Genre: 3rd Person Action
Publisher: Sierra / Vivendi
Developer: Swingin’ Ape Studios
Release Date: November 18, 2003
This is the Droid you've been looking for.
Metal Arms: Glitch in the System comes to us as a debut effort of Swinging Ape studios. You've probably never heard of them, but from here on out they have established themselves as a top flight design house who will have Microsoft and Sony banging down doors with exclusivity contracts in hand while Nintendo dawdles around wondering how an American design team could out-design a Japanese one…again.
Metal Arms (herein referred to as MA) is a platforming-vehicle-adventure-shooter. Got that? Be aware that this is no jack of all genres, master of none; Metal Arms reflects a new way of thinking about game design where shooters don't have to be just shooters and that atmosphere and story count for something. I thought I was coming to my end as a gamer. Things seemed to be drying up. To me, everything "hot" was merely a gimmick or all style and no substance, and then Glitch showed up. What made this game such an experience was not only the blending of so many genres into a seamless composition, but the pacing at which these twists come.
I-Ninja was a good example of a game where genre jumps came along, but they were few and far between and very predictable. With MA Glitch, your heroic little Droid engineer/trooper, tromps along into driving section followed by a raucous romp of platform jumping leading you to a little adventure stint that ends with an epic boss battle. This stretch of gameplay doesn't merely describe one section; it describes the flow of the entire game. It all makes sense. An enemy grunt with coordinates to your secret base makes a run for it across a canyon, hop into your trusty RAT (Rapid Armor Transport) and chase after the rusting sonuvb!tch. He takes a short cut across a zombie-bot infested wasteland? Crap. Hop out and go after him. Got the secret chip? Great, now hop into this defense cannon turret and hold off wave after wave of enemy tanks and airplane thingies. The whole game flows like this from the very start to the very end. It's an awesome overall experience from start to finish.
MA is laden with characters. Glitch, the protagonist, is feisty but then again, who wants to play a meek main character? You've also got Zobby, his robot dog who is faithful but always running off. You take your orders from Colonel Alloy who sounds disturbingly like Rip Torn. Doctor Exavolt is the eccentric robotic genius who you're trying to find and escape with, he's down in Morbot city (play the game to find out!). Then you have quite possibly one of the funniest video game characters in recent memory, Krunk. Krunk is a mechanical genius if not a very grumpy and foul mouthed one whose voice is delivered by none other than Hank Azaria (you know him better as Homer Simpson). You're gunning after the evil General Corrosive who, with his army of Mil Bots, is trying to take over the Iron Star (your planet, duh). You run into some other buddies along the way like Agent Shhh and your friendly neighborhood gear dealers Shady and Mister Pockets, who have an odd tendency to show up in the most dangerous yet convenient places to sell you new upgrades.
Gameplay for MA is straight forward. Run around with the left thumb stick, aim with the right, select new weapons with the Circle Button, new grenades with the Square Button, jump or double jump with the X Button. The Dualshock 2 isn't the most precise of analog controllers and I found control slippage to affect my accuracy, but with the PS2 that is to be expected. The 3rd Person camera was very effective at staying out of my way except when I was backed into a corner. Many times when bigger, badder Mil Bots like Titans or Elite Guards rolled mob deep on me I was backed into a corner and staring at ankles and resigned to my fate. There was a slight issue when driving the RAT when the camera seemed to get stuck at zero degrees behind the vehicle making it impossible to see what was ahead of me, but that only happened once. Load times are normal for a PS2 and the game doesn't take up an obnoxious amount of memory card space.
In terms of equipment, it seems like the game is limited at first. Don't worry, soon you'll have more gear to worry about than is comfortable. You'll find that your modified mining laser is quickly outclassed by the SPEW gun, especially when you get it upgraded, but the rocket launcher is a great asset and once you get the rivet gun upgraded you'll find that very handy as well. Nothing compares to the Control Tether, though. This is one of Krunk's little creations and it allows you to take over another robot. You need to sneak up from behind, but if you tag the bugger then it is all yours to lay ruin on those Mil Bot suckers and what's more is Glitch is rendered invulnerable while you traipse around in your commandeered Mil Bot.
In terms of graphics, MA falls victim to muddy textures and dim lighting. The environments are expansive and varied in their architecture, just wait until you see Morbot City beneath the surface, wow. Everything in the cut scenes are done in engine and have a very dramatic and cinematic flare. The graphical limitations of PS2 are not as apparent here, seems like Swinging Ape was able to clean things up for these little moments. I also did notice a good deal of dithering and jaggies, but again these are primarily limitations of the hardware that we come across in most PS2 games these days and when you have a multiplatform game like this these shortcomings are even more apparent, however they could be a lot worse.
The game sounds are great. The voice acting is very good and actually very funny. Krunk's constant cursing (like that alliteration?) complete with its bleeps is hilarious and your Droid Rebellion buddies are pretty cute too. I cracked up several times when Mil Bot grunts screamed like little girls when they saw that I was about to wreck shop (they even try and run away). The music is a little generic but it is timed well with the game's flow and gets you excited.
Where the PS2 comes up short is in multiplayer. This game would be an absolute blast if you could play with more than two players. At least a four player split screen would've sufficed, but with only two player split screen I was bummed out. For a game like MA where running and gunning is so easy and fun, multiplayer would have launched it to instant classic and this game would've been crazy glued into DVD drives for years to come across dorm rooms nationwide.
All in all, Metal Arms: Glitch in the System is an awesome game. It flexes great graphics despite being limited by PS2's hardware and multiplatform snags. The only major weakness to this game is the lack of multiplayer. If you own multiple systems, you may want to check this game out on either Gamecube or X-Box as well to see which one you like the best. I've played a X-Box version for comparison and that version suffers from texture tearing, but its multiplayer game can support up to eight players via a system link and on Gamecube you can rock at least a four player game. If you only own a PS2 then by all means, check this one out. I'd put it down as my sleeper hit of the year.
Score : 9.0/10
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