Metal Arms begins with the reassembly of Glitch, a lowly robot made up of scrap metal whose stature pails against his arch enemy, General Corrosive. Glitch can wield a multitude of chain machineguns and rocket launchers but his chief weapon is a tether that can be used to hijack enemy robots. Through this tether, you gain a remote drone and all of the capabilities the target robot has.
This feature actually reminds me a lot of Interplay's Messiah, where the baby cherub protagonist would assume the bodies of others. Metal Arms is far more action oriented though. Corrosive's army of followers will come at a good pace. For a third-person action game, the puzzles and obstacles are kept at a minimum. The emphasis truly is on the gunfire. Plenty of spam-ridden explosions are thrown in to make destruction visceral. Location specific damage enables you to knock out certain parts of droids and adds to the challenge of the game.
Metal Arms takes place on a faraway planet called Iron Star, a world that is controlled by a tyrannical militaristic robot leader. Corrosive is responsible for killing the original robot makers and converting the factories to produce instruments of war. Glitch just happens to be caught in the system as the subtitle denotes.
This game is designed by developers who have a specific path of gameplay in mind. This means you'll have to go through the level a few times to learn the lay of the land so to speak. It follows that the higher the difficulty level, the more times you'll have to go through each level. You can't deviate from it either, as there's little room for error or deviation. Metal Arms is not what you would call an easy game and if you can live with this type of trial and error approach, you'll be rewarded in the end by some pleasurable gameplay.
Metal Arms also features split screen multiplayer. It has no specific online support, for example on the Xbox or PlayStation 2 platforms, which is a pity since the multiplayer mode is polished, more than capable of supporting more than the four players allotted on a television screen. Instead of the usual deathmatch or team competitive options, the developers have come up with seven multiplayer modes that should provide plenty of smash talking fun. Since there's no downloadable content, the only expansion features are unlockable maps via the single player component.
Graphically, Metal Arms is an engaging visual feast of explosions, druids and special effects. The artists have spent a lot of time in making Glitch and the others look cute, but clearly the subject matter won't be appealing beyond the typical male audience. In summary, Metal Arms looks like a class act, easily able to match the top tier holiday offerings from other publishers.
One thing that will work against Metal Arms is its high profile competitors. There are other futuristic robot games available, notably the sequel to Ratchet and Clank, and given the constant commercials I see on television for the latter, this could be a deciding factor on whether we will see follow ups for Glitch (no pun intended).
It'd be a shame not to. The audio effects for Metal Arms are competently done. There's good use of surround and the weapons have a satisfying bass oomph to them. Those who own a home theater system will appreciate the care put into sound. Those who don't, the holidays or post Christmas rush is a good time to start picking up one.
The only real problem I see with Metal Arms is the storyline that wraps up this technically impressive title. I can't fault the trial and error linear game design - some people like it, some people hate it, but I can fault Metal Arms for not fleshing out a memorable story. Yes, Glitch fits the archetype of the David versus Goliath hero. He is smaller. He's made out of scrap parts. He isn't the military equal of Corrosive. But the Glitch character isn't developed any further. The unlikely hero is just tasked to slog through the rest of the forty missions dismantling the security apparatus that Corrosive has put up.
In this day and age, we see film noir stories like Max Payne 2 or conspiracy-ridden tales like Deus Ex: Invisible War. These are sophisticated plotlines that could belong on the silver screen. Simply including the unlikely hero archetype alone is not going to pull off a franchise maker for Vivendi Universal.
However, if you like your action served up raw and unadulterated, there are plenty of whiz bangs in Metal Arms to satisfy everyone.