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Bargain Bin Laden #23: Metal Arms: Glitch in the System

1:19 PM on 08.26.2007 // Jim Sterling

Hi gang, once again I'm holding down the fort while much of the staff are out of the office, which is why I'm covering Aaron Linde's Bargain Bin Laden post for today. I'm very pleased to be able to write it this week as well, for it gives me the chance to talk about a game that may very well enjoy a place in Mr. Anthony's games that time forgot. Not only is it an utter classic, it's also quite tragically less than known in the gaming world, despite being one of the most hardcore, challenging and above all, amusing games of the last generation.

I merely happened upon a website ad for the game many years ago while scouring the Internet and was instantly intrigued by the character design that was shown. Deciding to follow up on the game, I became more and more excited for what I was reading about -- predominantly robot-on-robot carnage, with a tongue-in-cheek twist. That game was Metal Arms: Glitch in the System, a tale of metallic uprising, body hacking and a game that never gets the recognition it damn well deserves.

Hit the jump for more. 

Metal Arms: Glitch in the System (Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube)
Developed by:
Swingin' Ape Studios
November 18, 2003
Bargain Binned:
$6.99 at Gamestop, 100 Goozex points
When you talk about original IPs that never sold as well as they should have, Beyond Good & Evil is always the first to come to mind. For me, however, that thought goes hand-in-hand with Metal Arms, a game that was released in the same year -- the same month, in fact -- as Ubisoft's cult classic. However, those people who lament BG&E will be hard pressed to remember Metal Arms. Perhaps it's because the art style made it look, misleadingly, like a children's title. Perhaps it's because it just wasn't promoted heavily enough. Regardless, the reason why this game is so cheap and BBL-worthy is because it sold so poorly and was being sold for cheap very soon after it came out.
It's a shame too, because Glitch in the System is one of the most intense, action packed and entertaining shooters you could ever hope to find. You take on the role of Glitch, an ancient robot recently re-activated by a droid rebellion who are fighting the despotic reign of General Corrosive, a giant metal psycho who ruthlessly rules over the world of Iron Star. You go up against his Milbot army, sometimes aided by friends, sometimes with vehicular help, but always with over-the-top violence in mind. 
Make no mistake, despite how this game looks, it's not a children's title. For one thing, no child could play this thing for long, it's that hardcore. The focus is on sheer chaos as you run around each level, blasting Milbots to pieces (literally) and trying not to get exploded in the process. This is no easy process, and Metal Arms will provide you with a very heavy challenge that won't be overcome in a matter of seconds. Unlike many games that try to be hard for hard's sake, however, the challenge is one to relish and Metal Arms is so damn charming and addictive that you never really mind getting beaten down time and time again ... much.
One old review for the game praised how Swingin' Ape was able to get away with gratuitous violence through the fact that robots were the victims, and this is true. With guns like the ripper, for instance, you can shred limbs from your enemies, and slowly take them apart piece by piece. The Milbots will continue to fight as well, and it's quite amusing to see them hopping desperately on one leg, and systematically being obliterated. Every weapon in this game is a joy to use, from the shotgun-like scatter blaster to the explosive arrow-firing rivet gun, and can all be upgraded the max out the carnage. 
The Milbot foes are fantastic, as well. With the help of tremendous voice acting, their screams of pain and cries for mercy, as well as insults and heckling made me instantly fall in love with the guys, once declaring them among the greatest videogame foes I'd ever encountered. What's more, you're able to 'possess' them at various points of the game. If you can attack a Mil from behind, you'll get a chance to hack into their bodies and take over, using each type of Mil's unique weaponry against your enemies. 
You also get your hands on various vehicles throughout the game as well. While utilizing the tanks is a lot of fun, the actual dedicated driving levels fall short and could have been cut altogether. Not only are they frustrating, the controls are terrible. While clunky movements and control schemes work well when you're playing a robot, they're not so good for driving your R.A.T in what are already very difficult circumstances. I'd have liked to have seen these sequences either tightened up, or removed from the final game.
While I mention the clunky handling, that is something you'll need to get accustomed to. Glitch moves very much like what he is  -- an old, chunky robot -- and players will need to get used to the way he controls. Once you get it, however, you don't notice and the loose, twitchy feel of the gameplay quickly ceases to become a detriment.
Graphically, the thing looked damn good for its time. The art style that first caught my eyes remains consistently enjoyable throughout, and each robot looks cohesively designed with a quasi-cartoon style that gives Metal Arms a really lively and lighthearted, but clunky and metallic feel. The sound effects also make it feel like you're really hitting stuff while Glitch's heavy footsteps give you a sense of weight and existence in the game world. The voice acting, previously mentioned, is great throughout. Players of this game will surely remember the foulmouthed Krunk, the German Milbots and the eccentric Dr. Exavalt. It doesn't hurt that the writing was more than just a little decent as well. 
While Metal Arms: Glitch in the System never got the attention it deserved in life, I will do all I can to honor it in death. Available for a ridiculous price given its quality, fans of third person shooting and challenging gameplay have no excuse to not check it out. In fact, not only do I recommend it to you, I implore you, please get your hands on this game and give it the appreciation it never got. If we talk of games that deserve better treatment than they received upon release, this comes right after Beyond Good & Evil
I'm beggin' ya. Just play it.

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
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