Metal Wolf Chaos was one of those games I never thought I’d get to play. Releasing on the Japanese Xbox in 2004 and featuring full English voice acting, the game was meant for worldwide release. However, Microsoft quietly canceled it elsewhere. 15 years later, however, and somehow, someway, Western audiences finally get to play FromSoftware’s goofy, overblown action game for the first time. But was Metal Wolf Chaos XD worth the wait? Or was the game better left in Japan?
Presidential power struggle
The game’s story is, simply put, insane. It starts with American president Michael Wilson being chased out of the White House by the armed forces of his evil Vice President, Richard Hawk. With nothing but the support of his assistant and an insanely powerful mech suit, it’s up to President Wilson to end the coup d’etat and save America. Along the way, he’ll have to liberate areas and cities around the US, such as San Francisco, the Grand Canyon, and Liberty Island.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD is fairly cutscene and dialogue-heavy. Each of the 14 missions begins with a briefing, then a short cutscene, before ending with another cutscene. This is then followed by a debriefing and even a few mock news segments. All of these are brought to life by what sounds like whatever American voice actors happened to be available in Japan at the time. The voice acting is awful, but it’s also perfect. Overacting is rampant, and it’s hilarious in the way that only overzealous, questionably-directed acting can be.
The dialogue is written in much the same way. Everything sounds kind of off, like it was written by someone who wasn’t quite sure how to write American dialogue, so they just winged it and hoped for the best. The result is very much what a Japanese person’s idea of America might be. And it worked out as well as you’d hope. Metal Wolf Chaos XD is just plain funny. I frequently found myself cackling at how over-the-top everything was. And it’s meant to be funny, after all. After years of dying to play the game, the presentation was exactly what I expected and is absolutely worth the price of admission.
Mechin’ me crazy
The same can’t quite be said for the rest of the game, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t a lot of fun. Metal Wolf Chaos XD is a third-person shooter where you pilot a mech suit and destroy everything in your path. Each of the game’s missions mostly boils down to you eliminating targets on a map. You’ll take out garrisons and the like while being attacked by foot soldiers, tanks, helicopters, and even other people in mech suits. Many of the missions have boss encounters too, which are also generally ridiculous.
The gameplay is chaotic and very entertaining. Michael’s mech suit, Metal Wolf, can carry one weapon at a time in each hand. You can bring a maximum of eight weapons with you, though, and switch between them on-the-fly. The controls are very good as well. They’re fluid and responsive and work well with a gamepad or mouse and keyboard. It’s easy to aim and hit your targets without having to worry about locking onto foes. Interestingly, this game figured out aiming and combat better than FromSoft’s Armored Core ever did. Metal Wolf has squares that represent your health, and each square has a shield that can recharge as long as it isn’t completely wiped out. Aside from enemies, missions also have caged POWs to save and energy pods to find.
Gotta save ’em all
POWs are saved by shooting their cages with light weapons. Explosives will kill them, so don’t do that, unless that’s your thing. Saving a certain amount of them increases your support base, which makes various aspects of your mech stronger, such as its shielding and boosting capabilities. Every five energy pods you collect also give you one more health square. Each mission rewards you with money that can be spent on investing in new types of weapons and manufacturing them. You don’t have to collect everything in one go, either, as you can replay each mission as many times as you’d like.
Unlike FromSoft’s other mech series, Armored Core, Metal Wolf Chaos XD stops its customization at its weapons. You can’t unlock or swap out new parts. Due to all the pre-rendered cutscenes, this was unavoidable. Trying out the different weapons and figuring out what loadout works best for you is still a worthwhile endeavor, however.
Laughin’ and blastin’ so long
Metal Wolf Chaos XD‘s weapons are rad as well. There’s a lot of different weapon types, from machine guns and grenade launchers to bazookas and railguns. Different weapons also work better against certain enemies and targets. Some are resistant to live rounds, so you’ll want to bring an energy weapon. Others will stay far enough away that you’ll need a weapon with more range. My personal favorite is to carry a machine gun in one hand and a grenade launcher in the other while I just lay waste to everything around me. But the ease of which you can do this makes the game a bit of a pushover most of the time.
