A Brand-New Historical Artifact

HIGH Feels like an Armored Core B-side unearthed from a sealed vault.

LOW Getting to endgame without knowing about the BLAZE attack.

WTF Hearing for years that this trash story was smart satire.

Getting the opportunity to review something like Metal Wolf Chaos HD is a rare task.

It’s technically a ‘new’ release since it’s never been available in the West until now, but it was created back in 2004 — a full fifteen years ago. It’s also an early entry from a developer who later redefined a genre and impacted every aspect of the medium, so mentally squaring coverage of something that is both a modern offering and a historical artifact is an interesting challenge.

Metal Wolf Chaos HD is third-person action featuring the President of the United States in a mechsuit packing more guns than the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines combined. With the push of a button, cargo pods on the suit pop open and the Prez can cycle through his arsenal to fit any situation – chainguns for large crowds, bazookas for heavier targets, missiles for helicopters, a revolver for when he’s feeling nasty, and more.

In typical FROM fashion, the story and writing are awful — and not so-bad-it’s-good, it’s just plain bad. The Vice President (who has more than a passing resemblance to a young Willem Dafoe) has taken over, the media is painting the rightful President as a terrorist… and that’s basically all anyone needs to know. It’s so awful that I skipped watching the dialogue altogether and enjoyed the experience more without it.

Mechanically, Metal Wolf Chaos HD has a lot in common with FROM’s Armored Core series of build-it-yourself mech games that ran from 1997-2013. People who think FROM popped into existence with Dark Souls might be surprised to know they had a number of diverse titles behind them before the first bonfire was ever lit, and Armored Core was their bread-and-butter for years.

Each level in Wolf is a small chunk of open-world territory filled with buildings, enemy emplacements, and hostile troops. Objectives are varied. Sometimes the Prez has to take out a series of targets in a city or a base – my favorite since they allow the player to look for the best angles of approach and take their time. Other levels are similar but timed, and trying to rush through before a bomb goes off or poison gas disperses is awful for the first few attempts. Sometimes there are bosses, sometimes not, and some levels are just one big boss. The changeup in mission types is appreciated and keeps things fresh enough, although Metal Wolf’s age and FROM’s bad habits are on full display.     

Real talk, Wolf looks rough after all these years even with an HD cleanup, and FROM has never been a studio known for its graphical prowess. It also feels loose and chunky to play — it’s comparable to something like EDF with a focus on blasting and dodging instead of precise tactical combat. There are also irritants like falling into water (instant death), falling into pits (instant death), accidentally leaving the mission area while dodging enemy fire (a required restart), running out of ammo in the early game, infinitely-respawning enemies and worst of all, FROM’s design crutch of hiding key items in nooks and crannies.

For a game about piloting a heavy metal mech raining destruction down on enemies, taking the time to meticulously comb through a level for every breakable box, every breakable door that hides a breakable box and every breakable door that hides a tunnel that hides a breakable box is a drag that saps the action’s energy. Don’t skip it, though – the health upgrades are vital for surviving later levels. SPV999’s FAQ with pictures was an immense timesaver and I recommend it to anyone who’s going to jump in.

It’s also a drag to grind for the cash and “rare metal” needed to create weapons. Although Metal Wolf Chaos does not employ the uber-detailed mech modification system that was the hook in Armored Core, the player must fund their own weapons research and manufacturing, and there are a lot to options. Some are decidedly more effective than others, and if the player blows their bank on a few duds, they’ll have to replay previous levels to earn more resources. (PROTIP: the MG200EN machine gun is worth every penny. Invest to unlock it as soon as possible, and then buy two.)

Despite the warts and jankiness in Metal Wolf Chaos HD, allowances have to be made for its age, but as a lifelong FROM fan, I’m thrilled to finally play this painfully conspicuous gap in their Western releases. Mech-heads will find it a rough novelty and Souls fans will get a shock to their systems, but for a certain segment of players, Metal Wolf Chaos HD is a great snapshot of where FROM Software was fifteen years ago.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Disclosures: This version of the game is developed by FROM Software and General Arcade. and published by Devolver Digital. It is currently available on XBO, PS4 and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 9 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Mild Language and Violence. The content here is on par with a schlocky straight-to-video action movie — lots of explosions, terrible dialogue with mild swearing and mot much more than that. The Prez will mow down blocky soldiers, thanks and choppers, but none of it is bloody or gory. I’d say this is safe enough for anyone who can successfully play it.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The dialogue in this game is subtitled, but the size is not adjustable. I played half of the game with the sound off and had no problems, there are no audio cues necessary and there is sufficient visual information onscreen. One note – sometimes updates will pop up mid-mission, and it’s tough to catch this small text in the middle of a firefight. It was rarely crucial, though.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable but there are several preset configurations. Below are two examples.

Brad Gallaway
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4 years ago

This is one of the few games where, if you are skipping the dialogue and cutscenes, you are missing half the game.

This is one of the great games of our time and everyone should believe in their own justice.

4 years ago
Reply to  Brad Gallaway

It is both a deliberate parody of cheesy American dialogue (Independence Day, Air Force One) as well as scarily insightful into American political views, from the fake news DNN, to the attitudes on immigration, coastal elites and the future of American attitudes.

The dialogue might be flight but there are some really beautiful moments in there (when the President comes on to his secretary and she shuts him down with a ‘whatever Mr. President’), and you seriously missed out if you skipped them.

Darren Forman
4 years ago

The dialogue in this is wonderful. Can’t remember the exact line, but I cracked up when he tells his secretary to let Japan know that he can’t make a climate conference or something, and to let them know it’s because he’s off to singlehandedly liberate America from his nefarious VP.

I’m not ashamed to say that I saluted Michael Wilson multiple times during my playthrough, and I’m not even American.

Darren Forman
4 years ago
Reply to  Brad Gallaway

(Crosses Brad off the ‘potential scriptwriters for my Blockbuster movie’ list)

4 years ago
Reply to  Darren Forman

I am with you Darren.

Also, this feels like Mars Attacks all over again, the general American consensus was that it was poorly written. Everyone in Europe was like ‘this is exactly our experience of America’