Exploring the Sega 32X – Metal Head

Originally slated to be a release game for the 32X, Metal Head was pushed back three months and instead released in February 1995. Unfortunately, the extra time wasn’t enough to polish the game’s rough edges and we are left with this unfinished product masquerading as the real deal.

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Don’t get me wrong, there is a little bit of fun to be had here. But the glaring flaws are too frequent to ignore. Let’s step back and look at the big picture.

Every successful system needs quality exclusive content to separate itself from the rest of the flock. The 32X doesn’t have a ton of exclusives, as I’ve mentioned before this system relies heavily on ports, so this game had a lot riding on its shoulders. Being announced as a release game only to be bumped back presumably put a lot of pressure on the game makers. As we see so frequently today, when a game misses a deadline and the studio is rushed, bad decisions are made (I’m looking at you Ubisoft). Metal Head stands as a solid of example of what people are talking about when they bash the 32X as having games that feel rushed out.

This game shows the real growing pains that companies were experiencing during this era. They wanted to show off some cool tech features of the 32X, but came up short in the execution. This game touts “fully textured polygons” as a selling feature, and they do look OK, but trying to control your Mech in this maze-like 3D environment really highlights the struggles developers went through to get that “just right” feel we take for granted in modern games.

Here are a few examples where a little extra effort would have gone a long way:

  • The audio quality is atrocious.

I will assume there is a possibility they were going for a robotic sound, but time has not treated this effect particularly well. Note the crackling voice over, that the intro cut scene has to offer.

  • The dialogue animations are ridiculously cheesy.

Here, the leader guy is giving orders. I can’t possibly take this man seriously. This must be an attempt at showing off the ability of the system to use real life animated photos. But there aren’t enough frames and the whole thing just comes off as a total miss.

That was pretty horrible, but there is a solid workaround. Just go into options and change the default setting from “photo” to “picture.” You will now receive orders from a cartoon soldier, as opposed to some language arts teacher lookin’ mofo.

  • No multiplayer + No leaderboards + No unlocks = No replayability.

A single player campaign is the only option, and the game play just isn’t rewarding enough to keep me coming back for more. Imagine running around these maps wiping out the enemy with a buddy by your side. Or at the very least, how about some unlockable mechs that have unique weapons or qualities. Additional game mode options could make this game more worth while.

  • Not enough weapon choices or upgrades.

There are essentially three weapons in the game; heavy knuckle (punch), chain gun (shoot), and grenade launcher (rocket). Then, each weapon has an upgraded option which can be purchased with points earned in previous levels. However, the problem is that upgrades don’t effect the game play enough to be worthwhile. The heavy chain gun fires slightly faster than the regular gun, but it’s not a game changer by any means.

The game has its moments of excitement. Regrettably, the player is often left wishing for a little more … oomph.

I feel like the overall audio quality of the game could have used a work over. The incessant static and poorly mixed sound effect levels become especially disheartening because the music of Jun Senoue is really quite enticing and compliments the game exceptionally well. The game is called Metal Head after all.

Here are a couple of the awesome songs in the game. Main Theme and Briefing respectively.

Well, for better or worse, Metal Head is part of the 32X collection. I’ll admit that for a while I was having a good time sliding around the streets of this militarized future world. I just wont be returning anytime in the foreseeable future. This was the golden age of console gaming after all, and there are just so many better games to play.

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