(Note: Sorry for the late upload. A family emergency put me behind schedule. Nothing happened, don’t worry, but let’s just say that tired me out into bed earlier than usual.)
Metal Arms: Glitch in the System, a 2003 GameCube game I fondly remembered playing as a kid…as long as my brother’s best friend came around. He would bring it over for us to play together. I vaguely remember the days we played, only retrieving small fragments like ink pigments, but I do remember how much of an impact it had on me. It sucks because our friend would later move away, taking with him fond memories he made with me and my brother. Still miss him. The game kind of became a fever dream I would have sometimes. In these moments, I questioned if the game was even real and was just the result of my childhood over imagination. It became a mystery my thoughts obsessed over.
Thankfully, I learned I wasn’t too psychotic since I found the game’s name in a search back in my good old days of high school. Waves of nostalgia hit me as I dug deep into this forgotten gem. I found gameplay footage and listened to the soundtrack in preparing myself when I get my own dirty hands on it. It wouldn’t happen until I received a $25 Game Stop gift card, by spending all the points I had accumulated over the years from my dentist location, that I could buy the game.
I ordered both Metal Arms and Viewtiful Joe 1 off the online store and played both babies for a solid 3 months. I won’t count this in the pros and cons but playing in blind was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time. 3 years later and I’m finally gonna add myself to the list of people who remember and value this scrubbed classic.
The Wonderful and Brutal War Of Iron Star
The story begins with 2 Droid fighters and a dog, Zoggy, rummaging through a wasteland and discovering a strange robot named Glitch. They decide to bring him back to Droid Town, while noting the strange mark on the back of his head. Optics reactivated, he is greeted by Colonel Alloy, leader of a Droid resistance, and Krunk, a no sh!t taking bot with a foul mouth. Afterwards, a 1900’s style war documentary on the planet plays, telling of the mysterious and unseen Morbots within the core, the Droid race, the beloved Dr Exavolt, and the inevitable explosion he caused that unleashes an evil, war bent General Corrosive and their Mil army.
Unfortunately, they weren’t given the emotion love and they soon became the ruling race on the planet, deactivating droids or making them their slaves. General Alloy leads the Droid Rebellion in the allusive Droid Town, hoping to one day bring the Droid race back to the top and destroy General Corrosive. As Glitch is reactivated, he decides for himself to help the rebellion after he finds out he and the 2 droids that saved him are the only ones left to defend Droid Town when Mils invaded the mines.
Throughout the story, Glitch is accompanied and helped by a variety of colorful characters. There’s Krunk, Zoggy, Mozer, who can’t get his piston up, Slosh, who’s seen some major sh!t, Agent Shush, who’s really quiet, and Agent Goff, a preacher?, and Shady and Mr. Pockets, two weapon merchants that don’t want to get into too much trouble.
You play as Glitch, voiced by the man and legend Dave Wittenburg who also directed the game. Metal Arm is a 3rd person shooter where you get to explore the vast majority of Iron Star, from the Wasteland, to Mil City, and the Ruins, in 49 levels tearing apart Mils in your way.
In each level, their a variety of enemies that pound you to ground, getting more and more difficult in terms of how many there are and how much damage they cause. There are the Mil Grunts differently colored depending on their weapons, Titans, Guards, WTF?!, and Troopers.
It wouldn’t be a third person shooter without a variety of a$$ kicking weapons. The primary weapons, shot by R, consist of guns such as the Mining Laser, a Rocket Launcher, a Shotgun, and a Rivet Gun that can be upgraded for Washes(that cash-money). Secondary weapons come in a variety of bombs like grenades, Magma bombs that spread fire, and even a Recruiter bomb that can reprogram Mils to your side. You can even go commando and bitch slap everyone with Z.
All guns can be upgraded by underground merchants scattered throughout levels. There ain’t no window watching, so you better be buying some kind of ammo, upgrade, or Energy with those hard-earned Washes.
