Review by Tenshi No Shi
"You'll certainly slave to finish this one."
As you may or may not know by now, I love mechs. Giant robots have always fascinated me; from shows like Voltron and Robotech to games such as Mech Warrior and Tech Romancer, I've seen it all. When the first bits if information trickled out on a new giant robot game named Slave Zero, I took immediate interest. I mean, what could be cooler- a huge mech running amok in a bustling, futuristic city battling other huge mechs? It had all the elements of a guaranteed hit. But like all good and aspiring things, there's a small chance for something to go wrong
Slave Zero's story is actually rather unique- some 500 hundred years in the future, we live in an era known as the First Corporate Dynasty which is ruthlessly ruled by the SovKhan. The SovKhan, residing in MegaCity S1-9, enforces its law with giant mechs called Slaves- a combination of cybernetic embryos, metal exoskeletons, and a substance known as Dark Matter. A resistant group known simply as the Guardians plan on destroying the SovKhan's terroristic empire, but lack the strength and firepower to accomplish their goals. To this end they steal a Slave and meld its raw power with the mind of their best pilot Chan. You are Chan and it's up to you to stop the SovKhan. As you can see, it's quite an incredible, not to mention refreshing, plot. Too bad the gameplay doesn't live up to it.
There really is no easy way to describe Slave Zero's graphics. But if I had to sum it all up, I'd say it boils down to a constant struggle between the good and the bad. For example, all of the Slave's look incredible, but their animations suck. Also, some of the cityscapes are really detailed and colorful while others are drab and ugly. Finally, for every breath-taking stage that you play through there is an equally boring one that must be conquered. It's like the programmers made half of a great game and gave up, settling on spreading what was finished into a thin layer of mediocrity. While Infogrames only did the console port, they should know that the Dreamcast was made for much better than this!
Unfortunately, the horror doesn't end with the graphics, as the sound is a work of atrocity in and of itself. While not all horrible (some of the music is tolerable) I can honestly say that there are Gameboy games that do a better job than Slave Zero in audio effects. Half the time effects like gunfire, explosions, and crashes sound muted while the rest of the time they're not present at all! There were several instances during the game I noticed the sound effects would become louder and softer as if someone was screwing with the volume control on my stereo. As I mentioned before, the music isn't bad, but prolonged exposure may cause insanity. Slave Zero's only saving grace is the voice acting, which is actually pretty decent when some of the neat voice modulations are thrown in.
Now the time has come to examine how Slave Zero controls. If you've ever played Turok on the N64 then the layout for Slave Zero should be familiar to you- the analog stick lets you look around while moving is accomplished with the face buttons. Weapons are easily handled with the 'L' and 'R' triggers, while all other functions fall to the digital pad. Did you notice I didn't mention a jumping button? You know what that means don't you? Yes, unfortunately you have to jump while by pressing up on the digital pad, which means you have to move your thumb down from the analog stick and then back up again. I can't tell you how much of a pain in the ass this is. For the most part though, the game controls rather well, though the inconstantly choppy frame rate will throw you off more than once.
Where did it all go wrong? Slave Zero had such a promising concept with excellent ideas that were evident in even the earliest stages of design. Even the computer version, with its much prettier graphics and clearer sound had problems, so this can't all be blamed on a crappy port (though it certainly doesn't help). Some of the levels themselves are ingeniously designed, truly giving you the feel of a futuristic city while others look like they were laid out with cereal boxes as the models. You almost get the feeling the two total separate teams worked on the game, and one of them was comprised of 3-year-old children. Why did they even bother to give you different weapons, they all seem to cause about the same amount of damage! And don't even get me started on the beyond craptastic multi-player mode. I felt like I was playing the Monkey Tag on Turok 2! So much promise yet so little effort
If you're looking for any extras or bonuses you won't find them in Slave Zero. Sorry folks, nothing to see here. Move along Are you still reading this? There's nothing to read. For some damn reason, there aren't any cool little secrets to be unlocked. Net even so much as a toothpick to be found! So you might as well stop looking because there's nothing extra to see here.
I honestly wouldn't wish this game on my worst enemy. It's good for a rental or a coaster, that's about it. I will admit that the last couple of levels are almost worth the effort of playing through the rest of the crap though but only because you might as well see it through if you've made it that far! Try at your own risk.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 08/10/09
Game Release: Slave Zero (US, 10/31/99)
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