Review by Nightfall

"Slave Zero? A slave to slowdown..."

Slave Zero could best be described as a third-person shooter/action-adventure with the same basic movement controls as the first MDK game. If you've ever played Kirt (Kurt?) or the dog in MDK, you pretty much know what Slave Zero plays like, if you add a TON of slowdown into that mixture. I'm going to give you this right from the get-go, because this game has a problem so severe I didn't even bother completing the final boss battle: it has absolutely the WORST slowdown problem I've ever seen in a video game. It's horrible. I mean, we're talking about a framerate that drops to about five or six frames a second when there are several enemy units in the area. You can actually see the frames changing from one to the other, that's how bad it is. And it seriously hinders gameplay. I'm amazed this game was ever released with this much slowdown. Infogrames should be given forty lashes and forced to create a sequel without a hint of slowdown, and then hand it out for free to everyone who bought this game. It's too bad, because this game has a lot of cool elements that would have made it a great game.

The premise of the game is pretty standard stuff: a large corporation has become way too powerful and is basically doing whatever they want. Their center of operations is in this gigantic mega-city that is actually structured like a huge building that rises miles into the air. A resistance group has gotten a hold of one of the corporation's bio-mechanical machines, known as Slave Zero. It is your job to pilot this behemoth through the labyrinth of the mega-city in order to bring this evil corporation to its knees. You have to steal a bunch of embryos that the company is using for it's research, and of course all manner of robotic war machines are out to stop you.

I like the way the Slave controls: it's basically the exact same movement controls in the MDK games: you use the A,B,X,& Y buttons for movement and the analogue stick for aiming. The D-pad is used for jumping and changing weapons, and the triggers are used for firing. It's a good setup and I didn't have to think about it at all after playing the game for a half hour or so. The game can be played from a first-person perspective or a third person view, and you can adjust the analog sensitivity of both axis on the analog stick, which is pretty handy if you find your Slave not turning fast enough or not aiming up and down quickly enough.

There are plenty of repair and ammunition power-ups lying around, so you don't have to worry too much about dying or running out of ammo (well, on the easy setting that is). You can terrorize the people of this mega city by stomping them, picking them up and throwing them, or shooting their cars. That's kind of fun, but has no bearing on completing missions.

Graphically speaking, the game doesn't look quite as good as most Dreamcast titles do. It has a slight touch of that Playstation fuzziness about it, and if you're looking for interesting textures, you're not going to find them here. You're pretty much looking at concrete buildings most of the time, and they all look like...well, concrete. The multitude of neon signs were included no doubt to try the make the game look a little more interesting, but there is still an aura of gloom and darkness permeating the whole game. Your only glimpse of light and hope is the female voice that gives you your mission objectives and tries to reassure you. What is it with giant mechs and female voices?

The mega city itself looks pretty cool, with kind of a futuristic, Blade Runner look to it, with neon signs everywhere that make absolutely no sense. Stray fire actually shows damage on buildings, and cars will go veering off bridges and roads to get out of your way. Unlike ZOE, you don't have to worry about saving the civilians here. It's actually pretty fun to stomp on them and watch them turn into little pools of blood. There are a couple fun and well designed mission scenarios couched in the bowels of this towering city which make up the game's high moments. One of them has you escorting a convoy of boats through a series of huge water lines while giant spider mechs assail you from all directions. In another, you are laden with the task of shutting the power off to a set of railroad tracks that carry a train which has cargo you need to acquire. But beyond a few well thought-out mission scenarios, there isn't much else to Slave Zero. After a while all the areas start looking the same, and you're just running down another street, climbing atop another building, trying to obtain yet another shaky, slowdown-hampered lock on an enemy.

The game loves to use elevated platforms that you can fall off of to make itself more challenging. Whenever you find yourself in a situation where it's possible to fall into a gaping abyss and end your game, you can bet there will be enemies in the area that will fire at you the second you get a foothold on a platform. You have to stand there taking enemy fire while your slowdown-laden aiming cursor moves at a snail's pace toward your enemy. It is at moments like this that the game can be very frustrating.

I think it's a shame because this could have been a game I really loved, if the development team could have found a way to keep the framerate steady. I won't even go into the final boss battle, which is so slowdown-laden I didn't even bother completing it.

Slave, you're a very cool mech and I would love to pilot you in a game that has some competent designers. Maybe in your sequel, bud.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 08/16/02, Updated 08/16/02


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