METAL WOLF REVIVAL: ORIGINS

I honestly never anticipated seeing Metal Wolf Chaos again. Then again, I certainly wasn’t expecting to see the game when it was introduced to me. The story of a fictional U.S. President waging a one-man Civil War from inside his personal mech suit was a lot to take in. Even more ludicrous than its “Tom Clancy meets anime” aesthetic was that the entire game — including its somehow wooden-yet-over-the-top English language voice acting — was not only produced by Japanese developer From Software, but had never been released in America.

My experience was not singular. Over more than a decade since its initial release, this first-generation XBox title became a cult classic in the West as a bizarre curiosity shared amongst game importers and streamers. Metal Wolf Chaos reached a fever pitch when even the original developers, From Software, became curious enough to ask:

Their question was met with a proposal from Western independent game developers Devolver Digital.

CAMPAIGN PROMISES

Corporations talking to each other on Twitter is widely acknowledged as extremely dystopian. For Devolver, who have dedicated themselves to portraying their company as a megacorporation from an ‘80’s sci-fi movie, it is extremely on-brand. True to their word, during one of Devolver’s signature live-action Adult Swim sketch-esque E3 presentations, the official port of Metal Wolf Chaos was announced.

All this traces the 15-year-arc that brought this game from Japan to your console of choice. The questions that have surrounded Metal Wolf Chaos XD — “What the hell did I just see?”, “Who’s responsible for this?”, “How can I play it?” — have been cleared away, leaving the most important one…

“So, how’s it play?”

Follow-up question: “Are you Presidental enough to rescue America from bad dudes?”

START-UP SEQUENCE

First off, as someone who has played the original MWC I can comfortably say that the port is the best version of this game available. It’s still an original Xbox title, but the textures are cleaner, the frame rate is steady, and menus are translated. There’s even an auto-save feature! Of course, besides these touches Metal Wolf retains what drew many to it in the first place: voice acting that would make early Resident Evil games discover a sense of shame.

Coming off the controls of modern games to this third-person shooter may be a bit of a jolt. Metal Wolf’s play may seem brainless, but those who expect to progress by simply mowing down enemies may find themselves restarting levels more often than they expected. This is a From Software joint, and quirks like accurately gauging distances for targeting / motion may be frustrating until put in the context of their other titles.

Before the developers’ Dark Souls series redefined the industry, they were best known for their Armored Core line of mecha games. In fact, Metal Wolf’s overtly American affectations were their attempt to make what they hoped was a mech game that would appeal to the broader market. Suffice it to say that in a monkey’s paw kind of way, they got their wish.

THE WAR AT HOME

Fighting to take back America from treacherous Vice-President Richard Hawk, players will wield a number of weapons. Pistols, bazookas, railguns: all are hilariously sized to the proportions of President Michael Weston’s mecha suit (producing the sniper rifle with its giant wood stock is especially amusing). The enemies that stand in your way as you cross from coast-to-coast comprise the American military, but escalate with ordinance to rival your own.

A depressing realization: the names of these characters will absolutely be write-ins on upcoming election ballots.

This review has intentionally not discussed the game itself much. It’s a playable summer action spectacle, and like movies of the same type, it has bet everything on its concept. Safe to assume, then, that anyone who would not be interested in the phrase “U.S. President in a mech suit” would not find much else to be won over by here. Those who can divorce this from the context of our current reality may pluck fleeting laughs from among the rote level-to-level combat.

For others it may be harder to disregard aspects surrounding the game, such as Devolver’s smirking “#MechAmericaGreatAgain” hashtag promotion. Truth be told, I would love to take the satire of this game at face value as I once did. Porting this game is an accomplishment in itself. The sheen of rarity removed means a whole new generation can access the novelty of Metal Wolf Chaos. It’s just hard to imagine it getting a second term.

3.5 out of 5 Presidential Statements

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  • Live-action cartoon character, based on the tie-in manga inspired by the video game. Previous residences include The Disney Afternoon, the Turtle Lair, and Santa Destroy. Will edit for pizza and graphic novels.

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