Speaking of reprogramming Mils, one of the main and best mechanics of the game is taking over Mils and using their special arsenal. This is done in two ways. One occurs for earlier levels through literal Arcade Machines. Pop in a chip and control that level’s designated Mil for a short time to complete some task.
The second is through a primary gun known as the Tether, invented by Krunk, that can shoot a wire into a Mil’s backside to send your spark into them. This lasts longer and you’re in control of which Mil you want for the situation. Unfortunately, the range isn’t long, so you have to keep close to your body or else you lose the signal.
Some level’s even let you play as the other characters, adding to the variety and creativity the game has. Besides that, you can take control of vehicles and gun stations with the Y button. Some vehicles include the R.A.T, Sentinel Tank, and Loader. This helps prevent any repetitiveness and keeps you engaged with each level. Some levels have other special features, but I’ll let you discover it in your own playthrough.
Finally, the enemies and their A.I were given a lot of attention-to-detail that not only lead to funny moments but also change in combat. First is Stealth, which I’ll admit I never really see in person. It is possible to walk past enemies without them knowing. I have dabbled in the concept by throwing bombs, since the Mil’s A.I actually listen to sound. Check out Vuthakral’s video on the Titan’s stealth mechanics to found out more. It is just one enemy, but it does show the depths of the enemy A.I and the idea of other Mil’s in this predicament.
Enemies can actually be disarmed thanks to a mechanic where you can blow off or cut off their body parts. This can make combat easy as you can target their weapon’s and make them useless. Some include: Blowing off the legs of a Titan to immobilize them, breaking off the heads of Grunts to remove their ability to aim, and blowing off the arms of a Hunter so you can just watch them fly around thinking “Ah dammit, I’m defective!”
Humorous Yet Dark
Much of the humor is pretty childish, like how Glitch threatens Vlax that he’ll cut off his legs and “spill his reserve oils” all over his eyes, but it works effectively to contrast the death that goes around. Krunk basically says a cuss word ever f$%cking minute, and sometimes, if you wait a while, the Mils actually toot on duty. In some moments, the humor is subtle and quirky, like a Mil spy speaks to glitch like Billy Graham to encourage him while also saying he won’t join him since he didn’t “sign up for no suicide mission.” I love the humor, but it may not be in your taste.
As I said with Earthbound, I like a comedy that isn’t just that, especially when it gets dark sometimes. With Metal Arms, death is shown a lot with no empathy or sympathy from characters. The whole story is about Iron Star destroyed by the Mils, and you see this when going through the ruined cities. Zombiebots swarm these wastelands, clawing at both droids and Mils alike while hanging the dead like the Predator. I’ll get to the sound design later, but their whole sound design reveals a monstrous animal that sends shivers down anyone’s spine.
The Mils take pleasure in the destruction and oppression of Droids. When you listen to their dialogue, you get robots who laugh and taunt at you in the middle of battle. In one special conversation, two Mils discuss Droid Hunting and one asks if he can stick a rachet in their necks with a laugh.
One section of the game pits you in a Colosseum, where they put helpless droids into the slaughter for the amusement of many. The first thing you wake up to is a busted-up Droid who basically says the only way out is death. The concept of death means nothing to these characters, which adds to the grunge, war ridden atmosphere the game is trying to present. The Mils are a threat to be taken seriously, even when they can be hilarious sometimes, adding to the conflict. The humor and dark themes mix perfectly together, giving it an identity that screams “Metal Arms.”
The first cutscene tells you everything you need to know about this world. Morbots made it, Morbots made droids, Droids advance with space debri and the rich ore within the planet, and Dr Exovolt f$%ks it up. But as you explore the planet, each location gives you more in-depth look into the planet and establishing a dark and mysterious tone. You see the ruins that lays in the deserts, the death from the hanging bodies in the Wasteland, and the industrial advancements with the Mil City.
