A dusty wasteland sprawls before you in Metal Max Xeno: Reborn. A land of rolling dunes and sand-drenched, desert landscapes. The ruins of a once mighty and proud civilization rot in the sun. Once this area used to be a harbour. Now it’s a wasteland of sand and death. This is Tokyo in the future. You’re not looking at the beginning of the apocalypse, but rather its end. Humanity’s last legs are crippled and what’s left of the human race, if only a handful, awaits extinction.
Not all of them though. From the dusty ashes rises a new warrior, a new monster hunter whose calling it is to rid the world of the AI that caused this mass extinction and the monstrous abominations born from the fallout. And if you can find a few survivors to join you in your cause, all the better.
Chances are supremely high that you’ve never heard of the Metal Max (or Metal Saga) franchise. The series began its life way back in 1991, went dormant for a few years, and then sparked back to life in 2018 with Metal Max Xeno. Metal Max Xeno: Reborn is, sort of, a remake of the 2018 game.
Metal Max Xeno: Reborn is an open-world, non-linear RPG that seems to be heavily inspired by – perhaps unsurprisingly – Mad Max. However, instead of rolling around the wasteland in cars, you steamroll the abominations haunting Dsytokio in a tank. That’s right, Metal Max Xeno: Reborn has both traditional on-foot character combat and vehicle combat for you to play around with, with the vehicle combat being the main selling point.
You’ll come across your first tank very early on, before even finding another party member. Once you head on over to Iron Base, which is your HQ from then on, the game drops you into its gameplay loop: exploration, finding resources and parts, and kill, kill, kill.
The combat system combines elements of real-time combat with traditional turn-based combat, regardless of whether you’re on foot or in a vehicle. Before an enemy engages you, there’s a brief amount of time for you to land your first attack. On foot, that lets you open up your command menu and start an attack. In your tank, the same process happens except that you can choose which of your armaments to choose before aiming in first-person at them and blowing them to kingdom come. This pre-emptive attack can decide the outcome of a battle, possibly becoming one-hit kills the more powerful you become.
Characters level in the traditional manner, with XP raising your level and each level giving you skill points to use in your skill tree. This lets you increase your health or raise your attack percentages with specific elemental attacks.
Vehicles function differently though. Combat rewards you with money and parts. To increase your vehicle’s power, you’ll have to buy new weapons or increase the stats of the ones you already have. There’s a lot to take in here when looking at new weapons or modifying existing ones. It isn’t only your attack power that changes, but weapon durability and even overall weight. While small arms and machine guns – for both your characters and vehicles – have infinite ammo, your vehicle’s heavy ordinance has limited ammo, meaning that you’re always going to have to return to base to repair damage and restock. It also means you have to pay attention to your ammo count at all times along with deciding which attacks are best to use in the current situation.
In battle, you can engage the auto-attack function and watch as your troops fight it out. But bear in mind that before auto-attack engages in the second round of each battle, you’ll have to use one manual attack per party member first and then the system uses that attack for the remainder of the battle. So be wary of using a heavy cannon attack and thus letting the system automatically use up your limited ammo. Auto-attack can be turned on and off at any time in a battle if you’re concerned.
While characters level quite quickly, vehicles are where the game requires you to grind for that money and components. It’s not just the challenging “Wanted” enemies that serve as world bosses that you have to contend with, but also the game blocking off new areas behind debris that requires a specific attack power to destroy. And things get very expensive, very quickly where new weaponry and upgrades are concerned, so expect to spend a lot of time in each area maximising your kill count.
Luckily death comes with no adverse effects, nor does taking heavy fire. Unless you specifically try to get yourself and your team wiped, Metal Max Xeno: Reborn is rather forgiving about combat damage. Your vehicles can lose all their health points and weaponry yet still be drivable. Party members that take a dirt nap will be left behind when you escape an overwhelming battle or just scrape through. However, thanks to the game’s super handy fast-travel system – which works everywhere if you’re not in a fight – you can just pop on over back to Iron Base and have everyone healed, weaponry repaired and resupplied.
With such a heavy focus on vehicle combat, Metal Max Xeno: Reborn feels like it should have been a third-person action game rather than an RPG. Vehicle controls feel primed more for that than turn-based combat. It’s a small niggle but, overall, the combat system works well once you’re geared up correctly.
Party members can be found both in Iron Base and in various places across the world. Each crew member has their own little backstory to contend with but, overall, Metal Max Xeno: Reborn‘s story takes a backseat to the fighting. However, kudos to the game for giving you a Shiba Inu as a party member that you can strap a massive canon onto and chuck into battle. The game’s lore is handily recounted to you by Iron Base’s barman. Mini quests rack up your quest log, most of which can be completed multiple times for XP boosts, but they feel more like milestones than anything narratively significant.
Visually, Metal Max Xeno: Reborn is a bit of a mixed bag. The various tank and vehicle models are wonderfully modelled and animated, and the characters are well done as well. The environment, however, is a whole lot of greys and browns. While this fits in with the desiccated, apocalyptic hellscape you’re in, overall the environment is sparse and a little low poly. Which, honestly, is at odds with the wonderful artwork on display on the loading screens. The soundtrack though is pretty kick-ass with some nice metal riffs during combat.
Outside of the grinding, the only area that did irk me with the game is its UI. It’s a little cumbersome to navigate, and actions like getting in and out of vehicles in the world requires you to jump into a menu, pick the appropriate option, and then confirm it. It would have been easier to just use one button for boarding and unboarding. The same goes for when rolling through the character menus and item menus. It could all do with some streamlining.
Despite feeling a little janky, Metal Max Xeno: Reborn is a fun, apocalyptic RPG with some great combat and a story that doesn’t get in the way of you playing. And if you’ve ever wanted your good boy to be a beast on the battlefield while you roll around in a rusty public bus with missile launchers strapped to its roof, then Metal Max Xeno: Reborn is the game for you.
A review code for Metal Max Xeno: Reborn was provided to Gameblur by the publisher
Metal Max Xeno: Reborn (Nintendo Switch) ReviewMetal Max Xeno: Reborn
Audio8/10 Very Good
- Great vehicle combat
- A Shiba Inu with a cannon strapped to its back
- In-depth customisation and upgrading system
- Heavy grind
- UI needs streamlining