Metal Arms: Glitch in the System is hitting shelves as you read this. The game features a smart-ass bot named Glitch who squares off on the side of the robot-rebellion against the evil General Corrosive. The game features a ton of weapons, upgrades, platform action, and even a few sidekicks. Does it have what it takes to stand out against some of the recent releases of this mammoth holiday season? Swingin’ Ape thinks it does, and I’m inclined to agree.

Metal Arms: Glitch in the System is all about detail. The whip-antenna on Glitch moves in a realistic fashion as you bound through the multitude of outdoor and indoor environments. The addition of a real-time lighting engine is impressive in a way that has to be seen. The light on Glitch moves around and illuminates, reflects, and bends around surfaces that few titles capture. As Glitch takes damage small puffs of smoke rise from his hull. Even when Glitch is clean he has little bits of rust around the edges, it just adds to his character when he scratches it.

The same level of detail is present in the games interactive environments. Some buildings and structures can be destroyed and the enemies fly apart like a can of spring-snakes leaving smoking pieces such as cogs, gears, and bolts on the ground. The animation is very solid and the idle animations kept me laughing for a bit. Only when the action was very heavy did the framerate stutter in any way, although more so on the PS2 version than the Xbox. The game does appear a bit ‘boxy’ or plain in some areas, but really impresses in others.

The Xbox and Cube versions of Metal Arms run in Progressive Scan mode while the PS2 version does not. I didn’t have a progressive scan capable TV to test this out, but I can tell you that the PS2 version is no slouch, even when compared to the Xbox version. Each version had one area or another that had a slight wobble in framerate, but certainly nothing that will detract from the gameplay in any fashion.

Metal Arms: Glitch in the System features some excellent voice acting. Glitch sounds like he’s got a huge chip on his shoulder, General Corrosive sounds menacing enough, and Colonel Alloy is pretty close to the announcer from the 80’s cartoon ‘The Superfriends’.

Very few games make me laugh. It’s not that I lack a sense of humor, it just seems that few writers can bring hilarity while writing a compelling story. The lines in the game are pretty hilarious, albeit riddled with a few easy to figure out censored swear words. The enemies will say “Will you stop shooting me?!” if they are accidentally hit by their comrades, or say things like “Clean up, Aisle 6!” when they take you down a notch. Glitch himself manages some funny lines such as “You got any better ideas, chief?” to the Colonel, and a few other one liners and remarks along the way.

The sound and music in Metal Arms is excellent. The shotgun has an impressive amount of bass as it rips apart enemy droids. The ripper has a whizzing sound that sounds like metal through air. There really wasn’t a point where I felt any one element of the sound had to be adjusted, but the option is there nonetheless.

The music impresses in a similar fashion. It too has a ton of bass and really fits the run and gun action of this title very well. None of the tracks felt out of place and it seemed reactive to the situation. When Glitch did well, the music seemed to either reflect it, or I’m just imagining things. Either way, the surround sound (Dolby Pro Logic II) is a real treat and gives a good sense of immersion with an awesome amount of butt-kickin’ bass.

The controls in Metal Arms are straightforward. The left trigger tosses or shoots whatever is in the left hand. The right trigger functions similarly. Action is the Y button, jump is mapped to A. Right analog controls the camera and left analog controls the movement. The black button (or depressing the right analog stick) is used for a melee attack and X and B are used to change weapons.

The run and gun gameplay is well suited to the control scheme that is set up with the title. Only a few instances where I was very near a wall and trying to look up or down did the controls seem unresponsive. The assisted aiming (which can be turned off) also can be a bit unwieldy as the auto-aim tries to lock onto a target, but seems more to lock onto the group. Precision shots aren’t as easy as I might like, but with a little practice you will be flicking off hundreds of rounds at the enemy with such zeal that aiming is almost secondary.

In a very smart move, switching weapons is done via a paused selection system. You press either the X or B to bring up a list of scrolling weapons which pauses the action until your selection is complete. This prevents you from being shot to pieces as you scramble to find the right weapons for your current situation.

Glitch is found by a small group of droids in an almost dismantled state. His body only slightly damaged, but most of his chips fried, Glitch is returned to Droid Town where he becomes the newest member of the resistance against the Morbots and General Corrosive. To walk you through the intro section you team up with fellow bots Screwed and Hosed, who will guide you onto the path to help shut down the mines where the Droid Town citizens are enslaved.

The gameplay is your typical run-and-gun style where collecting new weapons for Glitch is your primary motivation. There are a total of 17 weapons in the game over the course of the 40 total missions, but one stands out and innovates in a way that’ll have you giddy; the Control Tether.

The Control Tether lets you lock onto droids and take control of them. Glitch disassembles into a pile of parts and you enter the body of the enemy. Most enemies aren’t even worth tethering as they are less powerful than you are. The real treat is when the chance arrives to tether onto some of the larger power armors allowing you to wreak havoc on the enemy in a big way. You will find other bots to tether, and most of them have some specialized purpose to them. A good example is the high flying grasshopper-type robot who can use his wings and jets to fly around the map to a degree. Another big treat is the ability to take control of vehicles. I won’t spoil the surprise but suffice to say that running down the enemy with a massive tank is a ton of fun. (ah! pun!)

The weapons that Glitch can collect are pretty varied. You have the Mining Laser (a generic blaster), the Spew (chaingun on steroids), the Ripper (think chainsaw blades at high speed), the slingshot (lets you whip grenades and such with more accuracy and distance) and more. Most of the weapons are very high speed to match the often intense speed of battle in this game. You can equip different weapons in your left or right hand and switch them on the fly. You can use a few of them simultaneously and you can also bash with them. If you have taken control of an enemy bot they only have the weapons that are welded to them, but in another touch of detail, if your arm is damaged it’ll still fire, albeit randomly, as it hangs limp to your side.

The aiming of the weapon is assisted with a reticule that glows red when enemies are in in your sights and ready for shredding. Any enemies that are in your reticule get auto-targeted, and as they fall the weapon automatically switches to the next victim.

As you progress through the level you are shown different cutscenes to progress the story. The gameplay gives you a little bit of leeway on where you can go, but for the most part it is fairly linear with a mix of a few puzzles. The fun is in the vehicles, the humor, the hostile takeovers, and the deluge of weapons that you can change and upgrade by collecting washers from defeated bots. All in all, the presentation is what makes the game and this is no exception.

Most gamers will find Metal Arms: Glitch in the System to be a largely single-player title with its 40 levels and unique brand of humor. That being said, the multiplayer element via splitscreen is also a welcome sight. By collecting hidden chips, you can unlock the other 9 levels of the multiplayer game (for a total of 14) to play in various modes. You can play Tag, Reverse Tag (stay “It” for as long as possible), Possession Melee, Death Match, King of the Hill, Moving Hill, and Timed Bot Brawl in either individual mode (free for all) or team mode for a little cooperative killing.

The drawback that I see in the multiplayer mode is that Glitch takes up so much space on screen that you might be a bit distracted by his bounding around. The addition of Live or system link would have been awesome, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Multiplayer aside, with the singleplayer’s 40 levels and a ton of hidden chips to unlock more play modes, the game definitely has legs and should keep you entertained for a good amount of time.