Metal Max fans in the West aren’t exactly spoiled for choice, especially when it comes to English language releases. It would be more accurate to say that series fans are “Metal Max hungry”. In the 31 years of the series’ existence, only two games have been released in English – Metal Saga from 2006 (so named at the time due to branding issues) and Metal Max Xeno from 2018. For English-speaking fans, Metal Max Xeno is relevant here, there Metal Max Xeno: Reborn, as the title suggests, is a reinterpretation of this game.
Originally released on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC, Metal Max Xeno was unlike the traditional turn-based RPGs that make up the bulk of the Metal Max franchise. Instead, Xeno was a free-roaming action game with hybrid RPG elements. Free to roam and explore largely barren environments, the journey was frequently punctuated by randomly spawning enemies, ranging from an assortment of insectoid creatures, tanks, mechs, and the occasional “wanted” boss.
The game loop consisted of traveling into the wilderness to find more survivors to join your cause, leveling up on the endless parade of cannon fodder and destroying big bosses for profit. At the end of the day, return to the headquarters called Iron Base and upgrade your tanks and acquired vehicles, upgrade your equipment to venture further and survive your next mission. With futuristic tank-based action RPGs being something of a rarity, Xeno was an easy, linear, and limited distraction that left you wanting a little more depth to delve into. Xeno Reborn was created to eliminate that itch.
Xeno Reborn is more than a simple remix of elements from the original game. While much of Xeno’s core structure remains, the graphics, character art, game mechanics, progression system, and story elements have all been overhauled and redesigned to the point where they’re often indistinguishable from what came before came. The original Xeno now feels like a prototype for what has ultimately become a fundamentally different game.
What hasn’t changed is the game’s characters, although the character art has been overhauled. OG Xeno’s character portraits were provided by hentai illustrator Non Oda, but replaced with designs by Takeshi Oga (character designer of Gravity Rush 2). This, along with the adjustment of certain plot points and character discovery, has resulted in the removal of some of the original Xeno’s overly sexualized character art. There are still some scantily clad characters to join your crew, but for fans of the original art style, Oda’s art can be unlocked after completing Xeno Reborn’s story mode.
Another visual upgrade is the redesign of Iron Base, which no longer looks like a ridiculously disguised smartlamp from the future, but now looks like the development team actually put a 3D modeler to work. Your team’s HQ now looks like a proper fortress, crammed with steel gates and an industrial facade worthy of the name.
While the original Xeno was extremely linear – which was heartfelt given that there was little to do in the game other than drive from point A to point B in the questline – Xeno Reborn mitigates some of that linearity by improving player interaction reworked with enemies. Instead of enemies spawning randomly around the area, in Xeno Reborn they are already on the battlefield, giving you the choice to attack them or just drive by.
Driving your tanks is also handled differently now. In Xeno, all you had to do was press the left analog stick to move forward, etc. Xeno Reborn instead puts acceleration on ZR and reverse on ZL, which in practice feels a bit like piloting a Warthog from Halo. It’s an interesting touch as it gives each vehicle a distinct feel, with a dash of dune jumping physics to boot. Main character Talis’ tank feels heavier and sturdier, while repair specialist Yokky’s buggy is sleek and nimble, and often a little too light on its own. The specific vehicle you control can be switched with a tap of the Y button, which is useful for tactical reasons.
While you might want to use your low-profile buggy to zoom past and fit into tight spaces to snap at enemies, your tank’s larger caliber guns and longer range can better reach targets at long range. This is the kind of tactical consideration the original Xeno never offered. Unfortunately, the game’s collision is pretty unforgiving when it comes to ledges and structural geometry. Rolling down a hill in your tank and aiming for the ramp into the next area, cutting off the tiniest edge of a faulty polygon just comes to a halt. This makes for some sort of vehicular logic, as a real dune buggy would be able to jump over most of the game’s made-up barriers that prevent you from accessing certain areas too early.
Also, in Xeno you were either in combat or not, but now you can not only shoot at enemies from a distance, but also fire a shot and then reset your vehicle from aggro range. This allows players to draw specific enemies towards them one at a time, allowing you to either thin out a crowd that could quickly overwhelm you, or eliminate the minions around a much more difficult boss.
