Review by hangedman

"Slave Zero undoubtedly proves itself to be the worst game released for the Dreamcast."

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SLAVE ZERO
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This review is going to seem like a tag team assault on a game, and I'm going to apologize in advance for this. However, in my defense I'd like to point out that Slave Zero represents the worst that the DC has to offer in every aspect that can disappoint a gamer. I bought it for the premise: big robots, gunfire, etc. Unfortunately, even games that sound great on paper can be utterly horrible.

Let me tell you this: Slave Zero is the worst game released on the DC, and it really sends out waves upon waves of utter crapulence to prove this point. It's hard to think that this was made consciously by a team of ''industry professionals.''

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STORY
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''This would be original, if it wasn't a hackneyed situation and poorly executed.''

The Earth is run by giant corporations in the future. These corporations, despite the fact that most corporations depend on the public to support them, are tyrannical in nature and suppress the public in every evil way possible. So, it's up to mankind to rebel. In this case, there's an organization in the sewers of the megacity that have managed to capture ''Slave Zero,'' a giant combat robot designed obviously to tighten the grip on the innocent.

Your role is a teenager that pilots the Slave to retaliate against the corporation that controls the megacity.

I know. I read that and stood up and said to the world,
''Sweet Jesus! There are still game companies that are able to make games with a stellar story and excellent premise for fighting! The premise is so entirely original that I need to see exactly how this paradigm of story resolves itself!''

My indignation right there became too great for even me to control, and I apologize if by being so overtly sarcastic I caused a tidal wave off the coast of Japan. Sadly, an American made game has managed to overtake the throne of crappy game stories, despite Japan's deadly weapons of horrible translation and awkward cultural differences. I think this story might have appealed to me when I was about 7 and thought the pinnacle of brilliant writing was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle novels.

As an aspiring writer, I can only look down and shake my head when I think that someone was actually put in charge of the game's story and this was the best thing that they could come up with.

Fortunately though, the story is pretty unobtrusive. It only pops up in 2 cinemas and a screen explaining the megacorporations at the beginning of the game. It's a steaming pile of awful, but it's a quiet kind of steaming awful.

Story: 1 / 10
You've gotta be kidding me. I've read gothic poetry better than this game's plot.


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GRAPHICS
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''Is that supposed to be a robot?''

Ugly, ugly, ugly. Let's just say that Slave Zero could have been ported to the playstation or N64 without much loss in quality. Sure, you can cut it some slack, but let's look at some first generation titles that are supposed to have bad graphics: Soul Calibur, Sonic, House of the dead 2, Maken X. Uhm, sorry Slave Zero, you're a loser. No, you can't blame it on anything. I'd say it's the taking part that counts, but not here. This isn't the Special Olympics: this is a game that I paid money to play and got no recompense for.

So what exactly is bad about it? For one thing, everything is blocky. Everything has this sheer bulk and blotchiness to it that makes things look extremely unimpressive, and laughable. I wanted to tear my eyes out after seeing the bad character models. When I start to think that I might possibly be able to make better models with a program myself, having no prior experience with modeling, that's when I know a game has bad graphics. Although I mention a lot that I play a lot of retro games and that I'm tolerant of all kinds of graphics, it's worth mentioning again. Why? A game really needs to make me notice the bad graphics in order for it to be an issue. Slave Zero does. Everything is so low-poly, most playstation games put it to shame in terms of presenting clean and realistic models. Shoulderpads look like squares, heads are obviously cubic, and there's no attempt to curve surfaces or mask polygon breakup.

Aside from the godawful models, the environments are horrendous. Not only are the levels practically at right angles (everything seems to be perpendicular, like it was laid out with building blocks), but they're also extremely flat and boring; they usually all depend on the same texture mapping to save them. Certain levels look the same from beginning to end: flat, boring, and repeated. Great. Another screaming flaw worth mentioning is the fact that the game relies on colored lighting so much that it's laughable. Why laughable? Entire levels use the same lighting to make almost monochromatic backgrounds. The cities are either yellow or blue entirely, and the sewers are a predictable green with the telltale texture repetition you've come to expect by the time you get there.

Weapon effects are flat and unimpressive: pick from low-poly glowing projectiles or flatly animated sprites that laughably spawn more colored lighting just for the sake of doing so. Your mech moves choppy, and is about the only thing in the game that has somewhere near a medium-poly count. Weapons are also really nothing to write home about graphically themselves, aside from their predictable and lackluster effects. ''All hail mediocrity!'' All shell weapons are hitscan weapons (shoot and it hits the target immediately, so no travel time), but lack neat touches like shells and a good sound effect. Bullet hits and plasma burns are unstupendous and non-existent, respectively.

