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Metal Arms: Glitch in the System

Review By:  AJ Middleton

Developer:  Swinging Ape Studios
Publisher:  Sierra (Vivendi Universal)
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Shooter
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card, Progressive Scan
Date Posted:  1-26-04

Sleeper hits.  Excellent games that come by unnoticed, usually because of lack of advertising and/or a developer with a small name.  That term correct describes Metal Arms: Glitch in the System.  Have you heard of it?  Probably not.  Should you have?  Yes.  Does it have guns and explosions and…robots?  Uh huh.  Should you play it?  Take a quick look for yourself.

At first glance, Metal Arms’ premise sounds a little clichéd.  Oh, a world inhabited by robots.  Wait, not only that, but a world inhabited by robots in the middle of a war.  And as usual, the good guys are completely outnumbered, being forced into hiding and having to conduct their little rebellion from there.  Wow, loads of fun.

But now let’s look closer.  The planet Iron Star, far far away, is inhabited by a race of robots called Droids.  The planet and its inhabitants were created many centuries ago by the mysterious Morbots, a race of robots who live in the core of the planet supplying energy to those above.  So everything is peaceful until an accident occurs at a laboratory of the intelligent science Droids.  In an experiment-gone-wrong, the evil General Corrosive was born, determined to take over Iron Star.  In Corrosive’s reign of terror, evil Mil bots were released upon the world with the purpose of destroying Droid life and taking any captives as slave labor.  It’s up to Colonel Alloy and his small band of rebels, stationed in the hidden Droid Town, to defeat Corrosive’s army.  Things are looking bleak until a strange Droid named Glitch is found, bearing an odd symbol on his head.  And thus, the adventure begins…

Metal Arms is an adventure game through a third person shooter perspective.  Actually, because the camera always hovers close behind Glitch’s head, and the fact that you do aim through crosshairs, the game has a first-person feel attached.  Also, a radar screen is located at the top right of the screen.  Glitch will run, punch, jump, and of course shoot his way through hoards of Mil guards and other evil robots throughout the adventure. 

Glitch has a giant arsenal to choose from.  Primary weapons are gun-based equipment used with R.  These range in uniqueness from the weak mining laser, to the automatic S.P.E.W. (Small Projectile Emitter Weapon,) to even a rocket launcher.  Secondary weapons are objects to be thrown with L, such as explosive coring charges and even an EMP grenade to freeze mechanical enemies in their tracks.  But there’s so much more in Glitch’s offensive cache: Recruiter Grenades to make any affected enemies into allies instantly, a Slingshot to launch projectiles, and even Cleaner smart bombs that, well, “clean out” up to three enemies, if you know what I mean.

One of the most unique weapons comes later on in the game.  The rebels’ foul-mouthed engineer, Krunk, designs a Control Tether for Glitch.  This device allows the hero to connect to and command any enemy robot that comes near.  You just get behind a bot, lock on to its interface, and fire.  The enemy will now be under your control until destroyed!  But of course, the catch is that it’s not always easy to get an enemy still, let alone lock onto its interface.  Hmm, EMP anyone?

And to add to Glitch’s artillery, all primary weapons can be upgraded.  Defeating enemy bots can bring him washers, which are the currency of Iron Star.  Two odd Droids named Shady and Mr. Pockets will occasional set up a shop around the levels and sell Glitch goods, like health and weapon upgrades, all for a price.  Although it’s wise to save washers for this reason, some upgrades can be found just lying around the terrains of the planet.

Oh yes, terrain.  Now that Glitch is fully equipped, he is ready to take on the many different areas of Iron Star.  Metal Arms takes you to a variety of places.  For example, the game’s first mission takes place in mines.  From here you’ll go to a Mil lab, Droid Town, wastelands full of freaky and violent ZombieBots, and many other distinctive locales to complete over 40 missions.  But don’t think that Glitch will be on foot for all of his exploring.  There are any vehicles to control, like the all-terrain Mil RAT (Rapid Armored Transport,) and Mil hovercrafts (all with their own weapon systems, mind you.)  Also to spice up the adventure, sub-games like controlling another characters or playing sniper and shooting down approaching Mils pop up every now and then.  Always something new!

Weapons, vehicles, what could go wrong?  The controls.  Although they aren’t horrible, Metal Arms takes a while to get used to control-wise.  First of all, you must simultaneously control the walking direction with the control stick as well as Glitch’s face (the position of the crosshairs) with the C stick.  Although this gives you more control, it takes a good time to coordinate yourself correctly.  Selecting weaponry is awkward at first too; X opens the primary inventory while B opens the secondary.  Also, driving controls are poor.  Vehicles work in the dual-control mode as well, making it almost impossible to go into reverse and get off a wall.  But after the first few missions, the controls will come as a second nature and there will be no problem at all.