That’s one of Metal Wolf Chaos XD‘s biggest weaknesses: most enemies just aren’t a threat at all. I don’t think I died to regular enemies a single time. While it’s fun to feel invincible and revel in the sheer mayhem of the action, it’s a bit of a letdown that there’s so little resistance most of the time. Thankfully, the game’s bosses put up more of a fight, but those also carry their own problems.
Melted like a candy bar
The game’s second level is a standard affair where you go around the map and attack enemy targets. Upon destroying one of these, the game’s first boss battle starts. However, at this point, you have barely any health and the boss’ missiles can kill you in seconds. I got him down to practically nothing on my second try, and – even with half of my health left – he killed me before I even knew what happened. Plus, Metal Wolf Chaos XD doesn’t have checkpoints, so every death results in you starting the mission over from the beginning.
This isn’t as big of a problem as it might seem, however. The missions are short and become even shorter as you get better weapons. But it can still be insanely frustrating when it happens. I had to replay that second mission three times because the boss kept killing me at the very end. And the missions frequently have instant fail states that take some trial and error. They might have time limits or gas to deal with, and messing up at any point can require you to start over. On the other hand, there are only 14 missions, so you’re likely going to want to play them more than once anyway.
There’s also the fact that it’s extremely easy to get the most powerful weapons early on. You can easily complete one early mission in just a couple of minutes, and it gives a ton of money. You can use this to max out weapon development in no time, which will leave you practically unstoppable. Even if you don’t grind, Metal Wolf Chaos XD gives you so much money that it’s hard to not end up overpowered.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD is as basic of a port as they come, for the most part. No matter how you look at it, this is very clearly a mid-00s Xbox game. It’s not a bad-looking one, though. Textures are clearer and Metal Wolf has been given a cleaned-up model. Surprisingly, though, he arguably looks worse here than he did in the original version. I’m sure someone will angrily mod the old one back in, though. Meanwhile, the levels also have a ton of variety and personality, so there’s not a lot to complain about on that end.
Unfortunately, the game is capped at 30 FPS, so those expecting a smoother experience will be disappointed. I also noticed some jarring sound issues as well. The voice volume is much quieter than the sound effects. When I turned down the sound effects to compensate for this, some of them, such as explosions, didn’t seem affected, resulting in discomfort while trying to listen to the voice acting. I also fell right through the floor one time and died, resulting in me having to start the mission from the beginning.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD also isn’t a particularly long game. I hit the credits after about 9 hours, but that includes some grinding, replaying missions for the hell of it, and when I had to retry that second mission a few times. Once you beat the game, you’ll unlock two additional difficulty settings. One of these gives you infinite ammo to mess around with.
Don’t say no to extra modes
The infinite ammo difficulty setting isn’t typically necessary, as you won’t likely have many problems with ammo, but it’s there. The other is a hard mode that is barely any tougher than normal. With endgame weapons, you likely won’t notice much difference, save for the last few boss battles. Those become more of a giant pain than anything else. One of them is barely beatable on hard due to being on a time limit. You can literally get that boss down to a sliver of health while he’s pushing you and lose anyway, even with most of your health, which is quite frustrating. However, beating each of the missions on hard gives you a new skin to use, which is nifty. There are also joke weapons you can unlock by meeting certain requirements. Some of these are easy and will happen automatically, while others will require some grinding. These likely won’t interest most players, but completionists will probably appreciate an extra thing to do.
It’s worth mentioning that Metal Wolf Chaos XD technically does have one new thing that doesn’t seem to be in the original. If you pre-ordered the game, you’ll get the Lambda skin, which kind of makes Metal Wolf look like Bumblebee from Transformers. The original game had a DLC weapon, but that one is included in the main game here, so you won’t have to shell out any additional money for it. I would have really liked to see even an hour of new content, though, as I put about ten-and-a-half hours into the game and just don’t want to replay any of the missions anymore.
Overall, I had a good amount of fun playing Metal Wolf Chaos XD, but the gameplay isn’t as endlessly entertaining as the story. At any rate, it’s awesome to have a FromSoftware mech game available on PC, and I think people who have wanted to play the game over the years will mostly be pleased with what it offers. I had some issues, but I’m glad I finally got to play the game. Now we just need to get a few more old FromSoft mech games on Steam and I’ll be happy. I’ll likely replay it over the year, even if it’s just to laugh at the ridiculous story and cutscenes.