Metal Wolf Chaos XD Review — FromSoftware’s American Dream
FromSoftware's once Japan-exclusive Xbox title, Metal Wolf Chaos XD, has finally made it to the west 15 years after its original release.
The Xbox brand and Microsoft have always undoubtedly struggled in the Japanese market. However, 15 years ago the prestigious developer FromSoftware released an Xbox exclusive that never made its way to the western market, Metal Wolf Chaos. Due to region-locking, the game had become extremely rare amongst western collectors. Publisher Devolver Digital has come to the rescue, finally releasing FromSoftware’s long lost title as Metal Wolf Chaos XD in the west.
Despite the game’s Japan-exclusive release, Metal Wolf Chaos XD has a full English voiceover. It’s notoriously bad in the best way; imagine Metal Gear Solid if the underlying themes and references were completely blatant. Metal Wolf Chaos XD is a laughably good time and an exaggerated take on American pop culture. There’s an abundance of one-liners and ridiculously over-the-top scenarios that’ll have players blasting their way from sea to shining sea.
Video game preservationists should be pleased to hear that the entirety of the base game that Japanese Xbox owners got in 2004 is still here. Devolver Digital, FromSoftware, and General Arcade have included some welcomed touch-ups in the form of refined controls, 4K support, 16:9 aspect ratio, and more. Other than that though, this is the same game that became a cult classic in Japan.
Players will take on the role of President Michael Wilson (relative to Woodrow Wilson). After the military and former Vice President Michael Hawk takes over the country, Wilson is naturally forced to pilot a giant mech and defeat them. It’s a straightforward plot that’s carried by its ridiculous anime-inspired cutscenes and over-the-top English voice acting. Even though Metal Wolf Chaos‘ text was all in Japanese originally, the game strangely contained English voice-acting yet never made it westward. While this is a game that’s largely based on the United States, there’s plenty of Japanese influences sprinkled throughout. In fact, one of the interesting draws of Metal Wolf Chaos XD is the fact that players can see how Japanese developers viewed the country’s pop culture at the time.
On the gameplay side of things, Metal Wolf Chaos XD won’t be winning any awards. It’s a simple third-person shooter with loads of destruction and enemies to destroy. Occasionally things can become quite repetitive in its mission structure, and there are some random difficulty spikes that can be incredibly frustrating. Missions revolve around either blowing set objectives up or taking out a boss: sometimes you’ll be doing both at the same time. Boss battles end up being the biggest standout in terms of gameplay, as there are plenty of tough foes to take on.
There’s a wide variety of weapons in Metal Wolf Chaos XD that’ll determine your success in combat. At the end of every mission, players will be rewarded with rare materials and currency that they can then use to purchase new weapons or develop certain types of weapons. There are bazookas, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and about anything else you’d expect. Some weapons feel much more useful than others, which is a shame as early on there isn’t much room for deviation. If you don’t develop a useful arsenal before certain sections of the game, grinding is pretty much guaranteed once you hit the first difficulty spike. Players will be able to have a total of eight weapons in their loadout, with some weapons taking up two slots. The President can battle with any two weapons at a time and mix-and-match at the press of a button, depending on the situation.
For completionists, this grinding won’t be an issue as there are plenty of collectibles to find throughout each mission, some of which are hidden considerably well: the more you find, the more you’ll be rewarded at the end of the mission. Also, some of the collectibles will end up improving Wilson’s mech, so it’s definitely useful to collect as much as you can early on.
While this game isn’t great by modern standards at all, it’s hard to imagine that speedrunners won’t fall in love with completely breaking the game. Players looking to jump into Metal Wolf Chaos XD to simply experience the cult classic can complete all of the missions in about twelve hours. The finale is nothing short of epic, with an anime-style faceoff in a large destructible level. Even by 2004 standards, it’s really memorable.
It’s incredibly odd to think that FromSoftware, the developer that would go on to create the Dark Souls series (and kick off an entire subgenre), created a title like Metal Wolf Chaos XD. The game is a product of the Armored Core series and Microsoft trying to break into the Japanese market. Devolver Digital and all parties involved have done a tremendous job delivering a game that once seemed unattainable to many. While it’s not necessarily an amazing game, the release of Metal Wolf Chaos XD is certainly a win for video game preservation.