Hands-on: Metal Arms: Glitch in the System

We had a chance to check out a build of Swingin' Ape's third-person shooter.

Swingin Ape had an early build of its robot-themed third-person shooter Metal Arms: Glitch in the System, for the GameCube and Xbox, on display at the recent Vivendi Universal pre-E3 event. In the game, you'll assume the role of Glitch, a small robot charged with the task of saving his planet from a horde of evil robots. Though small in stature, Glitch has access to a relatively large arsenal of weapons, including rocket launchers, machine guns, and grenades, and all his main weapons can be upgraded over the course of the game. Glitch can even man turrets and other vehicles in the environment to dish out some additional damage. Though, perhaps Glitch's most interesting ability is the one that enables him to hack into enemy robots and control them for short periods of time.

We had a chance to check out some of the early levels in the game. The first level we tried out places Glitch in a large industrial area filled with all sorts of different enemy robots, ranging from small and relatively weak foes to enormous tank-sized robots capable of destroying Glitch with a few direct hits. Thankfully, Glitch starts the level with two small robots that help shoot at enemies and take the brunt of the damage when robots start to swarm on the screen. You'll also have some pretty powerful weapons, such as a machine gun and a rocket launcher that's tucked away in a small storage area just outside the starting area.

While the smaller enemy robots can be defeated with some simple strafing and machine gun fire, the bigger robots are a little more difficult to take out. When you encounter one of these mechanical beasts, you'll not only need some masterful strafing skills, but you'll also have to know how to use your grenades in tandem with whatever weapons you have equipped. Of course, you can also take a less direct approach and attempt to use walls or other objects in the environments as cover and then jump out to fire a few shots, but since the larger robots can actually move pretty fast, you'll find that this particular strategy doesn't work for very long.

One of the other levels in the game takes place in canyon area filled with junk. Interestingly, the enemies in this level tie in with that theme, as normal-looking piles of junk can turn into ferocious, nimble robots that swipe at Glitch with their claws. Since they're so fast, it can be difficult to shoot them with Glitch's weapons, but you can always wait until they're in close range and then launch a grenade to seriously damage them.

Though we didn't have a chance to try it ourselves, we did see Glitch use his hacking ability. When he sneaks up behind an unsuspecting enemy robot, Glitch can send out a small bolt of energy into the back of it and essentially take control. During this time, you have full control over that enemy's movement and weapons, which is helpful for launching a surprise attack on other enemy robots in the area. However, Glitch can only control enemy robots for a short amount of time.

The art style for Metal Arms is very reminiscent of Ratchet & Clank, with stylized robots and environments. From a technical standpoint, both versions of the game are good even this early in development, though the Xbox version has some special effects that the GameCube version is currently lacking--particularly the shiny effect on Glitch's armor. The frame rate tends to take a hit when multiple enemies are onscreen, but it doesn't bog down to the point that the game becomes unplayable.

We'll have more on Metal Arms: Glitch in the System in the coming weeks.

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