Webcomics, Video Games, Books, Geek Toys, and Life in General

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Metal Arms: Glitch In The System

For fans of the first-person-shooter--read "Halo groupies"--there is an underrated game out there that you're missing. When I say that you're missing it, I really mean: you don't know what you're missing.

Ignorance really is bliss, and so I should probably not even tell you about this game, if only to spare you the anxiety of deciding whether to risk your hard-earned cash on it, followed by the solid week of torment it will take you to conquer the game. Picture yourself, a once-proud Master Chief already having tamed scores of Elites and Brutes--to say nothing of the floods of Flood--and fresh from visiting destruction on your friends in a wild array of multi-player match-ups. You are a demi-god of tactical weaponry, a sly crack-shot and a wisecracker. You fear nothing.

Now picture yourself approximately one-hundred-and-sixty-eight hours later, spittle flying from your mouth at the TV screen as you struggle for some explanation as to why you are coming in second place--again--to Vlax the Speedy (outrunning you through the ruins and holding the key to your destruction in his hands), or to the JunkBot King (the wheezing incarnation of industrial offal), or to General Corrosive (the dreadnought of the end-game) himself. It's not a pretty sight. Doubtless there are those of you out there who whisper inwardly, "He's exaggerating; anyone who has beaten Halo on Legendary as many times as I have will have no trouble dispatching these cartoonish morons he describes."

To these infidels, I say, "You know nothing of hell."

I know, I know, just get to the game already, right? Before I do, let me just say that I will confine my remarks here to the single-player experience; however, if you buy this game I will come to YOU to play the multi-player, which is worth another whole article.

First, a brief plot:

On planet Iron Star, a planet inhabited entirely by robots, a scientist named Dr. Exavolt is experimenting with super-robots: large, powerful, and apparently unstoppable. Inevitably, one gets out of control, and Dr. Exavolt goes missing, his lab in ruins. The super-robot he was working on--Corrosive--declares himself General Corrosive, and the battle for control of the planet begins.

Running out of robots to fuel the front lines of this planetary war, a colonel and his rag-tag forces stumble upon a scrapped robot, re-boot him, label him "Glitch," and enlist him in the battle close to home: Droid Town. Mils, the military robots under the command of Corrosive, are everywhere, destroying any resistance robot that surfaces. As Glitch, you are primarily concerned--at first--with exterminating enough of these trigger-happy trolls to keep Droid Town on the map.

In both games, the player learns to perform certain functions faster--such as switching guns or reloading--and both games force the player to use different tactics or tools to approach each new setting. Another similarity is the stepping-up of weapons and vehicles throughout the game. You're not handed everything at once.

"Yeah, so how is it different from Halo?" Good question.

Metal Arms vs. Halo

In Halo, there is little actual thinking involved; it is chiefly a game of reflexes, speed, and accuracy. Halo can be played mindlessly, shooting everything that moves. You are not even given a map because the landscape requires you to move from point A to point B in a particular pattern in order to encounter each wave of Covenant forces. Oh, don't misunderstand me: there's nothing WRONG with that!

However, while self-defense remains a priority throughout both games, there is a strong element of problem-solving in Metal Arms that is absent from Halo. Metal Arms requires you to pay attention; several moments in the game will stump you--literally halting your progress until you figure out what you missed. There are switches and doors, hidden items to acquire, and carefully planned moments of extreme vulnerability--no stock-piling ammunition in this game, at least not for the first twenty levels. (Oh yeah, there are over fifty levels.) I could tell you some stories about Metal Arms--but they'd be real spoilers, folks.

The problem-solving could be a turn-off for some. After all, it's hard to think while manipulating TWO weapons and just TWO types of grenades! Why, that's FOUR things you have to keep up with--and now someone's going to ask you to think? In Metal Arms, you have half-a-dozen types of grenades, a dozen or more weapons (that you can carry with you instead of choosing which one to put down everytime you pick one up), and on top of the usual amount of indecision--which weapon is gonna really demolish this scumbag--they ask you to examine the landscape, make decisions before you act, and figure out problems that may send you all the way back to the beginning of a level.

"Yeah, yeah, we get it, the game requires a brain. Tell us about the GUNS."

Hold on a sec. This isn't just some shooter. Think outside the Halo, here, people.

Not only does Metal Arms boast more weapon-types than Halo, the weapons UPGRADE as you go. Each new level guarantees an almost RPG-like improvement on your little robot and his sidearms. Here are just a few examples:


More batteries: As you fight, your battery winds down and must be recharged; but as you journey through the levels you find additional batteries! Not just additional energy--additional batteries! So, although you start with one battery and have to recharge it over and over, by the end of the game you acquire six batteries and need recharging less frequently.

