If you took Micro Machines, Rocket League and Vigilante 8 and put them in a blender you’d more than likely end up with a product very similar to Heavy Metal Machines. Heavy Metal Machines recently appeared out of nowhere onto Xbox as a free-to-play title. Some gamers out there may cringe at the words “free-to-play”, but there is actually a vast array of titles that now don’t require you to spend a penny to start playing, and plenty of them are actually really fun with real longevity. Rocket League, for instance, has now gone down the free-to-play route, and I have to mention classics such as Call Of Duty: Warzone and Apex Legends.
So whilst you’re reading this review, get it on download as you have nothing to lose by trying this one, and believe me, you won’t regret it.
Heavy Metal Machines actually has had a really lengthy history, first entering development way back in 2013. It officially launched five years later on 19th September 2018 on Steam and models itself as a multiplayer online battle arena title with vehicles. Developed and published by Hoplon Infotainment, they have decided just a little over two years after initially launching on the PC platform, to now delve into the console market. In my opinion, there is no better place for free-to-play titles than consoles; for young casual gamers and players on a budget it makes financial sense for developers and publishers alike to try their luck at a new player base and community.
The inspiration for Heavy Metal Machines is taken from Rock n’ Roll Racing which was published for Arcade, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis back in the day, but also grabs some slices of Twisted Metal. If you have been gaming for decades like I have then you’ll have so many titles ringing in your head when playing this for the very first time. The excitement of something brand new in such a well-respected and liked genre provided me with an aura of nostalgia and feeling young once again. You’ll notice when you boot up the game you’ll be graced with clean, crisp and easy to navigate menus which are simple to understand. This, mixed with some Heavy Metal music to echo the title of the game, makes you just feel like this is going to have high tempo and intense adrenaline-fuelled gameplay before you even click the ready up button. Strap yourselves in, you’re in for a joyful ride.
The premise is very simple here in Heavy Metal Machines, and that is to deliver a bomb to the enemy base whilst attempting to overcome your opponents and the arena’s hazards and obstacles. Essentially it is 4v4 absolute carnage and mayhem as you battle it out to see who can score three goals first. There are many vehicles to choose from with various abilities, powers and boosts, but I shall move onto that later in the review. Whilst the idea is simple, scoring a goal isn’t always so easy. Once you attach the ball to your vehicle your instinct is to move quickly towards the enemy base. You’ll be navigating around a racetrack and shortcuts cannot be taken when being in control of the ball. There are sharp turns, obstacles such as lava in your path which will cause you significant damage, and “Droppers” (particular areas that force you to automatically drop the ball if you pass through it). Drivers who aren’t carrying the bomb will be able to pass through gaps in the circuit walls to try and knock you off course and ultimately attempt to destroy your vehicle. Now, if you can imagine eight cars all following the same ball and taking digs at each other to achieve the win, it becomes fast, frantic and fantastic fun.
All of the characters in the game are divided into three separate roles and they are known as Supporter, Interceptor or Transporter. The Transporters are experts in transporting the bomb quickly and efficiently to the enemy base and have resistance, speed and agility as some of their personal skills. Supporters assist their team by protecting and repairing friendly vehicles along the course, trying to prevent the enemy from causing maximum damage. Interceptors are specialized in disrupting the enemy from taking the bomb by any means necessary – these cars tend to have higher damage capacity and can muscle the opponent off course.
The introduction to Heavy Metal Machines is brief and will walk you through a short tutorial which takes no longer than five minutes; this will teach you the basics of how to drive, attack and score. You’ll then have the option of casual and ranked playlists with the ability to also practice against bots or set up games with your friends for fun. Casual mode is a good base to start to learn some of the vehicles, their classes and abilities, as well as to learn the layout of the arenas on offer. At the time of writing there appears to be only two arenas on display, but with the pacing of the game as intense as it is, this really doesn’t matter. For what the game lacks in maps, it makes up for with fourteen different characters to choose from, all with their own unique vehicle. Each car has a set of three abilities which include increasing speed, blasting and obstruction. You’ll quickly learn how to adapt with each vehicle you choose and there will be a go-to favourite that will be picked. I did find personally that the Supporters tend to be the weakest of the bunch and the least enjoyable to play with, but this could purely be because I wanted to cause damage and be attacking, so don’t dismiss them as they play a major importance in the battle.
Once you have mastered ten placement matches in the casual playlist, you’ll then be free to play games in ranked battles. This follows a similar model to games like Rocket League where a tier system is in place, with your performances seeing you climb the ranked tiers of bronze, silver, gold and Heavy Metal rank. Each tier graces you with the promise of bonus cosmetics at the end of a season, along with placing on the online leaderboards. As a competitive player I really enjoy the concept of continuous play to try and become better at a game and to see if I have the skill of a top combatant in that genre. Ranked playlists can grant free-to-play titles unlimited replayability as it can be enjoyed for several seasons.
Heavy Metal Machines also adopts the battle pass system as seen in countless other titles – here it is called the Metal Pass. Constructed over sixty tiers across the course of a season, working your way through the ranks rewards you with cosmetics, currency, emotes and experience boosts. Scouting the marketplace on the Xbox Store you can find that they have generously granted all first time players the first Metal Pass free of charge. Alongside the Metal Pass there are various daily, weekly and seasonal challenges that can be completed for bonus experience to rank you up further. What is great here is that anything obtained through the Metal Pass, purchasing items yourself or using experience boosters to accelerate through the ranks, doesn’t give you a leg up over any other player and the battlefield is even. Sure, you’ll still have skilled players out there but this is up to you to hone your own abilities to counter them.
Graphically the game is sound even though with it being a free-to-play title I wasn’t expecting it to be triple-A standard. But the cosmetic side of the game brings real variance in colours and a different experience every time you play. Bundle this with a great ambience in its soundtrack, and whilst I know heavy metal music isn’t for everyone, it really suits the tone of the title. If the music really isn’t to your palette then it can be switched off in the settings. Heavy Metal Machines also brings crossplay, which again can be deactivated or left on for quicker matchmaking or playing with friends across platforms.
Overall I have been delightfully surprised at how accessible and addictive Heavy Metal Machines on Xbox is; it has been a thrill to have something like this at a quiet period in gaming. The game has real potential and enough legs to see it grow and blossom into a success like Rocket League has. The only downside is that in the early days of its release there is a long wait for a ranked match, but I put this down to players still ticking off their placement games. Overall though, this is a real blast to play with friends or alone.