Once in a blue moon the gaming community is blessed with an ultimately righteous game that flies right under our collective noses. Recently, that game has surfaced as Metal Arms: Glitch in the System. Fledgling developer Swingin’ Ape Studios has created one of the most addictive, hilarious and challengingly deep shooters of this console generation. After spending some quality time with the title, I found it hard to believe this was their first official console release. It’s no wonder why Blizzard decided to pick these guys up for their upcoming game titled simply Ghost. Swingin’ Ape has pulled out all the stops and delivered us this strangely familiar yet refreshingly original shooter.
In-game, your controls are similar to that of traditional console shooters, which means dual analog support, baby! More specifically, one stick moves your metal frame around the screen and the other is used for looking aiming and, ah yes, strafing! For newcomers, the controls can be a bit daunting, but it is nothing a good half hour of solo gaming can’t remedy. For veterans, the controls will feel like home. All of your gaming techniques will be employed due to a hefty amount of running, jumping, hiding and platforming all while blasting your enemies into oblivion. And while you will have to use your noggin to figure out the best path through many sections of the game, Metal Arms rarely leaves you guessing on what to do next.
Some fine touches have been added to the controls to make for more satisfying game play. Our main character, Glitch, removes his right arm to attach unusual guns and can simultaneously fire a plethora of grenade type weapons from his left. While switching arms or grenades the game will pause as you make your choice, so that cheap shots never become a problem. A quick change option is available by assigning different weapon and grenade combinations to each of the directions on the D-pad for on the fly switch-ups.
Obviously, Metal Arms is all about the guns. The game brings a wholly rewarding experience to the table by allowing you to permanently upgrade all of your armaments at various points throughout the adventure. By purchasing these upgrades, your arms do not simply become stronger, their physical appearance and even attack styles are subject to change. However, the most ingenious design in weaponry has to be the control tether, which allows you to hijack opposing droids and use them to wreak havoc from the inside out. This is Metal Arms‘ shining achievement; this is what brings its fresh individual approach to the forefront. The control tether also provides the multiplayer encounters with a whole new level of enjoyment and frustration (at least for your friends!)
In addition, as if the frantic run-and-gun nature of the game weren’t enough, a side mission is thrown in here or there to break up the monotony of level exploration. While these driving, secondary character and side quests could hardly stand alone, they do an excellent job of adding another level of depth to this intrinsically deep shooter. This brings to mind one of the game’s tender areas. Flat out, Metal Arms is hard! The game will challenge you no matter who you are and no matter what difficulty you have it set to. The game seems to run on a try-and-die philosophy, where you keeping trying and dying until you succeed. This mechanic may give old-schooler’s something to chew on, but those with less forgiving attention spans will be longing for the quick snippet game play bursts of Grand Theft Auto.
Technically speaking Metal Arms does not push the envelope with revolutionary or groundbreaking graphics. But what it lacks in ultra-realism, it more than makes up for with charm and its ability to create a solid and believable robot world that works. While the frame rate may dip here or there, thankfully the action never takes a hit. Some of the textures may become muddy at close range but the game never fails to deliver something fresh to look at.
The interactive 3D locales range from Mad Max style high-speed desert chases, a massive android metropolis, ancient underground robot temples and beyond. Each environment is immersive and beautiful and are all created with dynamic lighting effects, rich coloring and careful level designs that set up candidly humorous albeit scripted events. Not one level is recycled and in spite of the android motif the outdoor areas have a truly organic feel. And just about anything that looks like it can be broken destroyed or blown up can be with destructively satisfying results!
Metal Arms has, without a doubt, the best voice acting in any console game of this age. With acting talent from hit shows such as The Simpsons, Seinfeld and even the old Ninja Turtles cartoon, the game’s dialogue track sucks you in like a tractor beam. From excessive bleeped out curses and a diverse cast of nearly insane characters the game will have you rolling. Imagine actually laughing at a game’s jokes and not it’s terribly performed and badly translated script! Everyone in the game talks and has their own personality; right down to the most menial foot soldiers that scream expletives as you blow them apart limb from limb. It’s okay to laugh, they’re robots.
Metal Arms keeps it going in the sound department with massive explosions whizzing saw blades and millions of stray bullets that will rock your speakers. All of the sound effects are huge and fit right along with the on-screen action. Even the music itself rocks. In fact, I enjoyed the soundtrack so much that I downloaded it from the official Web site. The only problem here is that there isn’t enough of it. There was too much game play with almost complete silence outside of my own gunfire. At times even Glitch’s footsteps were almost imperceptible. While some games can get away with silence and ambience to add a feeling of solitude or confinement, an action game like Metal Arms could’ve used it’s head bobbing rhythms to keep downtimes moving at a more manageable pace.
Metal Arms is a long game even by today’s standards. With a hefty 40 missions and a sizeable amount of unlockable multiplayer levels there is plenty to sink your teeth into. The multiplayer section itself has seven different modes of play including team battles complete with multi-person vehicles. There are enough options in the multiplayer mode to make GoldenEye jealous. Again, nothing is groundbreaking here, but the sheer volume and quality of the content is enough to lend the game credibility.
Aside from a few rough spots in its extreme difficulty, less than mind-blowing graphics and conservative use of music, Metal Arms is more than worthy of your time and money no matter which of the three major consoles you currently own. Addictive, fun and hilarious, Metal Arms is one of those experiences that helps keep the soul in gaming. Old school shoot ?em up fans will be pleased with the game’s frantic pacing huge explosions and hard-edged feel, while new age gamers will definitely find the immersive 3D environments and big budget production worthy of their attention.
In spite of borrowing elements from games like Half-Life, Ratchet and Clank and even our beloved Contra, Metal Arms has individuality to spare. More akin to giving a nod to these monumental shooters, Metal Arms retains the frenetic qualities and deep game play mechanics afforded by these titles while at the same retaining its own personality. Likewise, it is the dichotomy between the game’s subtle layers of growth and its big time attitude that set it apart from the pack.