Metal Fatigue is what happens when you take Command & Conquer, replace the infantry with vehicles and the various tanks with Humongous Mecha. Developed by Zono Inc. and published in the US by Talon Soft and in Europe by Psygnosis in 2000, it stands out from similar games by boasting a three-level battlefield and customization of the game's primary units, called Combots.The single-player campaign tells the story of three brothers: Diego, Jonas and Stefan Angelus, as well as three "CorpoNations",: Rimtech, Mil-Agro and Neuropa Limited. Each CorpoNation has its eyes set on a distant world where a cache of potent alien technology is believed to be hidden. Armed warfare ensues between the three as soon as each makes planetfall. In the opening Cut Scene, The three brothers, working for Rimtech, find an alien Energy Weapon while on patrol. Diego, the eldest brother, understandably plans to take the weapon back to their superiors. Jonas, the middle brother, has other plans, however, stating that Neuropa would pay top dollar for the technology. An argument ensues, and would have come to blows were it not for a sudden Mil-Agro airstrike. In the ensuing chaos, Stefan, the youngest brother, is hurled over a cliff, Jonas escapes with the alien weapon and Diego returns home empty-handed, believing Jonas a traitor and Stefan killed in action. However, Stefan turns out to have survived his fall, though he was implanted with a mind control chip by Mil-Agro and pressed into service as their newest champion.Thus, the stage is set for brutal confrontation between the brothers and through them, the CorpoNations.
Archaeological Arms Race: Naturally the best way to get the best parts is to find alien technology caches (as well as stealing parts you've blased off enemy combots).
Artificial Stupidity — Problems with pathfinding are not uncommon, and units will sometimes suicidally rush off to their death while trying to pursue some inaccessible and unimportant enemy. The game offers a lot of options to let you control how each unit reacts to the enemy, which helps reduce this problem somewhat, but babysitting is still often necessary.
Mostly averted with enemies. Their AI usually avoids above problems and on the plus side when supplied with enough energy AI enemies will probe your defenses and put presure on weak points or even sneak cloaked units past your defenses. That is as long as they have energy supply - when they run out they attack till they're reduced to buildings and civil units.
Beehive Barrier: Certain Combot parts can generate a defensive shield that either negates attacks balanced with a long refresh time, or a permanent wall of energy that improves defense.
Boss in Mook Clothing: Even lone Hedoth Spider Tanks can give a poorly-fitted Combot serious trouble. En masse? You'll need a lot of combots to take them out. Maybe a lot of artillery, too...
Cain and Abel: There are elements of this between Diego and Jonas, but Stefan is a wild card.
Color-Coded Characters: With general appearance style to boot. Rimtech units are Blue, with their Combots having a rounded, Tron-esque appearance. Mil-Agro units are Red, with boxy shapes, and visible bolts. Neuropa units are an odd purple/green mix, and have alien-like organic shapes and cycloptic eyes on their Combots.
Character Customization: In a sense. You can mix and match torsos, legs and arms to create a variety of different Combots. Figuring out which setups work best is a key aspect of success.
Cosmetically Different Sides — The Combots avert this, with each side possessing completely different Combot components with distinct abilities and functions. All other units and structures, however, play this trope entirely straight. Each side does get slightly different bonuses to defence and damage for all units, but at the end of the day, a Rimtech tank works exactly the same way as a Neuropa Hover Tank, and the Mil-Agro Matter Converter is exactly the same structure that Neuropa and Rimtech have, just with a boxier model and a chromatically superior paint job.
Death from Above — The game features fighters and bombers, which if shot down can hurt whatever the debris land on (fighters are barely an annoyance in this regard while bombers do TONS of damage in a wide radius). Combots can also be equipped certain parts to fly. There is also an entire orbital layer of battle in addition to the surface and underground sections. You can build on the asteroid platforms up there.
Even better: if a fighter or bomber is shot down on the orbital layer and doesn't land on an asteroid, it will fall down to the surface layer and does the crash damage there. Similarly, if a bomber starts doing a bombing run, any bombs that don't hit something will fall straight to the surface and do damage as usual... except that this kind of attack cannot be protected against via AA defenses.
It is also possible to build railgun Orbital Bombs, which take ages to reload but can take out entire armies of small units with a single hit, or slowly wear away the enemy's base from halfway across the map. Provided the enemy doesn't have a Point Defense structure set up, of course.
The little brother of the Orbital Bomb takes this trope to an entirely different level: the Tectonic Torpedo can fire through the ground to attack underground targets.
Drill Tank — The Drill Truck, though it's not much of a tank. The drill is used for making new passages underground and drilling into Hedoth structures.
