Dim clouds fill the skies above the White House as smoke bellows out of its windows. Military vehicles and tanks litter the south lawn. Suddenly, an explosion erupts from the top floor and a red and navy blue mech springs out of the blaze, armed with a gun in each metallic hand, eager to greet the waiting army.
“Let’s PARTYYYYYYYY!!” the maniac pilot shouts as he summersaults and lands on the lawn. “Welcome to the White House.”
The maniac mech pilot is none other than the 47th president of the United States, Michael Wilson, code name: Metal Wolf.
Let me back up a minute.
Getting Hyped for Flying Mechs
Two weeks ago, the new trailer for Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon (releasing August 25, 2023) filled me with hype. There’s just something about seeing mechs jet around a battlefield making abrupt turns at break-neck speeds as they fire lasers at each other that injects pure dopamine into my brain.
I’ve never played an Armored Core game before, and I can’t wait to get my hands on Fires of Rubicon. In the meantime, though, I was looking to scratch my itch for some third-person mech action. Then I remembered I bought Metal Wolf Chaos XD on a whim a few years ago during a Steam sale. At the time, I didn’t play much past the first level, and the game quickly fell into the abyss of my backlog. Now that I’ve finished it, I feel less guilty about my impulse purchase, but I also have mixed feelings about the overall game.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD is a re-release of FromSoftware’s 2004 game Metal Wolf Chaos. The game was originally released exclusively in Japan for the Xbox. In August 2019, Devolver Digital published the updated version with HD visuals and a tweaked control scheme. Metal Wolf Chaos XD fits right in with the publisher’s catalog of addictive, hilarious, ultra-violent, and occasionally disturbing games.
The Story of Metal Wolf Chaos XD
Metal Wolf Chaos XD, named for that presidential mech from before, takes place at the end of the first quarter of the 21st century.
“Freedom was dead in America,” the game declares. This is thanks to a large-scale, nationwide military coup. The entire country is under tyrannical martial law from coup d’état forces—as they are only referred to—who set up military strongholds in the country’s largest cities, from San Francisco to New York City. The leader of the forces is none other than Vice President Richard Hawk, who bears a striking resemblance to disgraced former Donkey Kong World Record holder Billy Mitchell.
Thankfully, President Wilson secretly commissioned a taxpayer-funded mech suit. Now, as a one-man army with the codename Metal Wolf, you must fight through hordes of tanks, helicopters, soldiers, and mechs and reclaim America one locale at a time to restore freedom, truth, and democracy. But you aren’t completely alone. Jody—a copilot, confidant, best friend, and secretary—is right there with you, gleefully reveling in the carnage you inflict on your enemies.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD’s story is told primarily through a combination of bombastic cutscenes, Metal Gear Solid codec-esque communications, and text overlaying a crumbling Lincoln memorial. The country’s leading news station, DNN, spins your actions into propaganda reports that look like bad campaign ads for your local elections. The original English voice acting is here, for better or worse, depending on whether you genuinely, or ironically, enjoy campy and hilariously mistranslated dialogue.
As a one-man army with the codename Metal Wolf, you must fight through hordes of tanks, helicopters, soldiers, and mechs and reclaim America one locale at a time to restore freedom, truth, and democracy.
The story and its characters are absolutely absurd but charming. Wolf is written like a mix of an overzealous Super Sentai character, a passionate Shonen manga protagonist, and a Gadsden Flag. And Mitchell—er, I mean, Hawk—is an equally absurd villain complete with maniacal laughter, cartoonishly evil, fascist goals, and a weird, borderline sexual, obsession with the main character.
The Gameplay of Metal Wolf Chaos XD
Metal Wolf Chaos XD plays like a PlayStation 2-era third-person shooter. Your mech can hover, jump, and boost around the battlefield for a limited time. The longer you boost, the more energy you use, depleting your shields.
You can equip eight weapons at a time: four on each hand. Handguns, shotguns, assault rifles, machine guns, bazookas, missile launchers, and grenade launchers each take up one slot on a hand. However, some of the bulkier weapons, like railguns, multi-missile launchers, sniper cannons, and flamethrowers, require both hands, so you’ll have to use those strategically. By comparison, there are depressingly few melee options: You can either boost through things or use an air stomp. I know it’s a game about the U.S., and if there’s one thing we have, it’s guns. Lots of them. But the game really could’ve benefitted from a laser sword of some kind.
