It's a good thing that Metal Arms' action is so dynamic and satisfying, because you'll be playing the same sequences a lot. To put it simply, this game is hard. Metal Arms features several difficulty levels, but even on the baseline "normal" setting you'll sometimes have to replay a given area 10 or 15 times before you can learn every enemy position and strategize a path to victory. Sometimes it feels like the enemies have an unfair leg up on you--they can often run faster than Glitch and have exceedingly powerful armaments, and some of the larger ones are unpleasantly hard to kill. But if you can bear some repetition, you'll eventually master a tough area and move on to the next one. On that 15th try, when you finally lay waste to every robot bastard in your path, the game is intensely satisfying.
There are a number of variations on the gameplay that pop up every so often and help alleviate some of the pain of the combat. In one mission, you have to drive a high-speed vehicle through a desert path and catch up with a fleeing robot in a short period of time. Another mission has you taking control of a truly massive bot named Mozer--in this level, the same tough enemies you found so vexing in the previous mission are summarily crushed under your giant boot heel. You can also take control of dumb enemy robots and make them do your dirty work, although they're quite weak, and once they're discovered, the other Mils will waste no time destroying them. game isn't online, but it features pretty decent four-player multiplayer that contains several diverse modes, and you'll be able to unlock more maps for the competitive mode by performing well in the single-player campaign. Overall, even though Metal Arms' core combat is so entertaining, the side action bits are a nice addition that help move the game along rather than drag it down.
Metal Arms' Mil Bots are some tough customers.
For a multiplatform game, the quality of Metal Arms' graphics is pretty wide-ranging across the three platforms. The Xbox version is far and away the best looking of the three--it features lots of nice dynamic lighting and some subtle textural effects on its surfaces, such as highlights on metal. The GameCube version is actually not too far behind the Xbox version--it looks almost as good in terms of effects, though its frame rate is noticeably lower. Alas, the PS2 version of Metal Arms really brings up the rear, since it lacks even much of the basic lighting that makes the other two versions look good, and it suffers from serious frame rate problems during intense battles. The character art style and level design that underpin the three games are pretty solid. All of the robot designs are cute and wacky, and they behave comically when they're fighting, which is a nice mood-lightener. Finally, the sound effects and voice acting in the game are all top-notch. The weapons, explosions, clanks, and clangs all sound great and give the combat even more impact. A lot of the game's humor comes from the voice acting, which is superb throughout--even the hilarious screams of the frantic Mil grunts are funny and never get tiresome, and the cutscenes feature voices with a lot of personality. However, Metal Arms loses points in the sound department for its amazing dearth of music, since there's hardly any in the game at all.
Metal Arms: Glitch in the System is a much better action game than you might expect just from judging it by its unassuming main character. If you can appreciate the visual style (which is contrasted by adult language and imagery), and you can handle the cycle of frustration and repetition easily, you'll find a surprisingly deep combat experience in the game. Anyone looking for an intense and rewarding shooter should give Metal Arms a try.
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