More weapons: Obviously the mining laser they give you at the beginning of the game is a piece of stuff, so you acquire some brilliantly conceived weaponry as you go. My favorite: the rivet gun. So sweet. Distant seconds: the rocket launcher, the flame-thrower, the SPEW (don't ask), and the slingshot. Oh, yes. There's a slingshot. But, what do you sling? Grenades. (Just stop reading and go buy it, people.)

Weapon upgrades: Even the first-level rivet gun is tight, to be sure. But when you get to that third-level gun with the super-scope and the ability to time the explosion of the bolts ... it almost brings a tear to your eye. Upgrading the weapons means three things: the power or calibre of the amunition, the distance and accuracy (including the scope), and the amount of amunition that can be carried with it.

Gears: Your robot, Glitch, can have gears added to him that allow him to move faster, switch weapons faster, and so forth. Your own reflexes will do this job well enough, I'm sure, but think of the gears as well-deserved recognition.

Shopping: You know what else is missing from Halo? The opportunistic Covenant guy who hides out with a bunch of stolen stuff and sells it to the highest bidder. Well, Metal Arms didn't miss out on this action! Two guys named Shady and Mister Pockets have an arsenal of weapons, upgrades, and other useful items to sell, and they pop up a dozen times throughout the game. You can hear their boom-box playing sometimes, and if you're hard up for bullets or computer chips--or if you just want to see if you can turn your mining laser into an explosive cannon of dismemberment--you follow the sound of the boom-box until you find them hanging out behind a bunker or in a tunnel. Pockets sets up his table and you buy what you need.

What do you use for cash?

Washers. Basically the harvested remains of the legions of lugnuts you have recently dispatched. Pick them up along the way--or find a cheat code online--and you can buy almost anything you need from those two bottom-feeders. Anyone getting a really strong Thenardier-vibe from that?


Another big difference between Metal Arms and Halo is the way that weapons are controlled by the triggers. Your right trigger is your primary weapon, your left trigger is your secondary weapon; that much the two games have in common. In Metal Arms, however, you have a much wider selection of weapons (mostly grenades, yes, but wait for it) devoted to that left trigger; also, the way in which you can scroll through and match up your primary and secondary weapons in Metal Arms leaves Halo in the cold. Not only can you pair up your weaponry choices before going around that corner, but get this: you can program your preferences and dual-switch on the fly!

Let me repeat that: you can program your weapon selections and switch them on the fly--both at the same time--in the heat of battle. If I need rocket-launcher-plus-cleaners for one room, but I will need SPEWs-plus-EMP-grenades for the next room (and you will ... you will) I can stand in the hall, pair up the first set, program my flat-pad for one-touch switching, pair up the next set, program the flat-pad, and then do TWO MORE sets. Here are my typical settings:

Up: SPEW-plus-coring-charges
Right: Scatter-blaster-plus-EMPs
Down: Rivet-gun-plus-super-scope*
Left: Rocket-launcher-plus-cleaners
*The super-scope in this game is a left-hand weapon that you can add to MOST of your weapons, turning them into deadly-accurate tools instead of just sprays of ineffectual ammo (cough) ASSAULT RIFLE (cough).

I can be heavily engaged with a squad of Mils on the ground using my SPEW, one-tap to rockets to take out the giant-flying-thing that I'm not even going to explain in this article, one-tap to rivets for disarming the sentries at a distance, and then back to SPEWs all in a few seconds (no complicated scrolling or button-combinations), and I don't even need to stop shooting! In some levels, the variety of enemy robots you face requires this much planning. Like I said, it's not Halo--but like Halo, when you need a particular weapon, someone drops it or gives it to you. Or you just pry it out of their cold, dead hands. (These are robots, people. Their hands are always cold.)


And, oh, the weapons that they give you. Just the highlights, people, or we'll be here all day--and then there would be no glorious surprises in the game:

Rivet Gun: This is like the pistol from the original Halo. It's accurate up-close and from a distance, can be used with the scope, and in the final stage of its upgrade ... its ammunition becomes remotely controlled explosive devices. Open up a can of that.

Slingshot: Another innovation that Halo didn't have--although rocket launchers was apparently good enough for most of us--was a grenade launcher. The slingshot in MA is for accurately launching grenades across great distances. It is pivotal for at least one level of the game--but for the rest of the game it is just fun! I might even go as far as to say ... super-fun!

