Metal Wolf Chaos XD Review: Back to the Past

After 15 years, Metal Wolf Chaos XD doesn't quite live up to the hype, but it's still a worthwhile experience for fans of the genre.

Beginning a review of Metal Wolf Chaos XD is a tall order. There's no real way to introduce the concept of this game, the story behind its re-release, or the game's cult status in any kind of cohesive way.

In short, if you've never heard of Metal Wolf Chaos, it was an Xbox-exclusive mech game released by From Software in 2004. At the time, From Software's most popular IP was the Armored Core series, and Metal Wolf Chaos was the developer's attempt at creating a mech game for western audiences.

From did that by creating a game where you play as the president and blow up the entire United States of America...

Hail To The Chief

Right off the bat, given our current political climate, the story of the game might make some folks squinchy in a Dr. Strangelove kind of way.

The TL;DR is that the vice president has seized control of the United States and installed a fascist dictatorship. Under the guise of revolution, military coup d'etat forces instate martial law, complete with a propaganda network that blames the country's problems on immigration and "terrorists," like the player character.

If you like your video games to be escapist fantasies, and you live in the United States, be warned.

Of course, any serious anti-war message here is somewhat undercut when you're piloting a gigantic mech shooting railguns at tanks in the middle of San Francisco.

This ridiculous story is what the game is mostly known for. And I'm happy to say that it doesn't disappoint. It's blatantly over-the-top and bombastic, full of explosions, quips, and hilarious translation errors. For some, the cutscenes might be worth the price of admission alone.

The gameplay, however, is a different beast altogether, and will likely turn off a few folks who had been looking forward to this game for years.

Showing Its Age

Metal Wolf is very, very much a product of 2004.

Though it's unfair to judge the game's graphical quality by today's standards, the general color palette of the game is drab and bland, as was the trend for many action games circa 15 years ago.

In addition, there's not much strategy to be had. Granted, that's not a bad thing on its own, but for folks expecting a deep Mechwarrior-like blend of combat and strategy, there's none of that to be found here.

Instead, players are given a game that plays a lot like the Earth Defense Force series. You'll be mowing down waves upon waves of opponents, blowing up everything in your path (with the occasional dodge), and completing objectives in small, self-contained stages. And just like the EDF series, its gameplay is an odd blend of repetition and satisfaction.

This kind of loop will likely be frustrating for some, especially because the game isn't exactly newcomer-friendly.

Your HUD is full of meters, bars, and gauges, and the game never really makes it clear which is for what. The game also never tells you how your shield works, that stomping does massive damage to buildings, that you can boost in the air to hover, or that your burst move works in mysterious ways. You'll have to find all that out on your own through trial and error, a tough ask given the game's stages don't have checkpoints.

It seems like the remaster team skimped on the part of the budget meant to go to audio. Certain post-mission cutscenes are insanely loud compared with the rest of the game, and depending on where the camera is situated, a horrible whooshing sound will drown out the rest of the audio during gameplay. Hopefully, the audio can be normalized in a future patch.

That said, there's a reason the Earth Defense Force games are so popular and enduring among their fans. It feels good to charge up a railgun and line up a shot that lances through two buildings and a helicopter. Stomping enemies and causing them to fly out in a perfect, circular splash is almost therapeutic. Seeing explosions from two console generations ago is nostalgic.

The game stimulates some primal part of your brain, and for some, that'll be worth the $25 asking price.

The Results Are In

Pros:
  • Ridiculous, hilarious story
  • Satisfying action, akin to the Earth Defense Force series
  • A pitch-perfect time capsule from the gaming world of 2004
Cons:
  • Action is repetitive 
  • A distinct lack of tutorials in the game's systems means there's a lot of trial and error 
  • A pitch-perfect time capsule from the gaming world of 2004

The big question is whether, after a 15-year wait, Metal Wolf Chaos XD is everything it's been hyped to be. 

And the answer is an emphatic no. The game hasn't aged much worse than other 2004 action titles, but at the end of the day, this is a popcorn game, best played in short hour-or-so-long bursts until you finish the brief campaign and never really think about it again.

Judged on its own merits, however, there's a lot to like here for fans of simple, satisfying games. If you meet the game in its current state, you'll find a well-constructed mech game with hilariously over-the-top dialogue and story. We can confidently recommend this game for all fans of the Earth Defense Force series, and for others, it's definitely at least worth playing the demo.

[Note: A copy of Metal Wolf Chaos XD was provided by Devolver Digital for the purpose of this review.]

Our Rating
7
After 15 years, Metal Wolf Chaos XD doesn't quite live up to the hype, but it's still a worthwhile experience for fans of the genre.
Reviewed On: PC

Featured Contributor

RobotsFightingDinosaurs has been writing about games for 10 years and playing them even longer. Despite the millions of hours he's played across multiple gaming generations, his favorite games are The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros. Robots has written for Polygon, Thrillist, Kill Screen, and more.

Published Aug. 6th 2019

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