Reviewed: December 31, 2003
Released: November 18, 2003
Swingin’ Ape decided to make a third person shooter. That shooter is Metal Arms: Glitch in the System. It centers on a droid (Glitch) who is found damaged and joins up with other droids in an effort to escape oppression by the evil robot “mils” (the requisite enemy faction.)
In a genre that is becoming increasingly bombarded by games, a new game must possess either an incredible execution, or an original premise to truly succeed. While the premise of Metal Arms is fairly derivative, does it possess enough polish and original ideas to set itself ahead of the pack?
As with basically every other third person shooter on the market, you’re expected to run, jump, and shoot your way through the opposition. You are given numerous weapons with which to accomplish this. While the names are different, you get your basic set of weapons, the standard shotguns, machine guns, and the like all make an appearance.
Weapons are dived into right and left handed weapons. The weapons you wield in your right hand are usually accessories like a sniper scope or heavy ordinance, a grenade for example. Left-handed weapons are the main guns and rifles. This setup is great as you can, as in Halo, fire your main weapon and throw grenades simultaneously.
You also get your fair share of vehicles. Hovercraft, Tanks, and APC’s aid you in your noble quest. The APC portion of the game either has you at the wheel (with the AI controlling the turret) or vice versa. The APC is used to travel to different areas around the game world. This is done when the story so dictates, not when you might want to take the APC for a spin.
The different areas you travel to are pretty diverse, running from mines to wastelands to robot cities. The same enemies, with some stage specific ones thrown in, are present in each stage. The game does do a great job at portraying your journey through the war. Stage transitions and scripted scenes are handled with ease.
The in-game cinematics are also quite hilarious. People expected a “kiddy-game” are in for a Conker like shock upon hearing some of the dialog. While not as over-the-top as the N64 classic, Metal Arms still sets itself somewhat apart with the adult language.
Multiplayer also has a great impact on the game, serving as both a reward for collecting secret chips during the single player adventure, and as pleasant diversion. While not quite Battlefield 1942 it has vehicles and other bric-a-brac to keep things interesting.
Multiplayer also offers a pretty decent range of customization options. While not as game changing as Unreal’s Mutators, or a full-blown mod, the customization screen is remarkably in-depth for a console game, especially one that isn’t primarily multiplayer focused.
The controls system is pretty good. Of course the C-stick is no match for a mouse, but that’s a gripe that nearly all console games suffer from. Weapon control, through the two-handed method, is intuitive without being complicated.
The AI of enemies and allies are not lifelike, but better then run of the mill. Enemies will seek cover and the path finding between you and your allies is nearly spot-on, but a few minor quibbles still remain. You can recruit a sizeable number of allies (through rescue or reprogramming grenades) and they will fight alongside you until they are destroyed.
Metal Arms also offers you the chance to control certain enemies through the use of a control tether. This is pretty fun as the bots you control are often decked out with insane amounts of weaponry. The same thing can be done in Multiplayer if you prefer a robot as opposed to a tank.
The world you explore as Glitch is not a particularly remarkable one. If you’ve seen one war torn mechanical landscape, you’ve seen them all. Still, the stages are diverse and well done. If I had a complaint it would be the relative darkness many of the stages seem draped in. The Darkness doesn’t really add to the ambiance, and makes the flashlight you’re equipped with necessary.
The first few stages all take place in relatively drab and run down sections. While distinguishable, they seem to share the same overall design ethic. The more open stages you encounter later in the game are much better in my opinion.
Loading screens are animated, but do little to detract from the loading (fast and infrequent though it may be.) Multiplayer is also good, maintaining a serviceable frame rate except in the most extreme of situations.
The in-game cutscenes are well acted and mesh almost perfectly with the game world. The only distraction, and a minor one at that, is the fact some of the cutscenes seemed recorded. In the instances where it was readily noticeable, grain and artifacts were all over the picture.
In a pleasantly surprising move, decals appear when objects are shot. If you fire a machine gun at a robot or vehicle for example, a bullet hole is left where the bullet entered. This may not seem like much, but it is frequently absent in games, and it adds so much to the realism quotient.
The APC stages are fast paced and reminded me a great deal of the Pod Racing series in the stage framework and “course“ design. Frame rates throughout were very good and explosions were full of fire and little robot chunks whenever an enemy, or enemy vehicle, were destroyed.
One of the main ingredients in a good third person game is the rapport you feel with the main character(s.) Glitch isn’t very talkative, so many of the games great vocal moments come from the supporting cast, both his allies and enemies. With a language barrier set higher then most, Metal Arms can both shock, surprise, and delight you.
The weapons are given distinct firing sounds, as are the movements associated with them. Reloading and weapons switching are both hyper realistic and glitch will get weapons from his backpack and switch them when so ordered. The vehicles benefit from the same care and attention. The sounds are clear and match the on-screen action perfectly.
Enemy and environment sound is also above the bar. Enemies are often witty, scared, or in hysterics, with dialog and amplitude to match. The same can be said for the allies Glitch may come across.
Games with both a full function single player and multiplayer component are pretty good when it comes to value. The single player game isn’t overly short, but not drawn out either. Secret chips are scattered throughout the single player portion. The chips, when collected, are used to unlock further multiplayer arenas.
Multiplayer can take many forms, in many different stages. It is so fleshed out; it could’ve been a half decent stand-alone product. Its addition to an already above average single player adventure is wonderful and adds much to the base product.
If I could say one thing about Metal Arms, it would be that the game I played was a finely crafted, if unoriginal, sci-fi shooter. Every aspect of the game has quality shining through it. The single-player, basic story aside, is at heart a fun and enjoyable game. The same can be said about the multiplayer.
Still, the game seemed to lack that special ingredient that kept my coming back for more. When I started playing the game, I had a great time, but there wasn’t anything there to really draw me into the game or to keep playing once I reached certain areas.
But the fact of the matter is that Metal Arms is a great game, one of the better third-person games I’ve played on console. The inclusion of Multiplayer adds a colorful bow to an already excellent gaming package. A definite rental and an enthusiastic buy if you adore the third person perspective.