Scatter Blaster: No game is complete without a shotgun. Halo taught us that. In fact, for the group I play with, it becomes the coveted weapon all too quickly. That is what the Scatter Blaster is for MA. Ah, but what can you NOT do in Halo? You can't turn that shotgun into an automatic! On the third upgrade, not only is the Scatter Blaster the most powerful punch you can deliver ... it also repeats at three blasts per second, delivering a veritable air-quake of lead to your enemies. Hey, you're gonna need it when you reach the JunkBot King.

And the weapon that's the clincher ...

The Tether: On your side in this war is a guy named Crunk who is a foul-mouthed mechanic--don't worry, they bleep him--and Crunk has designed a weapon called The Tether that allows you to "hack" into another robot. You sneak up on a robot, shoot this "tether" into his D-port (an interface usually located high on their shoulder or neck), and suddenly you are INSIDE the robot, running it by remote control. The best part of some of these levels is hacking into robot after robot--the bad guys--and then using them as cannon fodder for breaking down the enemy lines--their own lines! Enemy robots keep coming up to you and saying, "Where are you going? What are your orders? You're breaking ranks!" And just about the time they figure it out, you open fire! It's like toasting marshmallows.


Just the variety of grenades--that alone--should be enough to entice you away from Halo. If there was one thing I would change about Halo, it would be the boring choices of grenades. One bounces off stuff, the other sticks. Great. Take a lesson from Metal Arms, Bungie!

Here are (again, just the highlights) a few of the grenades available in MA:

EMP grenades: How useful would these be in Halo?! They shut down anything electrical in a certain radius. To me, that means we'd all be defenseless--no shields--but guess what? Only my gun would be working--that beautiful antique Sulu described as "lead pellets fired from a chemical explosion"--and you know what that means? Pistol party!

Magma grenades: Sort of like a Molotov cocktail. Let your imagination run wild on that for a minute.

Cleaners: These are actually small, flying robots that deliver (on your instructions) targeted missiles to one or two of your adversaries while you remain safely hidden, perhaps laughing and imagining the look on his face. All you have to do is get one tiny glimpse of the guy you want obliterated in order to target him; then you get back in cover and toss the cleaner out--in any direction--and it homes in on the guy, flies up above him a little in the air and then delivers your "message" like a pigeon delivers its tidings to a statue. Fun is had all around.

And last, but not least ... wait for it ...

Recruiter grenades: In order to keep the game from becoming a slice of pie, these only work on certain types of robots. What do they do? They put every robot in a certain radius on YOUR side indefinitely. Toss one near a Titan--the juggernaut of the game for about the first ten levels, until you reach the really BIG robots--and suddenly everyone's screaming and running away from your new best friend. (I think I'll name him "Smashy!")

The Morbots

I don't want to ruin this game for you completely, but there is also a mysterious element to Metal Arms--which they never dispel--and that is the origin of Glitch himself. He is different from the other robots, and he has markings on him that suggest he belongs to a race of robots called the Morbots, who live deep in the planet. When you journey underground to the land of the Morbots, the scenery alone will impress you just as much as Halo's does.

Okay, that's enough of my yap. This game took me longer to play, gave me more to talk about, and engaged my mind more than Halo. I think the only reason it's a sleeper hit is that Halo launched in a package with the XBox--everyone got hooked. If Metal Arms had been packaged with the original XBox, I think we would all be waiting around for Metal Arms III right now.

Go find this game and thank me when you surface from it.


Anonymous Stormy said...

Wow. Your full geekosity really came through with this one. I'll have to look at you in a whole new light now.

8:15 AM

Blogger 011010110 said...

I agree; this one's pretty geeky. Wait till you read the one about Rainbow Six and SW: Republic Commando.

11:42 AM

Anonymous Cam said...

Just finished Star Wars: Republic Commando Friday. *Loved* it!

Your Metal Arms fanboy post is pretty compelling. You've practically written a complete game guide. I'm adding Metal Arms to my GameCube wish list. But I have to play F.E.A.R. and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion first. So how kid friendly is Metal Arms? And how's the multiplayer--compared to say, Halo 2 or Timesplitters 2--keeping in mind that the GC doesn't connect online. And do you have to unlock all the multiplayer content?

9:47 PM

Anonymous Mike, Sr. said...

What a dork. Seriously. It sounds like a blast, but I have PS2 and don't see the money for a new game coming in soon. Let alone a new system.

2:43 PM

Blogger Bobby Malone said...

Zombiebots ftw!!

great to hear some people giving this game the attention it deserves

i've finished it 4 times allready and i'm still not sick of it

lets hope we get a sequel

2:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking for information and found it at this great site... »

7:02 AM


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home