Review by Devilzoa

"How NOT to make a giant robot game. Exhibit A: Slave Zero."

Before I begin this review, I must say that I go into detail about how the final boss fails on every conceivable level. Most people probably won't regard that as spoilers, but I just thought I'd make it easily avoidable.

-Introduction-

I crossed paths with Slave Zero originally on recommendation from an associate of mine. I needed a good game to play in order to sustain me until the Playstation 2 came out, so I asked of my sidekick what game I should play. Our conversation went something like this:

Devilzoa: yo homie g whut gizzame shud i be puttin mah stank on?!?!

Devilzoa's Sidekick: yo get slave zero man itz TIGHT!

Okay, so maybe that wasn't exactly the right dialogue, (I'm pretty sure my sidekick mentioned something about plotting a homicidal rampage) but the fact remained that my sidekick believed that Slave Zero was, in fact, tight.

So I went to go play Slave Zero a few days later. I should have suspected something was amiss when the animated corpse of a man behind the counter looked at the game, then stared at me with his sleepy eyes, and asked me in a monotone voice "Slave Zero?"

Regardless, I pressed on, convinced that my sidekick knew more about video gaming than the reanimated corpse at my local Gamestop. So, the minute I got home, I fired up my Dreamcast, and began playing Slave Zero.

The very next day, I stopped associating with my sidekick altogether.

Picture if you will, a game much like Armored Core, with none of the deep mecha customization or arena battles. Without this, you're stuck playing through the missions, which, as anyone who's played Armored Core knows, is not even close to the game's main selling point.

Now, I mean really picture it. Concentrate on that idea. Visualize it. Are you visualizing? Good.

Now, take away all the fun that remains, the music, and the ability to actually die after a long fall. Now imagine the very last portion of the game, and imagine that no matter what, the last battle will never move faster than a framerate of 3 frames per hour.

What do you mean that doesn't sound interesting? You're obviously not cool enough for this game.

-Gameplay-

You'll spend the vast majority of the game slothing around at harrowing speeds sometimes reaching upwards of three feet an hour, firing at enemies who range from "Tiny, Vaguely Spiky Airship Thingamajig" to "Half-Circle From Hell". Your weapons consist of "Bazooka That Does Absolutely Nothing Harmful to Enemies But Leaves Craters in the Walls the Size of Montana", "Generic Machine Gun Models 1, 2, and 3", "Generic Energy Weapons", and "Massive Explosion-Generating Death Ray Beam That Obliterates Everything Like a Supernova Against Drew Carey".

Incidentally, I prefer my own names for these weapons. Yes.

You also have a small shoulder-mounted missile pod that you are likely to completely forget exists for the course of the entire game. This would be because your other weapons carry much more ammunition, do much more damage, and have a damage radius of more than two millimeters.

As the game mentions in the intro, you are, in fact, piloting a giant robot. Because of this, you have all the raw power of a giant robot, and can smash down specific buildings to find ammunition and sometimes large girders that can be used as melee weapons. In most cases, there's a perfectly viable source of ammo just a few steps away, thus meaning you don't have to smash buildings. The melee weapons are completely useless in combat, making this little feature pointless. There is some comedic relief to be had in the form of smashing down what looks like an Amish barn to find one or two salvos of missiles concealed within, though.

You can also pick up cars off the road (Which, just like in real life, always come in green.) and...um...hm. Okay, moving on...

The last weapon in your fearsome arsenal is a stomp attack that creates a small shockwave which does absolutely nothing. It also takes a murderous two seconds for your machine to raise and lower his foot, by which point you'll probably be slaughtered.

Also, this game is holder of the WORST bug I have ever experienced in a finished video game. One of the levels involves a lot of thin catwalks you have to walk across, suspended above a black, endless pit. And I literally mean endless. If you fall, you don't die. You just keep falling and falling and falling, until you realize that this drop is never going to end and go do something more productive like eat glass or get hit by a semi.

