As with many American gamers, 2004’s Metal Wolf Chaos by FromSoftware was a game I knew solely through its reputation of being one of the biggest meme games of the early 2000s. While this Xbox exclusive never saw an official release outside of Japan, it still gathered a small cult following and Internet infamy because of its terrible English voice acting, nonsensical dialog, and completely over-the-top story about a US President personally retaking America in a high-tech mecha suit with enough machine guns, rockets, and grenade launchers to level half a city. Finally, some 15 years after the original game’s release, General Arcade and Devolver Digital are finally giving the rest of the world a chance to experience the absurdity that is Metal Wolf Chaos for ourselves.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: General Arcade, FromSoftware
Platforms: Windows PC (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: August 6th, 2019
If you’ve somehow never heard of Metal Wolf Chaos before, you are in for a treat that exists somewhere between a particularly ridiculous B-movie, and one of those vivid fever dreams you had as a kid while stoned out of your mind with cold medicine during flu season.
After years of civil unrest and conflict, American President Michael Wilson has been ousted in a coup led by his cartoonishly insane VP, Richard Hawk. As the coup forces are closing in, President Wilson makes his escape in a prototype, top-secret mecha suit.
After a brief showdown at the White House, President Wilson is picked up by his secretary Jody, and the two fly off to the west coast in Air Force One to begin their guerilla campaign to retake America by blowing up lots of enemy troops, superweapons, and bases across the US.
The entire game is every bit as ridiculous as that initial premise. The absurdity starts at 11 and just keeps going the whole way through as you are subjected to the mad ramblings of Richard Hawk, a villain that makes Cobra Commander seem rational.
Enemies range from the mundane, such as lowly foot soldiers and M1 Abrams tanks, to levels of insanity that can’t be achieved without hard drugs. There is a mechanized, refurbished White House as one of the boss fights, and yes, they actually call it “The Fight House.”
Many people are probably aware of the game’s infamously awful voice acting and dialog, which is so bad that it wraps back around to being hysterical. The game never takes itself seriously, and the cheese is layered on so thick Pizzeria Uno is trying to sell it as a dinner special.
I expect that we’ll be seeing “That is an iron-clad tactic,” “Because I am The President of these Great United States of America,” and “Seek out your own justice!” plastered all over social media for the next few weeks.
While many of the quotes and dialog cross into utter gibberish territory, Metal Wolf Chaos XD occasionally has a lucid moment where it displays witty satire about American politics from the early 2000s.
There’s cracks about Florida recounts, to say nothing of the overarching theme of protecting America by blowing up everything in sight. There’s also plenty of jabs at the American media that is depressingly relevant even today, all emphasized by a fictional news network called “DNN” that frequently talks about seeking “truth and justice.”
While the game’s story and dialog lives up to its meme status, the actual gameplay is still fun as well. You’ll fight in a variety of environments across the US, including hidden bases in the Grand Canyon, multiple major cities, a heavily fortified beach with a missile cruiser docked nearby, and more.
Mission objectives usually revolve around destroying specific buildings and installations scattered around the level, though some also involve time limits, defending a person or building, and boss encounters against massive superweapons with individually targetable weapons and parts.
No matter the objective, every level is littered with tons of destructible objects, be they cars, shipping containers, barricades, bridges, and more. You are actively encouraged to destroy everything in your path as well, because the various bits of scenery will often contain useful items like ammo, energy pods, or even new weapons.
Energy pods play into the game’s admittedly basic upgrade system, giving you another shield charge every time you collect five of them.
In combat, you’ll fight with a weapon in each hand, though some of the particularly large and powerful guns require both hands to use. You can carry up to eight guns with you at any given time, all stored in the two weapon pods on Metal Wolf’s back.
Swapping is a tad clunky, especially in a particularly intense battle, because it involves opening your pods, cycling to the weapons you want, and manually closing the pods. The arsenal you’ll unlock throughout the game is vast, and come in many delicious of flavors of destruction.
Machine guns, sniper rifles, railguns, grenade launchers, bazookas, guided missile launchers, and micromissile launchers are just a taste of what you’ll unleash upon the traitorous dogs you’ll be mowing down every mission.
Each weapon category has upwards of a dozen or so different weapons. There’s only a few distinct weapon models in each class, with many of them being recolored variants that might offer various tradeoffs or gimmicks.
