Metal Arms: Glitch In The Systemby Stephen Cameron
August 6, 2003
You know, there are a lot of great pleasures in life, but nothing makes me happier than getting my hands on a game preview before anyone else gets a chance to see it. Actually that isn't true, there is something even better. and that is getting my hands on an AWESOME preview before anyone else gets the chance to see it! Don't despair though, this game will be out soon for everyone to enjoy. The game I had the privilege to preview was Swingin' Apes Studio's upcoming robotic shooter, Metal Arms: a Glitch in the System.
Now some of you might not be familiar with the name "Swingin' Apes" and to be honest neither was I until I did this preview. The majority of this studio broke off from Midway and together developed their first game, the arcade aqua - racer HydroThunder. Now they are arriving on the Xbox scene to deliver what looks to be one of the most solid platform games available yet. Swingin' Apes and their publisher, Vivendi Universal Games, brought their preview build of Metal Arms to E3 for all to try. Unfortunately with so many games on the floor not a lot of time was spent with Metal Arms, but I did see enough to procure an interest in it. I was incredibly enthusiastic to find out I would be able to test it even further and have now put some serious play time into it, and am pleased with the results.
First off, the scope of the demo is not very big. It consists of three levels, minimal video and practically no plot. The good thing is that it does include a vast array of terrain, a slew of weapons and does a good job introducing many of the gameplay elements that will be incorporated into the final product. The style the game presents at first is definitely a little perplexing. When you start you see you have this playful, toy-like, cute looking robot and a team of other cute looking robots. Your team of cuteness then proceeds to demolish, destroy and wreak havoc and carnage on other robots through the use of bullets, explosives, sharp objects and generally any other destructive device you could ever think of. Luckily, this contradiction in the look of the game is quickly overlooked when you realize just how fun the game is.
So what makes this game so fun? Well, I am going to go out on a limb and make a very bold statement here and say this: Metal Arms is the best 3D platform game I have played to date. I find it more fun than any Nintendo 64 platformer or any other platform game since then. Now this game might not end up being the best 3D platform game of all time (as it has some stiff competition from other upcoming games such as Prince of Persia) but from the looks of what I saw it is definitely going to be a must-own for anyone who enjoys this type of game. One of the biggest improvements seen in this game as compared to other games in the same genre is this: they slowed down the gameplay. While this does mean that the action is drawn out a little more than usual, it also means you aren't going to be accidentally running off tall ledges all of the time. It is easy to judge a jump and then execute it without landing 3 stories below where you wanted to be.
Of course the well-paced gameplay isn't all that makes this game as great as it is. At your disposal is a staggering array of deadly weaponry that you can mangle the other 'bots with. In the demo there was plenty of ammunition to choose from, including pistols, many types of rifles, chain guns, saw blade launchers. and even a slingshot that launched extremely high explosive devices (I took a bridge out with this slingshot). Glitch also has a decent array of secondary weapons such as grenades, EMP explosives, and one of the coolest features of the game, a control tether. Whenever you use this tether you will gain command of a robot and can use it as you please. One of my favorite uses was letting it scout ahead of me and laughing when a group of enemies opened fire and obliterated it in a matter of seconds. Of course now I knew where the enemies were, so a few explosive charges around a corner and I was set. As most people know, the gameplay is sometimes only as good as the level design, and this is another place that Metal Arms has shown it knows it's stuff. There were 3 levels in the demo (The same demo that was shown at E3 this year) and they were the Mil City Hub, some ruins, and some R&D labs. One of the nicest things about these levels was the scope of them and how interactive they were. Bridges could be destroyed, towers toppled and plenty of other carnage can be wreaked. The physics engine in the game also looked to be up to par as the structural collapses and robotic explosions were very realistic and very satisfying to watch. Sometimes if you are really slick you can cause structures to collapse on robots making them explode. which is where the real fun is!
There are plenty of other features in this game that take it up a few more notches. There are certain vehicles that can be controlled (though there wasn't a whole lot of this in the demo) and Sierra has announced multiplayer gaming. Right now everything is looking good for Metal Arms. It has the graphics, sound and gameplay to make it a winner. but unfortunately this does look like one of those titles doomed to be a sleeper hit. As I mentioned before, the target audience of this game is a little difficult to determine and that might actually stop people from trying this game though they might really like it. If you happen to be a serious 3D platform game fan, overlook the cartoonish main character design and keep an eye on this game. If you have an eight-year-old child and are looking at this game. you might want to consider something else.