This bug forces you to replay the entire section of the level from the beginning. Coupled with the fact that a few of the later levels have platforming segments where you'll have to jump across this endless chasm, (While fighting enemies simultaneously, mind you.) and this flaw completely destroys the game.

One of the bosses battles you in a square arena filled with buildings, with that damned chasm below. The chasm is your biggest foe here, as the boss really just flies around like an idiot for a while before obliterating the building you're standing on. This means you'll have to quickly jump to another building, and if you miss, you go down the bottomless pit. Now, it's one thing to have a glitch and not know about it, but it's another thing to intentionally leave it in to give a boss a fighting chance against you.

Oh, here's something I think you'll like. The crosshair is about a milimeter high and nearly invisible in combat, as it turns red when an enemy moves into it, blending in perfectly with the explosions. (And there are a lot of those.) This, of course, means you have no idea where to aim in crucial situations.

There is a bit of entertainment to be had, however. Since you are, in fact, a giant robot, miniscule people that look like Lego men poorly resized in MS Paint will run around shrieking in fear if you enter the highly populated areas. If you desire, you can open fire on them, or pick them up and hurl them at things. Call me sadistic if you must, but I did enjoy seeing how high I could hurl people into the air, or gunning down a whole street of people with my gatling gun and seeing how many survive.

Despite the cruel pleasures of gunning down innocent bystanders, the chasm glitch is just inexcusable.

Gameplay: 2/10

-Controls-

I can not STAND this game's control setup. You use the Y button to move forwards, the A button to move backwards, and the X and B buttons to strafe. If you're starting to feel a bit apprehensive, this is normal.

The shoulder buttons, of all things, fire your weapons, Up is to jump, down performs your useless stomp attack, and left and right do absolutely nothing. Analog aims your crosshair, which is the smallest crosshair in the history of video gaming.

You can carry one missile pod and two weapons, one slug and one energy. The weapons are switched via some obscure button combination which you'll never remember in the heat of combat.

Now, what bugs me about this is that it would be perfectly easy to reconfigure it to a sane control scheme that didn't require you to get used to this elaborate machination, but that's probably because that would make too much sense.

Oh, and in the option menu, the game seems to think slightly nudging the analog stick downwards is equivalent to "WHOA HE WANTS TO SCROLL ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE BOTTOM HAHA."

Controls: 3/10

-Story-

You play the role of a guy named Chan, who is a member of a resistance movement against the evil dictator Sovkhan, a sinister foe who looks like Marylin Manson with Dilbert's boss's hair. To combat Sovkhan and his army of giant robots, Chan steals one of these behemoths and merges his mind with it, essentially becoming a giant robot. There's also some sort of subplot about Chan's people stealing the technology to manufacture an army of machines to fight the Sovkhan.

The premise sounds kind of cool, but the story pretty much stops there. The ending is really lame as well, with the final boss shouting something at you that Superman couldn't even here, staggering over the edge of the battlefield, and falling to his death.

Generic "Blah-blah you saved the world" message with no pictures.

Credits.

The end.

What do you mean that doesn't sound cool? You're obviously not cool enough for this game.

Story: 6/10

-Graphics-

The battlegrounds look like they want to be Quake arenas when they grow up, the enemies were evidently coded by the designer's D&D buddies with a little help from their parents, and the only solid objects that seem to be made of more than eight polygons are your machine and its weapons.

Your robot itself looks quite cool, I might add. I find it creepy how he's always grinning all the time, but aside from that it's a pretty awesome-looking robot. Cool claws.

The explosions are well-done too. But you expect that from a game whose primary focus is to make things blow up.

You'd think that some of the enemies would look cool, but you can barely see them with this game's bad lighting. One enemy (a robot spider thing) looks sort of nifty, but it's probably because his primary colors are black and black, thus preventing you to see how poorly his actual model is constructed.