Iron Star is a dirty, war ridden planet that loves the colors brown, red, and grey. The characters show this as well with their designs, from the rust, sand, and scars on their bodies. War is dirty, and Metal Arms exemplifies this. Yet, when you explore Morbot City, you get a clean, alien like environment that contrasts heavily with the above world, but the cracks do show with the Mil invasion. It adds a mystery to the lore of the planet, making you wonder who the Morbots were like the characters. The world is shown masterfully, and the immersion it brings to the players invests them into the story.
For the GameCube version at least, the graphics look good and add to the dirty feel the game goes for. It’s a lot better than the PS2 graphics.
Difficult Yet Fun
The game can be extremely difficult, which is a double edged sword, but that’s what makes it fun. Enemy A.I, at least from what I’ve experienced in Normal, are pretty smart and armed to the teeth. After every level, the next one remembers what ammo you had left. Without conserving and being smart with it, you can be left in a hard level with a little resource to get you through. Not only that, tough enemies take a lot of ammo to destroy. Don’t be surprised if you get the Mission Failed screen a lot.
However, once you get the hang of the weapons and controls, the game becomes incredibly fun to play. Every weapon has a purpose and I never felt any was useless. The Rivet is a sniper, the Shotgun is good for close combat, and the flamethrower does continuous damage. Each one is given a purpose within specific levels as well, like the Slingshot in the 4th Colosseum level. The game gives a lot of room for experimentation and time to use each one, since you’ll probably die a lot.
Sound Design And Voice Actors
Sound Design: Jojo’s sound design made me appreciate the concept a lot more. It doesn’t have to be crazy, like The World’s time stop, but it does have to sound good, and Metal Arms gets it. The sounds are loud and pack a huge punch. Shoot a rocket or fire the shotgun and you feel like your next it as it lands. You can hear each of the Mil’s parts blowing off as the screen goes crazy with explosions. The immersion of the world wouldn’t be as good as it is without the sound design. Its heaviness pulls you in and keeps your attention.
Voice Actors: Despite being a small project, there are quite a handful of big-name actors, which I found mostly on Imbd. Dave Wittenburg as Glitch, who was also a crap ton of characters like Henry Wong from Digimon Tamers. Dan Castellaneta as Krunk, best known for the role of Homer Simpson. Patrick Warburton as Mozer, who I best remember as Kronk from Emperor’s New Groove. Rob Paulsen as Hosed and Vlax, who has voiced characters such as Yakko from Animaniacs. Daran Norris as the Newsreal announcer, who played Cosmo and Timmy’s dad from Fairly Oddparents.
This small handful of actors didn’t break out a star performance per say, but I did find the voice acting enjoyable and fun to listen to. Even the uncredited voice actors who voiced the grunt Mils, which I’m not sure if its Rob or someone else, did a good job portraying stupid and hilarious droid who talk smack.
Now I can’t say for certain if the PS2 or Xbox versions are better or worse, but the aiming and controls for it are really sensitive. There is a reticle that glows red when you target enemies but moving the C-stick throws the camera too quick. It doesn’t help that enemies run and dodge around a lot to avoid fire. So, most of the time I die because I miss just the slightest and waste so much ammo trying to stay on one enemy.
Now I do play with aim assist that I thought did the trick, but I was given the idea to turn it off by Youtuber Cvit, who touched upon it in his own review. Check out his video. I turned it off to test my copy, since he mostly played the other versions, and I actually found nothing really different. In his video, the camera swings toward enemies when aiming assist is on. But on my copy, I found nothing of the sorts happening. Whether or not it works on the Gamecube, I’m not sure.
While most of the controls work fine, the R.A.T and any level with them is absolutely horrendous. You go forward and back with the control switch but turn with C-stick. Imagine getting confused with that the first time while doing a timer level with movement akin to ice physics. It becomes chaotic to get used to, and it’s just unfun when you do understand the controls.