The only thing the game does that even remotely takes advantage of the DC's graphical capabilities (which it proves it can *ROCK* at) is to use the inherent anti-jagged edge effect that the DC has. Presumably, this is the reason that the textures are passable, especially when wrapped over an entire mech. The walls also blend well, and everything looks smooth, if obviously not pretty. Without this, Slave Zero's graphics would go from looking like they were half-assed to looking like they were a product of Satan himself to wreak mental anguish on mankind. I really do not want to see the PC version of SZ on a low-end system barely meeting the minimum requirements, if the graphics are anything similar to the DC's. I think I'd rather drop my pants in front of a woman's self defense class than see that abortion of a game.

And despite the level of ASS this game reaches graphically, it suffers from slowdown!! Can it GET any worse? This game is ugly, fugly, pug ugly, and pug fugly. Are there any saving graces? I like the explosion that the riot cannon makes. The Slave itself has a cool character design as well. That's all.

Oh yeah, and the last boss looks like a regular enemy blown up to full-screen length, which lets you REALLY notice the low poly-count, polygon breakup and the bad textures. I think this looked good from the screenshots when I bought it because they were A: small, and B: in areas lit with more than one color.

This game's graphics are bad and painful to look at. I've seen better work and higher polygon character models in Battle Arena Toshinden for the PS1. Listen to me here: Slave Zero's graphics are the worst on the DC, a system whose first-gen titles had the criticism of looking great but playing only adequately. This game looks bad and plays bad, but more on the second aspect coming up.

Graphics: 1.5 / 10
I think they qualify as graphics, but only on the loosest of terms.


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GAMEPLAY
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''What's a 2-word, 9-letter name for bad?''

If the bad graphics didn't scare you away, the gameplay might not either. Let's say this: it works. Is it good? No. Is it at least average? No, again there, sparky. It has some saving graces, but that's it. And they don't really save either, they just kinda say, ''but!...'' and shut up while the game takes a cab ride with horrible and returns a half hour later to drink tequila and pass out on the corner of failure street and crap avenue.

You play ''the Slave,'' a prototype robot that was made by a corporation controlling a ''megacity.'' DEAL! The slave is a bulky, cumbersome piece of robo-garbage. Control is adequate, but there's nothing else to propel the game, and the adequate control is sure not going to do it. You've got the standard ''jump, shoot, strafe'' stuff we're all used to. It works. When you shoot, it goes straight forward. You can go into a half-assed ''sniper mode,'' which leaves you standing completely still but able to aim precisely. Your jump commands are only used for platform jumping elements that always seem to be jam-packed into first person shooters and third-person games, simply because they can. Jumping offers no benefits in dodging.

The strafing works well, almost too well. Because the enemies have the robotic equivalent of down syndrome, you can circle strafe anything into oblivion. Either that, or wait for the predictable attacks and move to the side accordingly. WOO! Do you feel the raging sense of accomplishment from defeating a capable opponent? No? Try some hard liquor. Still playing? Have another shot. Repeat until the game seems bearable.

You have a whole 3 (!!!!!!!) different kinds of weapons to use at one time: Machine gun, Laser, and Rockets. Each varies in certain degrees of usefulness. Sadly, this usefulness is not dependent on the enemy you're fighting or the environment you're in, this is usefulness in total. Your laser weapons are always worse than anything else you have, unless you get the final weapon which obliterates everything in an unimpressive shockwave. The machine guns are easily the best and easiest to use, but the last weapon is a cannon that takes a long time to recharge between shots, and does less damage than it should. Lastly, the rocket weapons are next to useless aside from the homing one, which allows you to eliminate anything far off in the monochromatic distance.

You can only hold ONE type of each weapon at a time, and the next generation of a laser weapon you're using may not be as good as the one you have, despite being ''better.'' For instance, the second laser weapon is a plasma shotgun. The third one is a laser rifle that shoots one beam that mildly irritates the other guy, and has a long lag-time. It's a hard choice to make, really. You can have the superiority of the more common weapon, or you can have the rarity and different effect of the other, more useless gun.

The rockets face a similar dilemma when you choose between the homing missiles, or the multiple warheads which fail to hit anything. Hmm. It's at times like this when I wish that I had spent my money on something more worthwhile, like someone to repeatedly hit me in the groin with a shovel.

Back to the platform jumping elements. If they didn't work well and to a fun degree for me in Half-life, they're sure as hell not going to do it for Slave Zero. A from-the-back view of your fugly mech essentially blocks the view and perception of distance to your jump destination. Nicely done! There are also long jump sequences, and the camera perspective is low to the ground 90% of the time. What does this mean? Jumping = swift death.

Interestingly enough, jumping isn't the only cause of falling to your death, as walking around some environments will allow you to fall through a glitch in the level. One time, it happened out of the blue. Another time, the final boss was about halfway down on his health. If it was any other game, I would have been livid with rage. Instead, I was kind of amused that the game presented yet another way to fail in my eyes.

