Mento's May Madness More: #16 - Metal Drift

May the Sixteenth

The game: Black Jacket Studios's Metal Drift

The source: Bundle Stars' Catnip Bundle

The pre-amble: Metal Drift is an online multiplayer competitive vehicular combat/sport game in which the target is to score points by collecting a ball deposited in a central location and putting it in the opponent's goal. Deterring you from this task are the opposing team of hover cars with assault weapons - the player can select between and upgrade weapons and power-ups, but must level up in true competitive online fashion before stronger variants become unlocked. While destruction of enemy vehicles - whether by your own hand or assisting another - earns yourself experience points, it is only by scoring goals that you start seeing big hauls.

The playthrough: Metal Drift initially seemed like a bit of dumb fun, albeit the sort that would be greatly enhanced by a cadre of online friends than some soulless bots, but like so many of its ilk the game is yet another victim of a certain modern online gaming foible. Specifically? The part where you begin as an underpowered weenie with zero chance of succeeding until you've humbly subjected yourself to enough drubbings--fratboy pledge style--to level up to the point where you can actually stand tall alongside the big boys, rather than lying in a crumpled heap a few yards away bereft of your proverbial lunch money. A new player is thus doubly disabled: first by their relative lack of expertise at the game and second by the dismal array of utilities at their disposal when compared to their higher leveled peers. I forget which game started this trend (though I heavily suspect it involves duty and the calling thereof) but it's among the most insidious and hostile models and, either in spite or because of this, has spread to become the de facto system for almost every online game in recent memory.

The second most common view, the first being a brief cutscene of your car exploding.

As if to recreate what it will be like to play against opponents like this online, all the bots in the game are also incredibly overpowered in a comparative sense. Even when bots are "dynamically" assigned weapons (which I clearly misinterpreted to mean "bots that are only as strong as you are") they tend to outgun you rather severely, and you're left trying to scrape whatever small amount of experience points that are given by assist kills from your burly teammate bots in hope of being at least a fraction closer towards a new level by the time the brutal beatdown subsides. Of course, leveling up has no guarantee that a new weapon or defensive ability will actually unlock - the game has a limited amount of both and only ekes them out at seemingly inscrutable intervals.

It really doesn't help that the initial - and for a long time only - weapon is something called the pulse cannon. Now that might sound impressive, but let me just throw a little botany at you: A pulse, or legume, is the collective term for a family of vegetation that commonly have pods as ovaries; the seeds from which are frequently devoured by humans and other animals. These seeds are invariably types of bean or pea. Therefore what a pulse cannon is, semantically speaking, is a peashooter - and this is never made more clear than when you expend an entire ammo clip just to drop an enemy's shields in time for them to actually deign to acknowledge that annoying buzzing noise behind them and demolish your hovercar with a single shot from their high-powered missile launcher, temporal cannon, rail gun or whatever ludicruous sci-fi weapon their high experience level affords them. "Dynamically balanced bots" my disintegrated derriere.

The verdict: Not a chance. (Though I feel I should give Metal Drift some slack here: this would also be true of any multiplayer game in my Steam library with discouragingly few exceptions.)

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