Drop the Hammer — The most powerful melee arm in the game belongs to Mil-Agro.
Easily Detachable Robot Parts — arms can be ejected and re-attached at any time, even while in battle. In fact, bladed weapons frequently amputate arms in battle - especially if the wielder has Mil-Agro Steady Legs that increase the chance of this happening.
Arm Cannon — Neuropa's basic ranged weapon. Rimtech has a smaller version that's actually stronger. Neuropa also has a high-tech sniper Arm Cannon.
BFG — Neuropa Sniper Laser and Rimtech Long Range Missile arms.
BFS — the basic Rimtech melee weapon is a katana but it actually averts Katanas Are Just Better: its damage is nowhere near late-game weapons.
Chainsaw Good — a rotary saw made of energy is the most powerful melee arm for Neuropa.
Drop the Hammer — advanced Mil-Agro weapon and the most devastating melee arm in the whole game (does 60/2 damage per hit, and that's WITHOUT the bonus from pilot rank). Dual-wield these with Strength Legs and your Combot can open a HUGE can of whupass.
Gatling Good — one of Mil-Agro's ranged arms and is the only hitscan arm in the whole game (ie. it hits instantly so pesky aircraft can't dodge it). It also comes with Flak Torso which does even more instant damage.
Power Fist — every side has their own version: Rimtech's Armor Fist is a simple gauntlet, Mil-Agro's Blade Fist has Wolverine Claws and Neuropa's Power Fist has an energy blade mounted onto the knuckles. All of 'em do lots of damage.
Shock and Awe — Neuropa's basic melee weapon is the Electrogrip whose attack shocks enemy Combots into submission. It only lasts while the attack animation is going but it's one long attack animation...
Faction Calculus — Rimtech (Balanced), Mil-Agro (Powerhouse) and Neuropa (Subversive).
Five Rounds Rapid: This is about all tanks are good for against Combots. Missile Tanks are slightly more effective, however. Used en-masse, Missile Tanks can quickly tear down a lone Combot.
Expect this to happen any time you come up against the monstrous Hedoth Combots, which can put the hardiest human-made designs to shame and dish out even more damage.
Flight: all sides have a part (Rimtech has Jumpjet Legs, Mil-Agro and Neuropa have a Jumpjet Torso) that has pathetic HP but makes the Combot capable of flying. While in the air, Combots behave like ordinary aircraft: they use the same movement patterns, can only be attacked by ranged weapons, etc. Also, Combots can fire ranged weapons from the air and if ordered not to engage in melee, they stay floating in mid-air air while gunning for the target. On the other hand, a flying Combot has ZERO armor until it lands so it takes extra damage from AA.
Especially since Neuropa is the only side to field Speed Legs which makes the Combot Ninja Run. The only thing that prevents the Speed Legs + dual-wielded Mil-Agro Hammer Arms combo from being a Lightning Bruiser is the fact that Speed Legs can't take this much weight and the Combot will walk normally. Fist-type weapons, however...
This can be combined with the above trope. If you manage to equip a Combot with both Jumpjet Torso and Jumpjet Legs, it'll have next to no HP besides what the arms contribute but it'll fly VERY fast.
Guide Dangit — The weight mechanic is not explained anywhere in the game or the manual. Weight values are also impossible to find other than by trial and error.
<Hero> Must Survive — Present in every campaign mission, since you always have one of the three brothers (depending on faction) present in-game as a ComBot crew. Sometimes other characters from the storyline appear, and must survive, as well. It's usually easier to leave these "Hero" units out of harm's way for the entire mission, since it's easy to build standard ComBot crews to replace them, and between missions these standard crews can even be upgraded to equal the skill of the "Heroes". This leads to annoying Gameplay and Story Segregation as the post-mission de-briefings will often mention how awesome and absolutely essential the "Hero" units were to the victory, when in reality they may not have even set foot inside a ComBot at any point during the game.
Humongous Mecha — They serve as your main attack force. Interestingly enough, they are piloted Motion Capture Mecha style (a la G Gundam) but also require a support crew who operate a ring of control consoles around the pilot's center platform. They're also damn big, dwarfing the tanks and artillery pieces that support them.
Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: The AI names in Multiplayer/Skirmish are meaningful, though like Weight this is never explained. Lord Bedlam, MadDog and Sgt. Dolt (Neuropa, Mil-Agro and Rimtech) are the 'stupid' practice AIs.
Invisibility Flicker: Neuropa Camo Torso. Cloaks every friendly in-range but the effect is broken as soon as they attack.
