Metal Wolf Chaos Review
If you’ve ever been interested in rare Xbox titles, focus on import gaming, or happened to click on a listicle that talks about the best games to play around Independence Day (guilty) then you’ve probably come across Metal Wolf Chaos. Developed by From Software (Dark Souls) and only released on the original Xbox in Japan, both the console and game are hard to come by and will run you easily over $200 for the combo. Even if you do get them, you’ll then need to know some Japanese to navigate the menus and upgrade paths. Fortunately soft modding the Xbox is a common practice that often doesn’t even involve piracy, and some nice people have released a translation patch that you can add to your copy if you have. From Software is known for having just about as many bad games as good, so you may be asking whether or not all this work, money, and rarity makes the game worth it. According to the articles online, yes, definitely. I happen to disagree. Metal Wolf Chaos is a fantastic pitch with a rock solid presentation, but when you walk away from the hype and get down to playing it, there’s little difference between this title and most of the Japanese games we slam over here in the West.
In Metal Wolf Chaos you play as President of the United States Michael Wilson, a distant relative of Woodrow Wilson, who is fighting civil insurrection due to economic downturns in the early 21st century. This results in the development of massive military weapons and tech including his own mech suit called “Metal Wolf.” In a predictable Japanese plotline, the Vice President Richard Hawk frames Wilson for re-enacting horrible laws like slavery and causing chaos throughout the country in Metal Wolf. As Wilson you play through a slew of levels in major US cities trying to save the areas from total destruction thanks to the US military, who have for some reason decided to join forces with VP Hawk. The collusion is made complete with the help of a journalist for a national news network who keeps covering the events and blaming Metal Wolf for everything going down in the country. In the end the best answer is to obliterate much of the US forces and eventually take down Hawk and reveal him for the fraud he is. Since this pitch is the basis for why so many people recommend you play it, I have to give From Software huge credit for a hilarious and ridiculous plot. Despite it having no bearing on reality or the way our government works, it’s big dumb fun on the grandest scale and you can’t help but laugh about the way the campaign unfolds. The voice acting is also in English, so much of the plot dialogue is not lost on us English speakers and whether it’s intentionally cheesy or just the result of weaker voice actors, the game is better for it. Little touches like a drum roll before your assistant reveals the given nickname for each mission and the blatant lack of integrity in every newscast from the US press kept me giggling from start to finish. In terms of the elevator pitch, this game has it all.
So why, then, did this game that is tailor made for the US and requires little localization not make the trip from Japan where the original Xbox had insignificant sales? Despite the fantastic initial plot and hilarious presentation, Metal Wolf Chaos is an inconsistent roller coaster of a game. One minute you’re traversing a level with infinite armor and blowing away guys for no reason and the next you’re killed instantly by one hit you never saw coming. I was bumbling around the streets of Los Angeles trying to figure out where to go and what targets to destroy with no time limit or fear of death in sight. Frankly the whole process seemed a bit tedious and boring during those sequences. Then I’m dropped onto Alcatraz Island outside San Francisco and given a handful of minutes to take out several parts of a gun that proved nearly impossible the first time through and a barebones breeze after I figured out what to do. This doesn’t ever change, which is the biggest setback for the title. I couldn’t even figure out where to go in the Grand Canyon and it’s a laughable 20 minutes if you watch the stream. When other mechs approach I was taken out almost immediately but then I figured out how to cheese them and I was able to overcome the obstacle without any effort at all. This push and pull left me hungry for a game that was challenging and enjoyable and not just brief spurts of excitement or boredom. By the time you get to the endgame, which is a grueling 5 levels of mega bosses that you have to repeat from the beginning if you fail or die, my patience just gave out. I was only able to overcome two of the five levels but I couldn’t even figure out what to do in the end when I finally gave up. Of course a quick internet search and a walkthrough later provided an easy solution, but what’s the point of playing a game if I have to follow a guide from start to finish to see the end? I grew fearful of what my future with the Dark Souls series may be because I’ve heard that same criticism flung at those games. That said, Metal Wolf Chaos doesn’t play anything like From’s popular franchise nor is it even remotely structured the same.
On the other hand the graphics and sound design are some of the best I’ve seen on the console. All areas are wide open spaces with long draw distance and an impressive amount of destruction. Razor sharp visuals for the 480p generation show just what Microsoft’s first effort hardware was capable of and when you’re destroying large buildings or groups of vehicles there isn’t a hint of slowdown. I presume that if Xbox is ever emulated this will be one of the more taxing games to get to run. Even if it’s not the caliber you would hope for, there’s a ton of English voice acting that is all done in character and with a great degree of charm, so I have to commend the efforts on that front as well. If you’re trying to convince me that I’m in a mech film brought to life, Metal Wolf Chaos makes a great argument for what it would look and sound like. I guess I could attack the enemy AI for being nearly non-existent given the fact that they rarely even bother to follow you in a fight, but the damage is so severe on most attacks that I was thankful for it. Basic concepts like your upgrade path aren’t explained at all and if you look online you’ll find guides that go on for pages about the subject, so much like other From Software titles it’s up to the collective gaming audience to piece together how to play and succeed. I’m torn as to whether or not I like the controls because they are a bit clunky, but I don’t play enough mech games to determine if that’s part of the genre or just sub par programming.
Ultimately Metal Wolf Chaos is killer presentation of a lackluster game. The plot and aesthetics make it look like it has the potential to be one of the best games on the original Xbox, but when you get down to playing it this title isn’t even a weekend rental. Repetitive levels that don’t really want you to do anything new despite what the game tells you pad out an already short experience. Following a guide and finding all the hidden weapons and armor upgrades only make the game into a massive fetch quest with no difficulty as a reward. I was reading a bunch of guides after quitting for good last night and one of the stronger ones literally read like cooking instructions: first do this, then hit that, make sure not to stand here. That’s not fun, that’s playing Simon without actually trying to follow the color schemes. I think another reason I hit the wall was that I needed to replay levels and grind for resources to buy stronger gear. Unless you thoroughly enjoyed titles like last year’s Godzilla on PS4 or played through Onechambara on the 360 a few dozen times then there’s little appeal to be found and this play style that remains quite popular in the East. If you don’t want to take my word for it, feel free to check out the 5 or so hours of gameplay I’ve posted that takes you through a majority of the game. It was fun while it lasted, but much like a lot of games we think about playing, it’s nothing more than hype on what the game could have been and not what it actually is.
Final Score: 2 out of 5 (review policy)
This game was played on a softmodded Xbox. An actual copy of Metal Wolf Chaos was installed to a hard drive, transferred to a computer, and the translation patch was applied. Then the game was transferred back in its modified state and played on original hardware via installed hard drive. Metal Wolf Chaos can only be played on a Japanese Xbox or a console that has been modified to support any region. You can find the live stream that this review is based on here.