Metal Arms: How it almost blew Ratchet & Clank away

A look back at one of the hardest, most rewarding, shooters on PS2...

Robots can be hard to love. If it's not the constant paranoia of them nicking our jobs - we'd have been replaced by Talking Plush Iggle Piggle months ago if his typing hand wasn't so fat - they're ruining our favourite films with their camp, annoying antics (we're looking at
you C3PO).


And spare a thought for folk scarred by years of watching Daleks on Doctor Who, for whom 'bin day' is a terrifying weekly ordeal. It's no surprise then, that Metal Arms, released within weeks of Ratchet & Clank 2 and Jak II in the build up to Christmas 2003, sold about three copies.

And that's a shame, because Vivendi's game is a tightly designed, darkly funny and brilliantly tactile third-person shooter. If only Glitch - the titular star - had been a mischievous, furry-eared marsupial instead of a generic metal man, things might have been very different.

On paper, Swingin' Ape Studios' shooter had everything it needed to lick the Lombax. Throwing you into a full-scale war between the Droid Rebellion (the goodies) and Mil Bots (the baddies) it combined huge load-free levels, Halo-esque vehicle bits, with epic firefights.

All these elements help to make Metal Arms one of the purest shooters the PS2 ever produced. And there are even areas where Glitch manages to out gun his cuddly rival.


While the game undoubtedly reaches into R&C's tool box for inspiration more than once - enemies spew out washers that can be used to buy and upgrade weapons, for example, Swingin' Ape still manages to create a distinctive atmosphere. This is largely thanks to the guns at Glitch's disposal, all of which feel decidedly darker than any of Ratchet's offerings.


Whether you're melting mainframes with a flamethrower, severing sockets with saw blades courtesy of The Ripper, or possessing port coverings with the Control Tether - a device that enables you to control your enemies, getting them to do the fighting for you - every weapon provides uniquely gutsy thrills.

And unlike Ratchet, with its hit and miss jokes, Metal Arms is continually funny. OK, so most of the laughs are earned through crude jokes and crass one-liners.

But it's hard to keep a straight face when a broken robot confesses "I can't even get my piston up"; or when Krunk, the grumpy mechanic droid (brilliantly voiced by Dan 'Homer Simpson' Castellaneta), threatens to "weld your exhaust pipe to your ball bearings"; Or when Glitch charmingly quips "I'll empty my oil reserve into your optics". Highbrow? Not on your life. Crasser and funnier than it sounds? Definitely.

Unfortunately, getting through the game itself is no laughing matter. With a savage learning curve that throws you into the thick of things straight away and ferocious AI, this was never going to be one for the casual crowd. Unlike, Devil May Cry 4, though, pull back from the seemingly unrelenting toughness and things are fairer than they first appear.


And so it is that a level of torturous trench warfare, filled with rock-hard Titan bots, is followed by a vehicle section where you get to blasts the bolts off said bots. In a similar way, a slog through a military base, filled with murderous Mil Bots precedes a section where you turn tanks into building blocks with a huge gun turret.


And a brutally tough fight through a underground cavern gives way to a section where you destroy everything in a giant Predator - Metal Arms' version of those squid things out of The Matrix. Unlike Dante's adventure, Metal Arms knows when to give you a break and when you need to vent, meaning most of the time you feel liberated rather than frustrated.

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