Genre: 3rd Person Action
Publisher: Sierra / Vivendi
Developer: Swingin’ Ape Studios
Release Date: November 18, 2003
When the Xbox hit in late 2001, its biggest title was Halo. The game, if for some reason you don't know, was a first-person-shooter that made console shooters feasible for the first time since Goldeneye did years before it. It introduced a control scheme that worked - you could move entirely with the left analog stick, and look around freely with the right stick. It offered the slick ability to hop in vehicles without any pauses, which controlled just as intuitively as moving around in first-person mode. Just as importantly, the game had great AI - both enemies and allies acted realistically and worked together. It's surprising that more games haven't borrowed ideas from Halo - the game is still arguably the best the Xbox has to offer, over two years after it's release.
Metal Arms: Glitch in the System immediately reminded me of Halo in many ways, but the game is also very different. For starters, the storyline is much different: all of the characters in the game are robots (and rather foul-mouthed ones at that!). You control Glitch, a worker at a mining facility that is being invaded by enemy bots. You're called in to help out, but end up being one of the best fighters any of the robots have ever seen. The story is progressed through cut-scenes between levels, or the occasional scripted element in the game. It's pretty cool to see two of your allies run ahead of you into enemy territory, only to trip a bomb and explode before your eyes. The game has very cool little moments like that spread throughout it.
The game is actually played in the third-person, but it could just as soon be a first-person-shooter. Glitch is slightly to the left of the middle of the screen as to prevent any obstructions to your vision. Just as in Halo, you move Glitch with the left stick and look around with the right. You have an assortment of guns and explosives to deal out damage, and can even hijack a number of vehicles that will hopefully help you in your mission. The AI is fairly good, too; enemies rarely make dumb moves or stay in dangerous areas, and your buddies will help you fight to the best of their ability (you can even choose to dismiss them if you feel it is too dangerous for them to follow you). A cute addition is the fact that you can blow off the robots' various body parts with well-aimed shots, rendering them useless. You can even blow off their head, leaving a pair of legs running around blindly. Not only is it a bit humorous, it can make your job considerably easier if you have good aim!
An interesting touch comes in the few RPG elements the game offers. Every so often, you come across two merchant droids that will sell you a variety of products. They sell supplies like health and ammunition, but you can also purchase weapons or weapon upgrades! Glitch has relatively useless guns in early levels as compared to the ones he uses as the game progresses. He's also fairly weak, but you can fix that by finding items that add more room to your life meter, a very cool touch. The only problem with these is that they are often hidden, or at least subtly out of view - one time I came across one by jumping into a crate completely by accident.
The level design is pretty good. You'll travel through mines, elevator shafts, boiler rooms, areas above-ground with a lot of machinery, and much more - oftentimes just within a single level. Occasionally you need to find a chip (which is really just a key) to progress, but you also get to solve some more innovative little puzzles by using your weapons. For example, one gun you find shoots peculiar razor-blades as ammunition, and the only way to get over a large gap in one room is to use this gun to slice the cords holding up some vents towards the ceiling. The vents come crashing down and create a bridge that you can safely walk across. I loved the little events like these. There are also some weird machines that allow you to take control of some kind of other robot from a distance. In one spot, the machine is located next to a huge window that shows a view of a room full of machinery and patrolling robots. The robot you take control of is in that room, and when you sacrifice the robot by diving into a chipset of one of the machines, it causes a series of explosions that you can then view gleefully behind the safety of the glass window.
The graphics in the game are quite solid. Environments are well-detailed, made up of smooth objects and sharp textures. Animation of Glitch and the other robots is very nice - animation is an important part in making any characters believable, and the game really made me despise those sneaky robot enemies. The only thing that really needs work is the lighting. While I enjoyed the lighting of certain areas, you'll have to rely on Glitch's flash-light for places shrouded in darkness. The flashlight casts a solid circle of light that just plain looks bad and doesn't help your vision a lot. Strafing is a big no-no when relying on your flashlight - I suffered an unfortunate number of deaths from slipping off into some water or lava. (Speaking of instant deaths - your health bar should be bigger, or there should be some kind of notification sound when you're close to death - far too many times have I died because I wasn't paying any attention to the tiny little bar in the top left of the screen.)
Sound is rather good. Music doesn't accompany you the entire time, but when it shows up it is rather catchy and works well. The voice-acting in the cut-scenes is good, too, and the game has some funny dialogue. Many of the robots love to offend those who find swearing offensive, and the only safe-guard for worried mothers is a quick, almost-pointless censoring bleep. I'm not even sure why it was implemented, honestly. Sound effects are fine, though; explosions are impressive enough, gunshots are loud and nice, and everything else seems to fit properly.
Glitch does borrow heavily from Halo, but it is a much different game. The storyline and basic feel of the game is much different, not to mention the setting and characters. But the gameplay is largely similar, in both the gunplay and vehicular, err, 'bot-slaughter. Some nice touches are here, though, in the RPG elements and clever little puzzles you must solve to progress. Even though the game is in the third-person, if you enjoy first-person shooters you will most likely enjoy Metal Arms. It's not exactly teeming with innovation, but it is fun enough to warrant at least a rental for those interested.
Score : 8.3/10
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