Metal Arms is one of those overlooked titles, stuck in the glut of holiday releases in 2003, and it's depressing to be forced to call it a failure on any level. It's funny, fast, and it couldn't feel better. This wild third person action title is one of the best games to come out of this generation, and it should have never went unnoticed.
The minor complaints with the gameplay come from the frantic, harsh, and almost uncontrollable speed. This is not a game where you can slow down, and even the epic first-person shooters we're used to don't offer action on this level. There's an adjustment period, and fly-by training may not be enough to become accustomed with just how fast this title can move.
Later levels also pack in enemies, with barely a hint of slowdown either. The world is wonderful, and if there's never a sequel or spin-off of some sort, there is no justice. The twisted sense of humor adds an additional layer to the gameplay, not-for-children dialogue playing a role in that. It uses a style similar to N64 and recently re-made for the Xbox Conker, but without the cheap bathroom humor.
It's not just about shooting, even if the four player split-screen death matches indicate otherwise. Player controlled character Glitch can take over enemies and use their own powers against them, and there's no real limit to his abilities. There are sections where this is forced, and it takes away some of the mystery (missions are straightforward for the most part anyway) from the levels. The rest of the game, it's a great way to conserve energy and ammo.
That's important, since both are required to stay full. They're low on refills, and there's an unseen level of strategy in place, and little room for error. Metal Arms will not guide you in its action. This where Metal Arms can and will lose the average gamer.
It's not easy, and it makes no exceptions. You'll constantly breath heavy when the numbers trickle down on the ammo count and nerves kick in. If you're the type who conserves ammo, you won't have a problem. Those used to running into a room, machine guns blazing, will be dead in no time. It's odd the game moves at such a clip, yet you're almost required to take it slow in numerous sections.
It's up to the player to find the proper route through. If that happens to be inside one of the vehicles, so be it. Though limited in number, the moments where Glitch can hop inside various death machines to take out marauding robots are some of the best. There's likely no coincidence the physics and controls are ripped out of Halo. The feel is natural even though this obviously 100% fantasy.
While some will be turned off by the difficulty, there's no question this one is pure action entertainment. It seems built to be a franchise, both in characters and limited options (no online, small number of vehicles, etc.). Sadly, sales matter, and Metal Arms will not return if those are any indication. That doesn't mean that it's not worth tracking down, and with a bargain price tag under $10, there's no reason not to try it out.