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Metal Wolf Chaos XD review: the president is a mech pilot

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It’s perhaps easier than it ever has been to imagine the US presidency as a one-man ego trip leaving wanton destruction in its wake, so it’s to Metal Wolf Chaos’ credit that it still manages to make that concept seem faintly ridiculous. A cult classic revived for modern platforms 15 years after its debut, Metal Wolf Chaos remains one of the most gloriously over-the-top games ever made.

Released exclusively in Japan for the original Xbox, Metal Wolf Chaos was developed by From Software many years before the studio found global acclaim with its brutal action games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and this year’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. From was previously best known for the complex mech action series Armored Core, and Metal Wolf Chaos continued in that tradition — albeit under a different team and with a simpler, more arcade-style design.

The intricacies of Metal Wolf Chaos’ giant robot mechanics are a less pressing point of discussion than the fact that this is a game where you play the president of the United States and pilot a mech to fight back against a coup d’etat led by, of all people, the vice president. Who is also a mech pilot. Metal Wolf Chaos opens with you bursting out of an upper-floor window of the White House in your mech suit, and its grip on reality only gets looser from there on out.

Playing Metal Wolf Chaos is like watching The Room — you can’t quite believe how anybody managed to write these lines, much less speak them out loud in a recording studio. “You’ve got a conference and dinner party at the Japanese embassy regarding wildlife protection,” says ever-present radio assistant Jody in an early exchange. “Oh, yeah,” replies the president. “Sorry, but I’ll have to cancel that. I’m heading out to save America!” Later, you’ll hear the commander in chief issue devastating taunts such as “You guys are roast chicken!” and “I’ll make you just like perforated cheese! Bingo!”

The difference between Metal Wolf Chaos and The Room, though, is that From Software’s title exhibits surprisingly sharp satire for a Japanese game released so long ago. From was clearly in on the joke, from the somewhat prescient lampooning of cable news with a mouthpiece network called “DNN” to the absurdist display of American military might throughout. And if anything, the game’s lampooning feels even more appropriate today than when it was first released — this new XD version is being marketed with the tagline “Mech America Great Again.”

As for the game itself, well, it isn’t great. Metal Wolf Chaos is very much a product of its era, with simple destructive action not a million miles away from the Earth Defense Force series, but it all plays out in small, corridor-like environments despite being set in expansive locations like San Francisco and the Grand Canyon. This is a fairly short game split over 14 levels, and I’d say that’s for the best; it works well enough as a largely mindless vessel for the unhinged plot. It’s fun in short bursts, but Armored Core and Dark Souls fans might be disappointed.

The new version, Metal Wolf Chaos XD, is an extremely slight update — it’s more or less just the original Xbox game running at higher resolutions with some minor tweaks like a welcome new autosave system. The terrible English voice acting is thankfully unchanged, but all the menus have been localized. Metal Wolf Chaos was a pretty good-looking game by Xbox standards, and it holds up well enough here, though I’m not impressed that the PC version I tested is locked to 30 frames per second.

Metal Wolf Chaos XD is one of those re-releases where even though I can’t recommend everyone immediately rush out and buy it, I’m really happy it exists. It might not be the greatest game in the world, but it’s a unique cultural artifact that didn’t deserve to be locked away on Japan-exclusive Xbox discs forever.

Metal Wolf Chaos XD is out today for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.