Metal Wolf Chaos XD, recently remastered by General Arcade and released by Devolver Digital, comes to us all the way from 2004. A Japanese only mech action game developed by FromSoftware for the original Xbox, finally arrives in America where it belongs.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD tells the story of Michael Wilson, 47th president of the United States of America, and his battle to bring freedom back to his great country after Richard Hawk, his VP, executes a coup de etat. Wilson, driven from the White House and piloting his mobile suit, Metal Wolf, must take America back! The fight for freedom is waged from the West to the East coast, as Wilson brings American ideals back to the people he has sworn to lead and the country he loves.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD, from start to finish, remains a tough game to review. It’s a remaster of a 2004 game, and brings with it all the issues one might expect. Devolver Digital and General Arcade did a great job bringing Metal Wolf to current consoles, and they didn’t touch much aside from slight graphical and control updates. They have preserved Metal Wolf just as it was in 2004, and from a game preservation standpoint, it’s laudable. Being able to experience a slice of gaming history is wonderful, especially from a developer as prestigious as FromSoftware. Devolver Digital and General Arcade dusted off an interesting Japanese release that many in the West never experienced. If you are interested in videogame history, its a glimpse into the past of one of today’s premiere Japanese developers.
From a preservation perspective, I have nothing bad to say. From a gameplay perspective, there is a slurry of nitpicks. Metal Wolf is a fairly basic as a mech action game. These mechs are somewhere in between Iron Man and the Aliens Power Loader. They are zippy, but they ain’t that zippy. You will travel from West to East, reclaiming America from the enemy, doing similar objectives in each city. I wish the levels weren’t hit or miss, but when many amount to destroying towers dotted around a level, it can get a bit stale. There are a few where you race the clock or battle enemy mechs in a ghost town (a particularly well thought out stage), which breathe some creativity and welcome anxiety into the game, but I did wish for more variety. There’s more, like the rudimentary enemies, outdated weapon switching, lack of difficulty options, and infuriating absence of mid-mission checkpoints, but as I said, these are nitpicks for two reasons: (1) it’s a 2004 game and just comes with the territory, and (2) you aren’t playing this game for the gameplay, you’re playing it for the story.
If this thing had come to the USA in 2004, it would have been a hoot. Honestly though, I don’t know if Bush era America could’ve handled it. It plays so loose with the ideas of American patriotism that hitting that close to 9/11 would destine it for disaster. Seeing Metal Wolf now is rejuvenating. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Michael Wilson is the most Patriotic American President ever. America is reclaimed from his Red, White, and Blue mobile suit, Metal Wolf. He reminds us over and over that he will prevail because he is “The President of this great United States of America!” FromSoftware leans in hard to our often over the top views of patriotism. Tyranny strikes hard but Michael Wilson strikes harder. He loves his country, he loves his fellow Americans, and he loves his freedom. If someone tries to take it away, he will take them out. It’s as simple as that. FromSoftware’s interpretation of America hits hard and entertains from explosive beginning to joyous conclusion.
The story is full of terrible voice acting and ridiculous plot contrivances, but it’s presented with all the confidence in the world. I never once thought the voice actors were phoning it in. The energy they deliver some of these lines with, and the absolutely atrocious manner of delivery, are sure to garner some smiles. I imagine Metal Wolf brought some laughs in 2004, but as an American being able to take this in for the first time, I appreciated the time FromSoftware took to mold this specific view of American patriotism. It’s over the top in every way possible.
The barrier to entry on this one is a little higher than it needs to be, though. It’s clear that Metal Wolf comes to us from a different time, but even for that time, I can imagine the gameplay feeling uninspired. Some notable 2004 games include: Halo 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, Ninja Gaiden, and Jak 3, among others. It doesn’t live up to the ambition of the time from a gameplay perspective. It’s not a terribly long game, but some of the levels have intermittent spikes of difficulty that really deaden the pace. Some of the timed missions (the Alcatraz mission specifically) stand out in my mind. I ended up playing them over and over until I got my loadouts just right and prioritized my targets. In most games with this repetition there’s a twitchiness to the gameplay that keeps you wanting to jump right back in. Twitch gameplay is absent, leaving levels where slowly mowing down your targets in the right order and using the right weapons tends to be the path to success. Coupled with the lack of checkpoints, I needlessly repeated the same sections over and over again. I got frustrated a good deal throughout my playthrough. I’d recommend approaching it as an arcade style mech action game. Unfortunately, the way the missions are structured with no checkpoints, you have to use your imagination when envisioning this. Even so, if I found Metal Wolf in an arcade, I would pump it full of quarters.
I came into Metal Wolf wanting to see a unique piece of gaming’s past, and I was not disappointed. Seeing and experiencing this with some polish on current hardware is a treat. This kind of restorative work doesn’t happen frequently enough, especially to such an obscure title. I said it up top, but Devolver Digital and General Arcade deserve all the credit in bringing this game to us in as true to original form as possible. I think they could have easily adjusted the controls, even polished up the audio mixing a good bit, but I’m glad they didn’t. Videogames have grown steadily over the past 50 years, and with such a wide field to draw from, the importance of reviving these old games has grown too. Seeing this kind of preservation work more would be a nice; I’m glad Metal Wolf Chaos got the treatment.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD is worth your time, but it doesn’t necessarily respect it. It’ll most likely be tough for you to jump in if you don’t have experience with the original Xbox or PS2. But if you give it a shot, you’ll find an absolutely preposterous game with a wholly original premise. Even with gameplay that left me wanting a bit more, the story propelled me from one locale to the next as I lived out the American Dream. After finishing Metal Wolf Chaos XD, I think I might even add it to my 4th of July festivities. For a game about America, I can think of no higher honor.