"It's five years after the formation of the Worldwide Federation. Although war has been averted, terrorist cells around the world threaten the stability of the federation. To combat this menace, the Federation has created a bi-pedal armored tank known as the Metal Head. You are a Metal Head pilot and you have to use all the weapons at your disposal to take out the terrorists." That is about all the story of one of the first Mech games to appear on a Sega console: Metal Head.
Metal Head is actually more like a first-person shooter than a traditional Mech simulation. The graphics, which are rendered in texture mapped polygons, are quite impressive for a 32X game. Although all proceeding may sound as a basis for a pretty decent game, Metal Head has three problematic issues.
First of all, the game is S-L-O-W as hell. Your Mech moves like it is stuck in clay. Luckily, there is a strive button, which speeds your vehicle up a little. When I was playing I found myself holding down that button all the time, because without it the slowness is so staggeringly the game is practical unplayable.
Between the missions it is possible to buy gadgets for your Mech, also in stock is extra speed, but that doesn't help very much either. The second crucial problem of the game concerns the radar. Usually missions imply shooting all the enemies on the map. Those enemies are indicated on the radar by yellow signals. Most of the time you will be looking more at the radar than at the actual playing screen. But if you have been hit too many times, the radar will first dysfunction and finally break, leaving the player with no clue where he is nor where he has to go! Walking around aimlessly, waiting until the time has run out and you must start all over again, seems to be biggest part of the gameplay of the game.
The third problem is smaller, but still not very convenient. The shooting arrow is just a little orange dot with little red angles around it. Very often it is very hard see, making shooting at enemies feel more like you are randomly shooting around than actually pointing at a specific target.
Though at first glance Metal Head isn't bad, these problems make the game very annoying. The first missions, which are easy, are quite fun, but when you have to 'locate' buildings (without a clue where to go), the fun diminish greatly. The one time I made it in some building; I also noticed that if there is too much on screen the game slows down even more. The weapons and add-ons you can buy between the stages aren't very encouraging either: Hard-to-aim-laser, too-close-range-grenade canons which make the game harder instead of being any help to the player.
The audio isn't anything special but not bad and the control is accurate (which shouldn't be too hard for such a slow game!) ... especially with the six-point controller.
Metal Head has received some real thrashing reviews a long time after the game was released, which isn't completely fair. It was one of the main titles on the 32X and is definitely better than crap like Motorcross Championship, Primal Rage, BC Racers or Cosmic Carnage. Metal Head is more like one of those other 32X flagship titles: Knuckles Chaotix. Just like that game, the intention was good, but the idea just doesn't really work and the very moderate way in which both games have been worked out doesn't really help as well. Overall, Metal Head is a very average game, but quite a showcase for your 32X as long as it doesn't move.