming history that Devolver Digital has made easily available in the current year. It’s an important part of the library of FromSoftware for fans of the Armored Core and Souls franchises.
But, as a game to actually sit down and play, it’s just not great. Not because of all those external, meta reasons or the fact that it came out in 2004, but because of its own features as a product you can buy and play right now.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD was reviewed on PC with a code provided to us