The most common variants are traditional, solid shell weapons and energy-based weapons, which are more or less effective against specific enemy types. There’s also variants like stun guns, burst fire bazookas, grenade launchers that deploy mines, and napalm rounds that light enemies on fire.
While you can find new guns hidden in missions, your primary way of expanding your arsenal is to research and manufacture new weapons. You’ll earn money and rare materials each mission based on your score, or hidden throughout the level in crates.
You can spend these resources to increase the research level of a class of weapons, which in turn allows you to buy new guns from that category. The upgrade system is overall very basic, and the game floods you in so many resources that you shouldn’t have too much trouble upgrading your arsenal at a steady pace.
Your mech is firmly in the middle when it comes to the clunky vs maneuverable scale of mecha movement. Metal Wolf is slow and deliberate, but capable of booster-assisted dodges and jumps.
You can boost for fairly long periods of time, but this costs energy that would otherwise be routed to your shields, so using your thrusters too liberally can be risky. You’ll also be unable to use energy weapons if your mech is too low on juice.
Of course, no mecha game would be complete without special attacks. In Metal Wolf Chaos XD, this comes in the form of a full alpha strike barrage that fires off everything in your weapon pods for a few seconds.
You build your super meter by chaining together combos and killing loads of enemies at once, so the more skillful you are, the more quickly you’ll get to unleash a devastating onslaught of bullets, rockets, and grenades that can melt almost anything that stands in your way.
While Metal Wolf Chaos XD remains a fun and satisfying mecha shooter, you can definitely tell this game was originally made in the early 2000s. There is a certain clunkiness to the mechanics that takes a bit of getting used to, and the enemy AI is completely nonexistent.
Some aspects of the game also aren’t fully explained, which I assume is probably a holdover from the days when video games included instruction manuals instead of proper tutorials.
The game is also a bit on the buggy side at times. Enemies clipping through terrain isn’t uncommon, and sometimes the physics will freak out to hilarious degrees, sending an exploding tank catapulting high into the stratosphere. The New York City level was particularly bad for me.
This mission involves you having to run from a giant spider mech with a microwave gun that can reduce you to burning slag in one burst if you aren’t careful. I would often run into times where the boss’s wave laser was clipping through skyscrapers to hit me.
There was one time where I started the mission and the boss suddenly and inexplicably exploded, handing me a free victory and the speedrun achievement. In yet another playthrough, I was hit with the boss’s attack through a building and the game froze before crashing so badly I had to do a hard reset of my machine.
While the resolution options received a modern upgrade, many other aspects of Metal Wolf Chaos XD remain archaic. The sound quality is frequently an issue. The dialog can be really low at times, with specific sound effects completely overpowering the voice overs.
Meanwhile, the voice acting and music in the DNN fake news network broadcasts are about five times louder than everything else. I even had one mission where the sound effects just stopped altogether in the final few minutes of a boss fight. No amount of tweaking individual volume sliders fixed any of these issues.
It should also be noted that yes, the game is indeed capped at 30 FPS. However, even with the hard cap, the game occasionally dips below 30 in particularly intense battles. It wasn’t often, but it did happen.
Finally, I’d also like to mention that the PC port isn’t particularly good. The game works fine enough with keyboard and mouse, but you can tell it was made with a controller in mind.
There’s no rebindable keys to speak of, and the keyboard and mouse controls aren’t even listed in the options menu. The game also keeps the mouse curser visible in the menus even if you have your controller plugged in.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD isn’t the best of remasters, but the core game is definitely still fun and worth experiencing, especially since most of us westerners never had a chance to play the original.
The story and voice acting alone are so absurd that you just can’t help but get invested in all its lunacy, and unlike many meme games, there’s a genuinely solid gameplay experience to back it up.
There’s lots of content too. The game will probably take you about eight hours to beat, but there’s plenty of replayability if you want to get the best ranks, find all the collectibles, and beat all the post-game content.
As a PC gamer with a fancy monitor, the 30 FPS cap is irritating, but the game is still playable and quite fun. If you are a fellow connoisseur of cringe, you’ll probably love Metal Wolf Chaos XD and all the new memes its probably about to spawn.
While Metal Wolf Chaos XD does get a recommendation from me, it comes with some caveats. The audio issues really should have been addressed as part of the remaster, and the PC port isn’t particularly good. Metal Wolf Chaos XD is an outrageous, goofy, and yet fun-filled cavalcade of delights.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD was reviewed on Windows PC using a review copy provided by Devolver Digital. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.