Mecha Game: Fits the standard of relying heavily on unit customization. A bit of a toss-up as to whether it's more in the "Stompy" or "High-speed" categories — most Combots are fairly slow, but it's possible to put together a high-speed build; there's plenty of tactical long-range weapons, but "hand-to-hand" combat is also very common (though it's also fairly slow-paced, with Combots slowly swinging heavy weapons and shields at each other like medieval knights in rusty armour).
Mighty Glacier: Mil-Agro units and Combot parts are this. Also any Combot with all Armour parts, such as the Rimtech Armour Torso and Fists, and the Neuropa Armour Legs.
All Combot arms have a certain weight while legs have a maximum limit for the amount of weight they can carry. Going over this means the Combot in question will switch to Ominous Walk. Mil-Agro has a leg part (Strength Legs) specifically to avoid this since their stuff is heavier. Of the mighty part, Mil-Agro again: their Powershield Legs give extra armor against energy attacks but make the Combot unable to do anything butOminous Walk.
Instead of Armour Fists equip Armour Torso&Legs Combot with two Hammers or a Hammer and Shield - destroying a monster like this takes a lot of firepower.
Mega Manning — The only way to get an opposing Combot's parts is to salvage it after or during combat, although the "during combat" part only works for arm parts. Bladed melee weapons and certain other parts help in this regard. Gathering parts is a necessity for success, so that you can form a more flexible battle strategy with your Combots.
If you're fighting against Mil-Agro or Neuropa, this trope kicks into high gear. Mil-Agro has extra armor against energy attacks and have only kinetic weapons while Neuropa is the exact opposite. Since they're less resistant against the kind of damage they themselves inflict, jacking their weapons is surprisingly effective. The AI actually does this in the campaign.
Mook Chivalry — Computer opponents will sometimes show a distressing tendency to attack your heavily-defended base with a few units at a time, over and over again, instead of attacking en masse. This is especially noticeable in the campaigns, though in Skirmish mode some of the AI settings seem to be a bit better about this.
Depends on map. In a mid-level mission in the Mil-Agro campaign, the Rimtech AI attacks with four or five Combots at a time.
More Dakka — A possible build for a pure ranged Mil-Agro Combot. It makes a surprisingly good mobile anti-air platform as well.
RPG Elements — Depending on your performance, points are awarded at the end of each mission which can be used to increase the proficiency of surviving Combot crews and heroes or the efficiency of your vehicle and structure crews.
Shield Bash — How any Combot that only has shields arms fights.
Shoulder Cannon — Available to all factions, in one form or another. Rim-Tech get missile launching torsos, Mil-Agro have the Flak and Howitzer torsos, and Neuropa has the Tracer Fire plasma cannon torso.
Shoulders of Doom — Rimtech Combots crewed by a hero unit or a crew above level 4 get these.
Super Robot — Any Combot that has at least one piece of alien tech can easily solo five enemy Combots. The only way to eliminate one without taking losses is by air assault - and that's if it doesn't have a ranged weapon. If it does, well...
Also a rare aversion of Cutscene Power to the Max from the intro cutscene. They really are (well, almost) that dangerous. On the other hand, the research and production times are ridiculous.
The Laws and Customs of War — Before full-out war broke out, the three CorpoNations settled disputes by agreeing to stage fair and balanced battles on pre-determined battle-fields.
Underground Level: You can use elevators to transport units underground. It's a good place to hide valuable structures, as you can control all axes of approach and Combots can't go down there. Drill Trucks can be used to dig new tunnels and construct new elevators, allowing you to send vehicles behind enemy lines.
Sadly, the game's underground parts add a lot of boredom: you're forced to rush the enemy with a whole lot of tanks - that take a proportionally long time to build. On the other hand, massed artillery supported by Tectonic Torpedoes (targeted at enemy tank concentrations) from above can do some real damage.
Unusable Enemy Equipment: Averted, your Combots can pick up the discarded arms of enemy combots in the field and use them immediately. This can result in Rainbow Pimp Gear however, with, for example, a Rimtech Combot (blue) with a Mil-Agro axe arm (red with white highlights) and a Neuropa Energy Weapon (gray with some purple bits).
On the other hand, if you haul the parts back to base... you can research them and build your own versions of that part which actually use different models and textures to suit your faction. For example, the Neuropa K-Shield is more lozenge-shaped, compared to the Mil-Agro and Rimtech versions which look basically like a Combot-sized riot shield emblazoned with the faction logo.
You Require More Vespene Gas: there are two kinds of resources. Metajoule is needed to build stuff and is harvested from lava pits or generated by solar panels. The other is Manpower, increased by building Cryofarms (which also produce Combot crews) and AI Centers (which decrease the manpower requirement of buildings).