It’s so bad, it’s good.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD is the re-release of a mech action game released by FromSoftware in Japan for the original Xbox, as part of Microsoft’s efforts to do better in the country (yes, there was once a time when Microsoft actually tried for the Japanese market). At that time, FromSoftware, best known for their Armored Core mech action games, put out a new mech action IP for Microsoft’s system. And, since Microsoft’s console was American, they went all in on the American flavor in the game.
In spite of this American aesthetic to the game, it never actually came out of Japan. Nevertheless, it grew a cult following outside of Japan. The meme ultimately took on a life of its own, when Digital Devolver, beloved indie publishing label, announced a localization of the game for current gen systems. And in bringing the game over, they have doubled down on the game’s ridiculously exaggerated ideas, with voice acting that sounds like a B-tier TV shlock drama, and the writing to go with it.
There’s a reason I am giving you this history lesson, and that’s because if you go into Metal Wolf Chaos XD without actually knowing that this release is essentially done in service of a fan-favorite meme, you will be blindsided and sucker-punched. The writing and voice acting is so awfully bad, and the graphics are so obviously low-budget PS2 (even though the title originally came out on the far more powerful Xbox, it feels like it didn’t do much with that power), that you’d find yourself wondering if the universe was staging some sort of elaborate prank.
"The writing and voice acting is so awfully bad, and the graphics are so obviously low-budget PS2 (even though the title originally came out on the far more powerful Xbox, it feels like it didn’t do much with that power), that you’d find yourself wondering if the universe was staging some sort of elaborate prank."
I cannot stress this enough – the production qualities in this game are awful. They are bad. In a sense, that is the point, given that the game has chosen to go with the aesthetic and tone of the really bad TV movies you can accidentally run into on a Sunday afternoon. The game is aware of how ridiculously bad it looks and sounds, and it absolutely revels in it unashamedly. And to their credit, the voice actors sound like they are being as earnest as it is possible to be while stifling and holding back their laughter at just how bad this whole thing is.
It basically sounds like a fan dub of an anime, and I’m being really mean to fan dubs when I say that. The writing is absolutely awful, and the voice acting is another dose of terrible performances on top. Now, again, I get and understand that that is in fact the point. It’s a budget B-movie come to life in the guide of a video game, the Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Room of video games. And it does that job well, but if you’re going into this expecting an actual good video game, you’re not going to find that here, outside of a flabbergasted “this is so bad, it’s almost good” way.
To be entirely fair to the game, given the actual premise of the title, going the shlock-budget aesthetic was probably the right move to make. The game is set in 2025, when internal unrest and civil strife causes a rebellion that deposes of the government and people’s freedoms (the game is really big on the word freedom). To rescue America and make it the land of the free again, the President of the United States dons a mech suit developed in secret by the military and goes on a rampage across the country to take down the revolution.
It’s such a dumb, and obviously self-awarely stereotypical Hollywood, setup I think my braincells died just contemplating it.
"That’s… really there is to it. You’re running and gunning, and sometimes blowing things up around you because the PS1-era explosions are charming to see in a way. "
I’ve talked so much about how the game looks and sounds (and I want to spend some more time talking about that, because really, what the hell?), but it’s not like the actual game here is much better. You’re piloting a mech, with multiple different kinds of guns loaded into it, of which you can be using any two at the same time. You just run around and wantonly shoot everything in sight, in the game’s rudimentarily destructible environments garnishing the really basic and standard levels.
That’s… really there is to it. You’re running and gunning, and sometimes blowing things up around you because the PS1-era explosions are charming to see in a way. Sometimes, you’ll have secondary objectives, that require you to shoot at a specific thing with one of the six kinds of guns that you can equip to it at a time, and sometimes you are tasked with taking down bullet-sponge bosses, but that’s really it. It’s basically a bullet hell game. The game encourages replays of missions because of a scoring system at the end of each level, and trying for a higher score is really the only thing you’d want to run the really straightforward levels again. That and maybe grinding some bonus drops the game has at pre-determined spots, or earn some money, which you can then use to research better upgrades for your mech.
The gameplay loop is remarkably shallow. It’s actually surprising how unengaging it can be, beyond just you entering into a sort of haze, as you hold down the trigger and shoot at everything, your mouth hanging half-open. With that said, however, there is a certain satisfaction to be gleaned from repeatedly running levels and missions in the game, if only because of the thrill of chasing down a score.
At $30, the half-priced Metal Wolf Chaos XD should be a relatively easy recommendation – and if you choose to buy it for the meme, knowing that the entertainment you get from it is more of the “so bad it’s good” variety, that the gameplay isn’t anything too special to make up for how the game is deliberately putting its worst put forward in favor of a joke, then yes, it’s actually pretty funny in how ridiculously and hyperbolically bad it is, with the at-times strangely engaging gameplay, and the game’s occasionally sharp wit acting as additional advantages to the purchase. If, however, you are playing this game hoping for even an average mech action game? $30 still feels far too high for it.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
The game is legitimately self-aware of how ridiculous it is, and runs with it; the writing can be surprisingly astute at times; the score attack gameplay can be satisfying in some ways; "it's so bad it's good"
The graphics are terrible, the writing is bad (though that's the point), the voice acting is ridiculous (though that's the point), the gameplay can be really dull most of the time
There's a certain "so bad it's good" charm to Metal Wolf Chaos XD, but unless that's explicitly what you set out to find, there's not much for you here.