Metal Arms Preview

We check out Vivendi Universal's upcoming third-person action game.

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Metal Arms is Vivendi Universal's upcoming third-person action game for the GameCube and Xbox. The game has been in development for more than a year at California-based Swingin' Ape Studios, and we got our first look at it in April, when it was announced at the company's pre-E3 press event. The game offers a promising mix of shooter and platformer gameplay. We got the chance to spend some time with a demo of the Xbox game and are pleased by how it's coming along.

Glitch is a robot with a mission.
Glitch is a robot with a mission.

You'll take the role of Glitch, a robot on a mission to save his planet from the evil General Corrosive. As is usually the case in these types of situations, Glitch is flying solo on his noble quest. General Corrosive, on the other hand, is not. In keeping with the standard villain's modus operandi, Corrosive is making use of a varied and deadly assortment of robotic muscle. However, Swingin' Ape hasn't left its new mascot out to dry: Glitch isn't exactly a pushover, thanks to a small arsenal of weapons and some unique abilities. He will be able to collect two sets of weapons, one for each hand, that will pack a considerable punch. In his left hand he'll primarily hold explosives from the grenade family, which range from standard grenades to much more powerful EMP-enhanced explosives. His left hand will also hold some general enhancement items, such as a sniper scope that you'll be able to use with certain weapons. Glitch's right hand will hold a broad range of firearms--ranging from basic pistols to spinning saw blades to rocket launchers--and special gadgets that will be key to success in the game. While all the firepower is obviously an asset in the war against Corrosive's forces, sometimes you'll have to rely on Glitch's gadgetry to deal with your foes. The most useful gadget we've come across so far is the control tether, which is a handy little device that lets you take control of any unsuspecting robot you find in the game. Once you're in control you can use your helpless subject to scout ahead or take out some of his comrades. This is especially nice when you take control of a massive mech that's armed to the teeth. The only catch to possession is that you'll only be able to use your minion within a set range. The farther it gets from where Glitch is, the weaker the carrier signal gets. Once the robot reaches a certain distance you'll lose the signal, and the robot will regain its free will.

The environments in the game are massive.
The environments in the game are massive.

We were able to check out three levels in the game--Mil City hub, the Ruins, and R&D Labs--which gave us a solid feel for the way the gameplay is shaping up. The Mil City hub highlighted the physics and vehicle segments in the game. The city was massive and featured many interactive elements that could be used to our advantage. A giant mech sitting on an overhead bridge could be brought down and seriously damaged by destroying his perch, making it much easier to take him out. Smaller robots that poured out of nearby buildings could be dealt with using Glitch's weapons. Their destruction showed off the physics and particle effects systems in the game--parts and sparks flew every which way as we cut them down. Later in the level we were able to take control of a stationary turret and mow down incoming foes, and we drove a tank that let us wreak some serious havoc on the environment. The Ruins offered a change of pace from the city's straightforward design--they were a tangled mass of concrete and stone and showed off some of the game's quirky level design. A new enemy was thrown into the mix of basic gun-toting robots and offered a sizable challenge due to its nasty habit of regenerating itself. Finally, the R&D Labs included the gameplay elements seen in the previous levels along with some puzzle elements.

Navigating through the various levels with Glitch wasn't much of a problem, thanks to the game's user-friendly control. You'll move Glitch with the left analog stick, look around with the right stick, and use the triggers to fire the corresponding weapons. You'll be able to perform a single or double jump like any good platform hero. The game will feature a dual item system that will let you cycle through Glitch's left-hand weapons or go through his right-hand inventory. Finally, you'll have a context-sensitive action button that will let you interact with items in the world.

Taking control of other robots is a very cool mechanic.
Taking control of other robots is a very cool mechanic.

The graphics in Metal Arms are looking quite sharp despite the game's early state. The areas are massive and detailed, offering a variety of objects that can be destroyed spectacularly. Glitch looks pretty cool, and his model is very detailed and animates well. His overall design recalls Ratchet from Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank games for the PlayStation 2. The frame rate is pretty smooth overall, although it gets a bit inconsistent when you're causing massive amounts of destruction. The demo contains the standard hitches you would expect in an early game--quirky camera and sound issues--but nothing unfixable.

From what we've seen so far, Metal Arms is looking very promising. The gameplay is solid, and the graphics are a pleasing mix of style and substance, thanks to the game's interactive elements. Swingin' Ape is putting together a game that should be one to watch for when it ships this fall. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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