Metal Max Xeno: Reborn PS4 Review – Tanks and Puppies

    Title: Metal Max Xeno: Reborn
    Developer: Kadokawa Games
    Release Date: June 10, 2022
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: PQube
    Genre: Sim-JRPG

There’s the legendary film franchise Mad Max, and there was once a Mighty Max cartoon that played on Saturday mornings, and then there is the JRPG Metal Max. Surprisingly, all three IPs do have several things in common, but this review is about the latest Metal Max release, a franchise that quite rarely receives a worldwide localization.

Although a few notable titles from the series did reach Western fans, they were usually not the games they wanted. Metal Max Xeno in 2018 offered an experience that felt like a mere shell of what fans had come to expect, and in 2022, the very same game now receives a complete makeover with a new title of Metal Max Xeno: Reborn.

They say putting makeup on a pig still makes it a pig, but this Reborn release lives up to its namesake in more ways than one. The original Metal Max Xeno felt like a barebones offering, offering the bare minimum in play systems and providing very little incentive for players to dive into its bland setting.

The game wasn’t even all that fun to play either, given its cumbersome driving controls and poor pacing. Metal Max Xeno: Reborn, however, almost feels like a complete director’s cut, as the experience now feels complete, and also true to what fans have loved about the franchise.

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While the core premise and setup of the original 2018 game remain intact, the structure and pacing of the adventure are so much better in the 2022 reimagining. Enhanced visuals and updated artwork are just the tip of it all, where the biggest improvement is apparent in the battle system.

Previously, battles had to take place on a separate mode and screen, but now in Reborn, all the turn-based battles are triggered in real-time within the overworld map, and it’s quite easy for players to initiate or even escape enemy encounters. In short, the significant improvements made to the graphics, performance, and overall flow of gameplay systems, all make Reborn the absolute definitive version of Metal Max Xeno.

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The post-apocalyptic desert-punk JRPG comes back in full swing here, with the level of freedom and customizable depth fans have come to expect from the franchise. This is a setting where humanity is all but extinct, and so as one of the few survivors camped at an ivory tower, there’s still a chance to fight back and reclaim the world.

A real-time extinction meter needs to be managed at all times, and engaging in various quests and hunting down mechanical beasts will help bring down this extinction percentage. The basic premise and goal of survival are simple enough, but this immersive experience is really about all the things you get to do in between at your whim.

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Even with extinction looming over your ahead, the pace of the adventure is really up to the player. There is a main storyline with quests you need to complete to progress the main adventure, but the real fun is taking things at your own pace and doing your own thing. Every little thing you do and discover, whether it’s hunting a new monster or discovering new items, all earn experience points. And so, while the game may feel like a slow grind at first, things pick up in no time, as there are just so many ways to farm experience points.

The main character you control is just one small part of the gameplay experience, as soon enough, you board your first tank you get right into the heart and soul of a traditional Metal Max experience. There are numerous vehicles to take control of, but the customizable tank is what will get you through most of the harsh landscapes. Various parts and upgrades can be purchased and manufactured, and for the most part, vehicular combat will get you through most of the battles.

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Combat on foot is a common occurrence too, as players will eventually need to leave their trusty combat vehicle behind to explore certain dungeons. It can be challenging to battle alone, but in no time you get acquainted with a canine companion who comes armed with their own machine gun. As you explore the wasteland you rescue survivors too, many of which then join your party. Having a customizable combat pet and being able to recruit new allies to fight alongside you adds more variety to the gameplay. Tanks, dogs, and warriors — you get all the help you need to battle extinction.

Although there are numerous tasks and quests you can partake in, the main crux of the adventure involves hunting monsters. These mechanical abominations, ranging from giant ants to hair-brained dinosaurs, are the creation of an evil AI who decided one day that humanity had no right to exist. As one of the last surviving humans, you say “screw that,” and take these creatures head-on. These hunts tend to accumulate in boss battles as you take on the many Wanted creatures roaming the game world, and while these battles are tough, they earn you some sweet bounty to spend on upgrades.

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Metal Max Xeno: Reborn can be a slow grind, but it gives you enough freedom to control the flow. Sure, you could focus on leveling up in areas close to your base as you slowly make your way through the game world, but it’s worthwhile rushing ahead simply to add new travel points to your fast travel menu.

These fast travel points are frequent, so it’s probably a good idea to scout as much of the map as you can early on before getting into the combat grind. What’s also helpful is how there’s no real consequence when your party gets wiped out, as you simply return to the main base and pick up where you left off. In a way, this starts to feel like an open-world experience, where no amount of exploration or combat feels like a wasted effort.

As vast as the experience may feel, the game rarely ever bogs players down with menus and systems. There are certainly a lot of moving parts to this JRPG, but these systems and mechanics are so efficient in execution that they become second nature quite easily.

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Although the game is a welcome improvement over what we saw in 2018, the presentation here is still far from a graphical marvel, as most of the environments look dull, while the enemy models can often appear quite clunky and dated.

While the tank controls have improved over the game we saw in the original, map exploration can often feel cumbersome due to pesky things like invisible walls, with your tank often struggling to drive over some rubble. The game performs fine for what it is, but it isn’t really doing much in terms of animation and special effects.

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Metal Max Xeno: Reborn not only feels like a far more complete and polished game than its immediate predecessor, but it’s also true to the Metal Max experience. There’s no JRPG quite like this desert-punk vehicular combat RPG, thanks to its rich post-apocalyptic setting brimming with content and deep customization options. The best part is, that you get to save humanity from extinction at your own pace.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!