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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004


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by Talonsoft

Ups: Combots and deep RTS gameplay 

Downs:  Can sometimes get tedious.

System Reqs: P200; 32MB RAM, 3D Accelerator 8MB RAM

The latest title from Talonsoft, Metal Fatigue, lives up to at least one word in its name.  I’m exhausted after this game.  Mortally and morally tired.  The vagaries of CorpoNation warfare, the pitfalls of fraternal conflicts, and the truly staggering complexity of managing armies in this game have devolved me in a drooling ape who regularly wakes up at his keyboard after yet another marathon session with a cramped back and keyboard indents in his forehead. This is both this game’s promise and it’s problem.   

Metal Fatigue doesn’t make any advances in storytelling.  You play one of three brothers, each working for a different CorpoNation (Diego of Rimtech, Stefan of Mil-Agro, and Jonus or Neuropa) and battling for control of Hedoth, the alien system of an older and apparently extinct civilization whose technology you are in the processes of swiping.  On the up side, the narrative is advanced through the personal journals of each brother during mission briefings.  This adds a nice, if small, narrative touch, but you didn’t really come to across the galaxy to read novels or become emotionally invested in the characters.  You came to kick a little ass with some fancy robots.

Robots, or Combots, are the best piece of the game.  Anyone familiar with MechWarrior style titles will feel at home.   Manufacturing two arms, a torso, and set of legs creates a Combot, and each CorpoNation begins with a different set of Combot combinations.  As you crush your enemies, you can steal parts manufactured by the other side.  For weapons, you can equip a mechanical death machine with kinetic weapons (katanas, axes, big hammers) or energy blasters (lasers, plasma canons) and part of the strategy is to build Combots that best suit the style of your attackers.  It is particularly satisfying to watch a horde of robots, each with an ax-arm, plow through orphanages, enemy depots, and any random housing developments that just happen to get in their way. 

The rest of Metal Fatigue, in terms of its RTS components, is uninspired.   Each CorpoNation has the same support units (tanks, artillery, missile jeeps, useless and quick-to-die hoverjets, and a thing called the nemesis that injures Combots) with are pretty much impotent against their hulking betters.  They’re also expensive.  Watching a single Combot with a hammer make short work of your tank battalion is depressing.  With so much work going into the big boys, it’s too bad that more time couldn’t have been spent individualizing each CorpoNation’s other combatants.  As far as I can tell, they are only good for exploring the subterranean levels of the game, which segues me into what will either make the game worth buying or make you turn off your computer in frustration.

Metal Fatigue is set up in three different levels of play: the orbital level, surface, and underground.  In almost every mission, each level must be monitored and each must be fought for as well as successfully defended.  Forcing a Mil-Agro force out of the orbital layer is no guarantee that, once your back is turned, they won’t take it all back.  This simple addition enlarges each mission immensely as well as placing huge demands on your ability to cope with multiple tasks on several different maps.  Frankly, I found this tedious.  Just when I began making headway on the surface, something would drag my attention to another map, eliminating any gains I’d made.  However, to hardcore RTS fans, I think this feature will push Metal Fatigue into the worth-it category due to the complexity of resource management and directing operations in multiple fields. 

The rest of the game is unimaginative and unspectacular.  The soundtrack is what you’d expect, the usual rehash of “exciting” electronica, so turn it off at the first opportunity.   The 3D landscapes are plain and don’t vary or make good use of textures.  There are only two resources, people to be gotten from cryofarms, and metajoules that are easily extracted from large lava pools.  No surprises there, although metajoule collection is made easy in that your collection vehicles (hover trucks) beam the energy directly back to your base.  However, as lava pools gradually refill and since you can build solar panels to collect energy on the orbital layer, the old ploy of taking out the enemy’s resource is difficult if not obsolete. 

What makes Metal Fatigue interesting, the Combots, doesn’t make up for the at- times-stultifying game play.  However, I think it still deserves four stars because that same play that turns me off will, in my opinion, jazz the hardcore gamer.  Winning, even completing a mission, in Metal Fatigue is a challenge of logistics and attention.   If you are casual about RTS games, then Metal Fatigue is not for you.  If you beaten all the other games on the market, jonez for an RTS challenge, and like the idea of tromping around in a several ton robot, then Metal Fatigue will give you a good time.  

--Matt Blackburn