While this is by no means a great tactical shooter, it is possible to use cover occasionally, such as B. a broken bridge to protect yourself from missiles and enemies from the air. However, the enemy placement is not very clever in its arrangement. Enemies have a field of view indicated by long, colored “beams” when you get in range, coupled with a fast-filling “alert” bar that, when full, engages you in combat. You can prevent this by getting close enough and attacking first. If you manage to destroy the enemy before they can attack, the alert indicator will disappear, allowing you to sneak up on the closest enemy and so on. It’s less of a stealth game and more of proactive action on the battlefield, but it adds a depth to the Xeno Reborn experience that the original game lacked. Most fights can also be canceled, although bosses are much more difficult to escape from.
You can even take advantage of jerky geometry recognition, shooting through seemingly solid objects like rising sand dunes and bridge piers to hit enemies while taking advantage of the protective benefits those same obstacles offer.
Despite this, it’s still a much, much harder game than the original Xeno. Bosses can be really tough here, requiring you to repeatedly comb through environments, grind enemies for money and materials, complete missions for rewards, and scour ruins for upgrade parts. Upgrading your tank and its weapons, as well as each character’s personal gear, is essential to surviving in the ruins of Dystokia. Instead of just leveling up like in the original Xeno, in Xeno Reborn you earn points to level up each character’s skill tree. Certain characters are suited to certain Discipline types, such as Driving, Repairing, Medical, Militia, and Survival. Certain characters have specialized skill categories, such as Talis’ NephTech tree. Even Metal Max mascot and 4th support character Pochi (an exclusive addition to Xeno Reborn, which has its own recently released spin-off game Metal Dogs) has his own skill tree simply called “Dog”. This allows for deeper customization of your squad’s effectiveness in combat, and adds considerable depth when combining these abilities along with your vehicle arsenal.
However, what mitigates any real sense of consistency here is the lack of a game about the state. Whether your entire crew obliterates a boss or suffers a nearly destroyed tank out in the field, whether by KO or returning to Iron Base voluntarily, you’re simply healed and repaired to optimal condition and you’re good to go again. no worse for wear. This is probably helpful for newbies and veterans alike, as the game has more of a challenge than previous versions of the game, but it takes away any real sense of risk from Xeno Reborn. The ability to save anywhere also makes quick reloading possible just before a tough boss.
Speaking of reloads, load times in Xeno Reborn are substantial. While it’s hardly a deal breaker, prepare to wait on Switch for a while while the game loads the zone you’re fast-traveling to. Frame-rate is also a bit choppy at times, blurry blur/speed effects (especially while driving) are distracting, and monster models often look cheap. This isn’t a high-production game, and it shows on almost every corner. Strange glitches often occur as well, such as B. Clusters of enemies that – if left alone for a while – will start “popping” on their AI paths instead of just walking. While clearly intended as one of the great visual improvements in Xeno Reborn, funky lighting effects are often so dazzling that it’s difficult to read the menu or see what target you’re aiming at during combat.
Minor UX tweaks could have made the game less frustrating as well. For example, if you’re perusing items like weapons in the store, it would have been helpful to have a comparison meter showing how X-weapons compare to the ones you have equipped. Similarly, remembering the nuances of each item in battle is up to you, as only names and no item descriptions are shown. If this sort of oversight had received as much attention as some of the other features, Xeno Reborn would have felt more like a much more complete overhaul than a near-completed experiment.
Still, overall, Reborn is definitely the version of Metal Max Xeno that everyone should be playing. Visually, the vehicles look a little more worn than their previous cel-shaded counterparts on PS4 and PS Vita, and another nice visual touch is how characters like Pochi and Toni ride on top of the vehicles you drive. Likewise, any character whose vehicle is destroyed in battle will drive your tank/buggy/van until you return to the Iron Base.
Fortunately, if you’re considering importing this title, the English version of Xeno Reborn is due soon, and unless your knowledge of Japanese is fair or better – given the number of item descriptions, monster glossaries, and quest objectives – this isn’t a very import-friendly game. Fortunately, that won’t be a problem soon, so we recommend waiting for the English version to be released soon.
https://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/nintendo-switch/metal-max-xeno-reborn Metal Max Xeno: Reborn Review (Switch)