Metal Arms uses voice acting, and it truly enhances the experience.  Each major character has a distinctive voice fitting the personality.  Colonel Alley has the stereotypical military leader sound, Krunk is brash and vulgar (the bleeps over his profanity add to humor,) and Glitch talks like the cool teenage hero who finds out that he has to save the world.  The script is also realistic, with cut-offs, random interjections, occasional dirty robot jokes, and other realistic conversation elements.  Mils and enemies also talk.  They’ll alert partners when Glitch is spotted (There he is!), scream when an injured Mil shoots out of control (Not me!  The Droid!), yell and howl when a coring charge is launched, and even bathe in the victory of destroying Glitch when his life (called battery power) runs out, causing him to explode (I hope they send more like that!)  The voices definitely add to the fun factor.

Oh yeah.  The enemy bots are smart, and I don’t mean only with their reactions.  This game has a crazy AI.  If you’re doing a James Bond sniper style attack and shoot from a concealed small ledge, don’t expect the Mils to just run and scream in agony below; expect fire.  These guys know and will remember where you’re hiding.  They are also trained to follow others when they see a brawl.  And as for sound?  They can hear too.  Don’t think that an agile and dangerous Guard bot will ignore you on the other side of the room while you destroy some standard Mils.  Guards, and even giant Titans, aren’t that dumb.  And with excellent accuracy and extremely powerful weapons, you’d better run and cover.

And that brings me to my next point.  Metal Arms is no walk in the park.  This game is HARD.  First you have to conquer the controls, which will take you the first few missions.  You have to do that, PLUS fight off hordes of Mils with the weak Mining Laser (which really only stuns and can’t really hurt a thing,) while you try to survive with one small battery of energy.  But as weapons get better and the battery quantity gets larger, enemies just get harder.  They come stronger and in bigger groups, and poor Glitch will probably be exploding a lot.  Luckily for us, each stage has checkpoints where status will be saved as long as you don’t reset.  Glitch will restart from these points of he dies, but what’s the difference if you can’t walk two steps without being blown to smithereens?  Word of advice: Don’t get upset if you can’t complete a mission in under an hour.  Heck, under an hour and a half.

The musical score is standard videogame music for a game of this type.  The background music is mostly made up of beats, with an occasional secret agent-ish theme.  If anything it’s there for effect and not for your undivided listening pleasure.  Sound effects, on the other hand, are great, from explosions to Mil screams and complaints.

Visually, the Metal Arms is excellent.  The game, especially the FMVs, is smooth and crisp.  There is loads of detail too.  For example, Glitch will pull the weapon from his pack when switching between them, he’ll actually reload, and the enemy bots will be reduced to a pair of lost legs if their tops are blown off.  However, things start to lag a little when a big explosion occurs or when Glitch explodes himself.  Also, I happened to stumble upon an awful glitch (not Glitch) where I fell through the solid ground randomly.  It made things feel a little sloppy, but it was nothing too horrible.

When a mission seems impossible, take a break and hook up with three friends.  Metal Arms has a very cool multiplayer mode for up to four players.  Each person takes control of a colored Glitch, and many games can be played.  The seven preset games include Bot Brawl (with the object of destroying Mils,) King of the Hill, and even Tag.  And if you don’t like those, you can your buddies can make your own game with its own rules.  To add to multiplayer madness, you have the Control Tether and Recruiter Grenades, and yes, you CAN use them to their fullest.  That means that Titan over there?  Yeah, you can use him against your best bud.  Mwahahahha…

There are loads of multiplayer levels, but they can only be unlocked after collecting certain numbers of secret chips, which are hidden throughout the missions in Glitch’s adventure.  Finding them all is no easy task, but it adds a level of difficulty for those who aren’t challenged enough.


  • An excellent shooter-adventure
  • Very fun and entertaining
  • Good voice acting which brings another level of humor to the experience
  • Diverse levels and missions
  • Not easy to fly through
  • Awesome multiplayer mode


  • Poor vehicular controls
  • All controls take a good while to get used to
  • Nothing amazing musically
  • Loading time between missions and FMVs!  Ahhh!
  • Can get frustrating easily

Final Verdict:

The only other glitch with Metal Arms is that it hasn't sold well enough.  This game definitely deserves publicity.  I mean, it’s a shooter that doesn’t involve the US army/FBI/CIA during some historical event.  And it’s also third person, adding a sort of platformer feel to what could have been a normal shooter.  Then add in the levels, the humor, the difficulty, the plot (however disjointed it seems as it progresses,) and the multiplayer, and you have yourself a very nice adventure.  Sleeper hit?  I think so.

Overall Score: 8.6

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