All the other robots are either poorly-rendered or look totally non-threatening. Now, I'm no evil dictator, but if I was Sovkhan, I'd try not to make my nefarious army a bunch of anorexic robots.

At the end of the game, you get the satisfaction of battling a boss that's animated so poorly it'd be faster to manually draw him moving as he paces around the arena. Sovkhan may be the soon-to-be ruler of the world, but he'll be DAMNED if he can make an efficient robot to fight you in. Sovkhan's arena looks terrible, too, and is completely devoid of textures.

Speaking of Sovkhan, him and all the other human character models look like Mega Man Legends characters. For those of you unfamiliar with that series, it means that they're all really blocky and their hands are merely cubes. The only exception to this hand rule is Sovkhan's fingers.

The thing is, Mega Man Legends characters look a lot better and their mouths actually move when they talk.

I knew Slave Zero's graphics were bad when another associate of mine walked past me while I was playing it and remarked that it looked like an old N64 game. I paused to tell him that it played as bad as it looked, and the game crashed on me.

Graphics: 3/10

-Sound-

Let's get something over with right off the bat.

THERE IS NO MUSIC IN THIS GAME.

Let me repeat that.

THERE IS NO MUSIC IN THIS GAME.

...Actually, there's one song that is a fast-paced techno beat of the same four notes over and over, and it's played during the introduction. Aside from that, you get zero music, meaning you're treated to hearing nothing but gunshots and robotic voice-overs.

Fun, eh?

See, what gets me annoyed about that is the fact that there IS music in the intro. It's like the game tries to trick you by going "hey we have music oh no wait we dont hahaha tool."

So, since the game had no music for me to review, I improvised by listening to the radio. The radio station informed me that they were the champions, and that they would keep fighting until the end. It confirmed that they were, in fact, the champions, and that they had no time for losers, as they were the champions. Of the world, it seems. When I had reached the second level, the radio said it wanted to rock and roll all night and party every day.

Jokes aside, what the hell was Infogrames thinking? "Hey, guys, maybe we're wrong. Maybe gamers DON'T like music in their games. I say we just make the sound effects in the game nothing but explosions and voice-overs."

Or, perhaps constructing the intro theme was harder than expected and Infogrames burnt out their '80s Casio keyboard playing the same four notes over and over.

I mean, I never really notice the music in video games, but if I'm playing a game based on giant robots trying to put each other in desperate need of repair, I want some sort of rock beat to be playing in the background. I'd settle for birds chirping, really. SOMETHING.

And to rub salt in our metaphorical (and, in some cases, literal) wounds is the fact that the sound quality isn't even that great. For example, the voice-overs are so quiet you have to turn your television up full blast to get a grasp of what anyone is saying, and even then some characters are still impossible to understand.

Sound: 1/10

-Playing and Replaying-

You have no reason to play this game again once you beat it. You have no real reason to play this game at all, actually.

There's a multiplayer mode, so I was thinking that after you beat the real game you'd unlock something cool in multiplayer, but I was horribly wrong. The multiplayer arenas are all really small, too, and only one of them has a good sniper vantage point.

The game is kind of long, but I'm thinking it might have just felt long.

Game Length: 7/10

Replay Value: 1/10

-Buy or Rent?-

"Don't do either" would be my advice, though this hardly needs to be said since it's just impossible to find Dreamcast games anymore. If you really must play this game, rent it.

Gameplay: 2/10
Controls: 3/10
Story: 6/10
Graphics: 3/10
Sound: 1/10
Game Length: 7/10
Replay value: 1/10

Overall Score: 1/10 (Not an average)

It's rare that a game can manage to screw up even the most basic concepts, such as ones like "falling and not somehow getting caught in infinite darkness", but Slave Zero does that. Perhaps sometime down the line you'll find this game in a bargain bin for a dollar. If you do, I'd pick it up as a cheap reminder of how NOT to make a video game.


Reviewer's Score: 1/10 | Originally Posted: 06/19/05


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