A charming but troubled post-apocalyptic title that I had fun with despite its best efforts, Metal Max Xeno Reborn is a good game dragged down by some silly design choices and a lacklustre presentation. But if you know this is your bag and have a little patience, there’s something really rewarding in here.
The post-apocalypse setting in video games is fairly well-trodden at this point, but luckily Metal Max Xeno Reborn at least attempts to mix things up a little. Originally released as Metal Max Xeno for Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita in 2018, this enhanced version adds a few new touches. You can see changes to the art style, the CG cutscenes, the general story, and the title now boasts refined gameplay.
So with all this in mind, is Metal Max Xeno Reborn a good game? Well, it’s certainly an interesting mix. You play as a young man called Talis, who must face up to both the end of the world, and the large mutant creatures that explore it. Humanity has all but died out, and you team up with a small band of survivors to try and free the Earth from the monsters that rule it. Your main weapon? A tank.
That’s right, the main weapon in your attempts to destroy the creatures that now call Earth’s surface home is just a large and powerful tank. There are no magical swords here or other JRPG tropes – this is somewhat restrained but also a ridiculously metal take on the apocalypse. However, cruising the wastelands in your tank and blasting apart mutant ants and giant killer robots, well it feels pretty good.
In case you want to know exactly why you use your tank to destroy mutants, well the story here is a fun one. Far into the future, a supercomputer designed to help the planet solve its major issues decides that the best way to save Earth is to destroy all humans. It’s hard to argue with that really, but the nuclear fallout destroys most of the world, which leaves a small band of survivors and some seriously messed up animals. The story sees you explore what’s left of this world and attempt to make some friends. It’s fair to say that this is a great setup for a video game.
Metal Max Xeno Reborn does sadly feel like a budget game though, as you may be able to tell from screenshots, the visuals are not the draw here. Models work fine in context, and I quite like the design of some of the more ridiculous creatures, but this is now a showcase for the Switch’s power. Similarly, this game is quite janky, which is a harder concept to explain.
The core gameplay has you find different remnants of humanity, make friends and then head back out onto the scorched surface of the earth. Here you explore both in your tank and on foot, as you beat enemies, find tank parts and the scrap used for upgrades. It’s a cool system and fairly simple, plus it drops you in with very little fanfare. There are explanations hidden within the menu, but there aren’t any lengthy tutorials here batting you over the head with new things to learn.
In fact, this hands-off approach is clearly a design choice that works perfectly with this open-world design, letting the player explore to their heart’s content, and make discoveries and enemies along the way. There’s a vague objective marker at most points, but if you’re looking for the game to explain much to you, well, you might spend a fair bit of time lost in the wasteland wilderness.
When out in the world and approaching enemies, the action takes place in a turn-based style but with some action elements. You choose the command to fire your tank, and then aim down the sights in the hopes of hitting your enemy in the perfect spot. A bunch of numbers hover over the enemy denoting how likely you are to hit it, and how much damage you can cause. A touch Fallout-esque, but it works.
On foot works much the same, except you use whichever gun Talis is carrying and a knife, this is better for smaller enemies or close-quarters combat, but the tank is so fun I found myself barely using this feature unless I needed to. However, you can only reach some areas on foot, so don’t neglect hand-to-hand combat. Get the right equipment when you can.
The main issue I have with the game is that while all of these systems work adequately, and can make way for some fun, they’re all let down by silly design choices and bad UI that make most actions counterintuitive. You have to get out of your tank fairly often, so how do you think you do this? If you answered with a single button press, wrong. You have to go into two menus and then change the ‘IN’ option to ‘OUT’ before leaving the menu to eventually depart your craft.
It took me way too long to realise I could even do this, as this is buried under so many different options -This extends to other features like your equipment, where nothing seems to be optimised smartly. Instead, it makes every gameplay mechanic just a little bit more annoying than I’d like. This is a shame, as I had a great time changing the colour on my tank, making it a bright pink little death machine, but I could barely even be bothered to deal with scrap and equipment to actually power it up.
It’s not all bad though, despite my issues with the UI, the game opens up nicely and eventually offers you a swathe of tank parts and new crafts to steer. You also find new members to add to your squad, so eventually, you have quite the arsenal behind you. There are also some nice breaks to the gameplay with bounties and boss battles. Some seriously tough opponents can test your tank’s power, and you can get some handsome rewards for doing so.
Once I got into the rhythm of things, I started to enjoy Metal Max Xeno Reborn a bit like a schlocky B-movie. Yes, it can be a bit stupid and makes some mistakes, but I appreciate the swings that it does take, and if you are interested, there‘s more than enough game to sink your teeth into here. I also quite like the soundtrack, which is full of guitar solos and some endearingly metal tracks that really help to sell this post-apocalyptic world.
It’s hard to recommend Metal max Xeno Reborn after listing off all my issues with it. It’s an obtuse, difficult to play, and oftentimes ugly game. But there’s such a kernel of cheesy fun at the heart of things here, that I think if you know exactly what you’re getting into and enjoy this sort of thing, you’ll likely have an absolute blast. When I eventually settled into the mechanics and started to get a more powerful arsenal and team, this title opened up for me, and it all clicked into place, and I had a rad time just pummeling bad guys into oblivion. Will you have the same experience? I think that’s up to your preferences, and crucially, your patience.