You fire each weapon using left and right triggers and can swap between them on the fly. Switching weapons looks awesome, with your arms and shoulders splitting open, revealing your rotating armory. I kept my power weapons in my left hand, mainly the shotgun, a bazooka/grenade launcher, a flamethrower, and a railgun. In my right hand, I kept my machine guns, assault rifles, and handguns. I invested in all the guns with the highest attack power I could find. The best combo for me was the MG200 machine gun and the SG7/EN shotgun. The flamethrower was good for quickly destroying tanks and towers. Railguns were good for taking out more than one target with one shot, but they took way too much time to fully charge. Railguns also drained my shields, making my mech much easier to kill.
A special meter fills up as you blow everything up, and when it’s full, you can unleash your ultimate “blaze” attack. During “blaze,” you fire through all your weapons rapidly and sequentially and are invincible for a short time. It made for a decent panic move when I was surrounded by a group of enemy mechs or if a boss was in the middle of melting my shields with lasers and missiles. I wish it lasted a little bit longer, but it helped me survive a few close calls.
Each weapon has different stats and ammo and multiple variations depending on the type. You unlock weapons in between missions using money and precious metals/materials obtained during your missions. As you invest your money into the different weapon types, you unlock more weapons to spend your money and materials on. The system works fine in the beginning, but toward the midpoint of the game, you may have to grind and farm during missions if you want the more powerful weapons.
Different Genre, Same FromSoft Difficulty
Unfortunately, you’ll need those power weapons for the game’s abrupt difficulty spike toward the middle-to-late portion of the game. Enemies range from faceless infantrymen who fire their assault weapons and bazookas at you to tanks, attack helicopters, and other mech suits. The game starts easy enough, but in the later levels, you can quickly be overwhelmed if you aren’t killing them fast enough. Once you die, you have to start the entire level over from the beginning.
At a certain point, bosses are given unique designs featuring technology like your own mech suit. Occasionally, the late-game bosses are more lazily designed, featuring screen-obscuring, instakill attacks. It wasn’t long before I resorted to cheesing some of the game’s tougher bosses—my main survival technique in FromSoftware’s other games. This made for an occasionally frustrating experience in the game’s later levels, where bosses will melt your shields in seconds with a barrage of missiles.
The game’s structure is linear and mission-based, set in cities and scenic locations across the country. Hidden throughout the stages, you’ll find extra ammo clips, “energy pods” that restore your health and shields, and some caged POWs begging you to free them. Freeing these prisoners—usually rockstars, scientists, or politicians—helps you gain bonus money and materials once you complete a mission. At the end of each level, you’re graded on your performance based on how much you destroy, how many enemies you defeat, and how much you were damaged during the mission.
The gameplay starts fun and simple enough, but quickly becomes dull and repetitive as you’re tasked, time and time again, to destroy the same bases and military towers in each mission. The enemies devolve into damage sponges, soaking up ridiculous amounts of your ammo even if you upgrade.
I picked up Metal Wolf Chaos XD for the mech action but stayed for its ridiculous, satirical story and characters. And, of course, the freedom. However, the game made me more excited for Fires of Rubicon because I’m sure it’ll play much better and have more to it than blowing up the same towers over and over again. Plus, it’s got laser swords.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD offers a quick, action-packed romp through America from sea to shining sea.
This is probably the most patriotic game I’ve ever played, especially for a game that was developed in Japan. Its version of the U.S. was simple and mainly derived from stereotypes and a loose understanding of the Executive Branch. It’s a fun power fantasy where you get to play as the physical embodiment of manifest destiny wearing a mech suit made of the American dream.
President Wolf doesn’t represent America as it is—well, except for the guns—but he represents America as it strives to be: a nation based on ideals of truth, justice, freedom, and democracy. America, in Metal Wolf Chaos XD, is a gun-toting maniac in a mech suit that takes the law into its own hands. For freedom. The over-the-top Americana, combined with the game’s randomly awesome soundtrack, is what kept me going during the more frustrating parts of the game, especially the mid-game slog and its grinding. Not to mention the final boss, which pissed me off so much, I uninstalled the game as soon as I beat it.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD offers a quick, action-packed romp through America from sea to shining sea. It made me want to try out FromSoftware’s other mech games, and while I don’t plan to replay it anytime soon, I may return to Metal Wolf Chaos XD every other July 4.
Because what’s more American than energetic naive optimism stoked with a barrage of gunfire, explosions, and blind patriotism?