Difficulty Becomes Much At Times
While I do find the difficulty fun most of the time, there are levels that become so difficult I just want them over with. One level, “The Hand is Mightier,” introduces the Titans with shields and split rockets. 3 of them. I have to play it smart because if I don’t *explosion.* Plus, this level is split into two section and the only checkpoint is the halfway point. So, if I die before then I have to do it all over again. When I played it the second time for this review, I just gave up doing it till tomorrow because it became tiring.
Again, not all levels are like this, and your experience might be different, but when those difficulty spikes come it’s sucks out all the fun You just want it over so you can play the rest of the game. Dying a lot has its pros and cons, and sometimes you’ll either be in the mood for it or not.
I never played hard or Nut’s of Steel, aka the impossible mode. I have no idea what could be in store, and frankly I don’t think the game would be fun. If you’re the person who loves a really hard challenge, then I say do it. But if you want difficulty that doesn’t become overwhelming, then I say with normal.
Droid A.I. Sucks
This is a nitpick, but the Droid’s A.I on your side sucks. When you get them, you think you’ll keep them for the rest of the level. Instead, I find them dying 15 minutes into helping. Sometimes their okay, like the third level in the game “Do or Die.” But in future levels with rocket launching Titans and swarming Mils, expect their burnt heads in burning piles. Heck, in “Find the Spy Factory,” I found out they despawn when you leave them into the tunnel so you don’t get to keep them the way. I only found that out because I took him to a safe space, unrecruited him, and left him their to fight the rest of enemies because I got tired of letting them die. They’re unhelpful, and what they can do you do much better alone or with a recruited Mil. No wonder the Droid Rebellion hasn’t gotten far without Glitch, reprogrammed Mil’s act like better soldiers than the actual Droids
Spoiler Warning: Ignore This Part If You Want To Avoid Spoilers
The synopsis for the game really is the only amount of story you’re really gonna get. The story is fun, with funny and tense moments throughout, but you never learn who Glitch is as a protagonist. Don’t expect huge revelations about who Glitch is and why he has that mark, which is only brought up in the first cutscene only. His character backstory is never brought up ever again. The game does show that he is a cocky but helpful droid care about the people who help him all the way. Without that character trait, there never really was a reason why he went far as he did to destroy the Mils. It’s not like General Corrosive or Exavolt. But you never learn about him, and that’s all due to the original trilogy plan Swingin Ape studios.
This was supposed to be a trilogy, and the second installment was supposed to tell that Glitch was in fact a Morbot creation, which is not surprising. Also, the plan was for General Corrosive to also be a Morbot creation, not Dr Exavolt who was just a pawn, and that Glitch was going to get revenge on the Morbots. It sounds exciting, and I would have loved to see their execution, but Swinging Apes Studios didn’t get to do it.
Despite Metal Arms being a success, the company got absorbed into Blizzard and never heard from again. They had been assigned to develop StarCraft Ghost, but that got cancelled. The series has had no second installment in 17 years, and I highly doubt Blizzard is gonna recreate the magic again. I can’t claim to know or follow Blizzard, but I doubt they can do the sequel justice after that “Do you not have phones!?” comment. Until something comes up, and the game continues to get noticed, I doubt the story will ever get finished. The game’s story is good as is, with fun mysterious, but it leaves you wanting answers.
Despite its rugged edges, Metal Arms: Glitch in the System is a great game for what it is. A funny and dark war story about robots blowing each up that will keep you invested by its creative mechanics, great gameplay, quirky humor, and ambitious story. It’s a shame that it never got the audience it deserved in the beginning, despite its early success, and the continuation of what Swinging Apes studios planned. I swear, most of the things I love either have a small audience or never get finished.
I am glad the game is getting noticed on YouTube, and I hope all this attention brings us some kind of remaster or sequel from Blizzard. I just hope they don’t give it to us without what made the game special in the first place: dirty, humorous, and innovative gameplay.
Metal Arms is a game beloved to my childhood, and I hope my review didn’t have too much bias. With that, I give the game an 8/10 and a message for you to remember. You are a robot…and destroy!