By the way, you also have a way of grabbing things in the environment. This entails picking things up and either awkwardly throwing them. I've found three interactive things: a car, a girder, and a pipe. They're all gameplay gimmicks that have no usefulness, aside to bean other robots in the head with a flying Geo Metro. Wahoo, no?

With all of this mounting against it, I have no idea why I decided to finish the game, because of how extremely stupid and irritating I felt it was. Because of this doubt of what kept me playing, I'm not going to give it a one. There's some kind of morbid fascination to see how everything plays out and the desire to see what's around the next corner that truly is sickening. I kind of feel ashamed of myself, actually.

Gameplay: 1.5 / 10
Utterly horrible. What the hell were they thinking?!?


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SOUND AND MUSIC
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''Rock out to your own tunes! Well, if you have a stereo handy and all...''

Well, the music is easy as hell to review! THERE'S NONE OF IT! NOT ANYWHERE! Yeah, the DC version of Slave Zero has absolutely no music because the game makers couldn't figure out something with the DC's sound. I kid you not, I read this in a game magazine in current publication.

Well, that's funny. Maybe it's a mistaken impression, but I thought that every single other company that ever made a game for the Dreamcast was able to do it. I bet they really had an good excuse, like ''it was hard, man!'' Okay. I'll buy that. I mean, if you're making a product that you expect people to buy, cutting corners is a logical solution, especially if it gets too hard. Seriously though, leaving out all music whatsoever is something that I don't think has been ever done by a game past its beta stages of testing. Gutsy move!

''Wow! This enemy has an attack that doesn't hurt my mech, but makes my ears bleed!''

So with the lack of music, Slave Zero should be able to focus more on the absolutely stellar sound, right? No. The sound is reminiscent of listening to an action movie with a pillow over your head, and while it's coming from the other room, and you don't really want to listen to it. It's really amazing how Slave Zero manages to muffle everything that comes out of the speakers, and use trite and irritating effects wherever applicable.

It's kind of a lesson in how sound effects can either make or break a game, except here everything else is broken as well. It's like those old things in a junkyard that nobody cares about or maintains, because how much more broken is it gonna get? Slave Zero is below average in terms of sound, and that's a leap above the level the rest of the game is at.

So the fact that the sound is irritating and muffled, and that there's no music to be found anywhere really throws this game off the edge. Into the abyss you go, Slave Zero. *hellfire sounds here*

Sound and Music: 2 / 10
Sound is bad, music doesn't even have a chance for me to see how bad it could potentially be.


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OVERALL
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''It angers me to think that this was made by an actual COMPANY.''

The highlights of this game are below average when compared to anything else on the Dreamcast, and even at a graphical level to the Playstation and N64. There's horrible level design, bad weapons, stupid enemies, poor gameplay elements, glitches everywhere, overuse of gimmicks, a poor and mostly absent story, and no music whatsoever.

It's really funny that any area that can be failed at, Slave Zero fails. The game is one ugly product, in more ways than one. I know a common trend at Gamefaqs is to hold reviews that give games a 1 in a little bit of disregard, but this game really goes out of its way to earn this 1, and this is undoubtedly the worst game I ever mistakenly brought into my software library.

If you want a game with big robots and lots of action, look elsewhere. If you're expecting an Armored Core contender, or a Virtual On runner up, this isn't it. If you made your own game about big robots and action, I have no doubt it would be better than this game. This game serves as the horrible warning to other games during childhood.

Old video game: (Points to Slave Zero) ''And this is what happens when you abuse textures and colored lighting!''
Young video game: ''Does it know that it's that bad?''
Old game: ''I don't know son, I don't know.''

Slave Zero fails ultimately at the one thing that I think can save a bad game: is it fun? The failures that Slave Zero amasses aren't entertaining failures that can give a game an endearing quality, but ones that are just bad, sloppy, and lazy. It has no redeemable qualities, and the best it can ever achieve is ''below average'' at any given point. Whatever gameplay conventions Slave Zero relies on, they've been beaten by just about any other game out there.

Stay far away. If you bought it, you'll realize the illustration on the instruction booklet is about the only cool thing about the game. The artist probably hauled ass out of whatever god-forsaken company that made Slave Zero as soon as he got his paycheck.

Listen to me now: if I were you, and had no way to stop myself from renting this game, I would rent it, play it for half an hour (all it takes, really), and return it saying that it was the worst game you ever played. It's not hard, it's not pretty, it doesn't play well, and it's the most boring and unoriginal game available on the DC.

Overall: 1 / 10
This is THE worst Dreamcast game, bar none. Avoid it or die trying.


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*If you made this game, or know someone who did, remember that God is watching.


Reviewer's Score: 1/10 | Originally Posted: 01/07/02, Updated 02/18/02


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