Believe in Your Own Justice!
Metal Wolf Chaos XD (Metal Wolf), developed by General Arcade and FromSoftware and published by Devolver Digital, is a remaster of the formerly Japan-exclusive Xbox title of the same name. Initially released in 2004, the 2019 remaster is fully updated for modern computer systems, featuring full keyboard and mouse support along with minimal stability issues. You play as Michael Wilson, 47th President of these Great United States of America. Calamity ensues when your Vice President, Richard Hawk, stages a military coup, forcing you to don your mobile armor suit and take back America.
A Weapon to Surpass...
The idea of the President flying a ten-foot mech suit into battle against his Vice President is patently absurd. Rather than working around this silly conceit, Metal Wolf leans in hard and doesn't let up. It is a game of ever-increasing scale. Weapons, maps, narrative beats, enemies — everything builds and builds until you think it can't possibly get any more ridiculous. There came a time early in my playthrough where my critic-brain just kind of gave into my lizard-brain and started to just enjoy the chaos. Your weapons range from simple, conventional handguns to bazookas to railguns, all delivering a deadly punch to the waves of enemies that stand between you and the Vice President.
Unfortunately, this is where the first noticeable issue with Metal Wolf comes to light. The audio is downright buggy. This is most prominent in the weapons, with some seeming to lack sound at all. This extends into the voice-overs. Most are fine, if deliberately cheesy, but a few lines get cut off before they can finish while others linger on, waiting for the subtitles to catch up. Do note I played in English, which was carried over from the original Japanese release. I don't know if these issues persist in the Japanese dub, but it was undoubtedly an issue when I played it.
Scavenge the States
As you crash, smash, and explode your way through the various levels, you'll acquire numerous collectibles to help upgrade both your suit and weapons. Weapons can also be found wholesale in the levels for any explorer diligent enough to track them down. Hostages can also be found and liberated, increasing the end-of-level payouts for both money and rare metals, the two currencies used to unlock new weapons. For their part, the levels are lousy with these collectibles, every corner packed with little secrets. I remember going back through one of the previous levels, only to find a destructible wall I had passed over for scenery. Inside I found more hostages and an energy core for my mech. I immediately scanned my memory for other such possible hidden secrets, resolving to play through the previous levels with a finer comb.
Mr. President? Mr. Preside-e-ent!
For as well as some of these collectibles are hidden, the developers seemed to have intended for you to find most of them. Metal Wolf is divided into a handful of missions; complete a set, and a new set unlocks. Each of these sets ratchets up the difficulty substantially. This wasn't much of an issue in the first few sets of missions, but the latter half seems to require more mech upgrades than the previous levels would have indicated. More than once, I had to go back to earlier levels for more upgrades to stand against the uptick in damage. This goes double for the later game bosses, one of which could stun-lock me in a desperation attack, killing me from full health.
This leads me to another one of Metal Wolf’s few failings: the lack of tutorialization. The first mission, escaping from the White House on Air Force One, serves as a bare-bones tutorial, sure, but the game defaults to the old “do an attack with the Attack Button!” kind of tutorialization, leaving the player with no new information aside from “attacking exists.” On a simplified controller interface, this is more acceptable due to the lack of possible buttons and button combinations. While the default keyboard and mouse bindings map well to the usual biases players have, there are a few standout oddities. For example, if you jump and press left-control, you get a dive kick, which I didn’t find out was a thing until I looked through the achievements.
A Time Capsule
Metal Wolf feels like a game out of time. The graphics didn't get much of an upgrade from its 2004 release, so many of the models, especially the human ones, look polygonal and wooden. Textures look flat and muddy with little depth to them. Overall, it still feels like a game from the early 2000s and not something from the modern era. While the remaster does boast a "new save system," there are no mid-level checkpoints. With as long and challenging as some of the later levels get, you can wind up playing the same level over and over again. At least there's an achievement for dying on the same level ten times.
The Verdict: Great
While I ultimately wanted to like Metal Wolf Chaos XD more than I eventually did, the silly premise and fun, spectacle-based gameplay were enough to keep me going through to the end despite setbacks and frustrations. The game is short; my personal playthrough lasted only twelve hours, but the density of secrets and unlockables could reasonably keep a dedicated player engaged after the main story is done.