Review by p1r4t8r
"Short dumb fun"
'Slave Zero' is a third person action game that is big on action, but very little on gameplay. So how does it stack up in the long term?
'Slave Zero' is set in the distant future in a huge city known as 'Megacity S1-9.' The ruler of this city 'SovKhan' is amassing an army of huge war machines known as 'slaves.' These war machines are grown from cybernetic embryo's and powered by the mysterious compound 'Dark matter.' Once SovKhan's army is complete, no country in the world will be able to stop him.
You are the member of an underground resistance deep within the sewers on the megacity. With your stolen Slave unit you are the worlds only hope...
Now, you must battle your way up through the streets of 'Megacity S1-9' and stop the SovKhan, before it is too late...
It is obvious that 'Slave Zero' borrows heavily from Japanese anime, such as 'Neon Genesis' but the story is never too hard to understand, as it does not go into very much depth. It only serves as a backdrop for the action that ensues.
For its time, 'Slave Zero' had some fairly nice looking graphics. It has a truly amazing sense of scale, as your character is so huge he literally dwarfs the surrounding environment. The cityscape itself is not all that good, with most of the buildings being just simple textured cubes. Cars are little more than blobs, and all of them look the same. All the people on the streets also look identical, with there being NO VARIATION WHATSOEVER in the textures. This is very odd when compared to the demo version of the game, which featured multiple skins for the civilians. In fact there are a few strange omissions and changes to the full version of 'Slave Zero' from the demo, which is odd to say the least. In the demo there was a key to stomp on the ground, producing a nearby shockwave, and roar out 'Godzilla' style. Strangely you can only stomp in the full version. The main characters skin was also changed for the full version. In the demo he was creme and pale yellow, while in the full version he is a murky grey and purple colour. Why the change? Who knows. Still, these are only cosmetic changes and don't affect gameplay in the slightest.
The animation for the bosses and main character is truly a sight to behold. 'Slave Zero' features some of the SMOOTHEST animation I have seen in a game today. Your character stomps and lumbers himself across the levels, in a truly realistic way (well, as realistic as a giant robot can get!). The bosses have some amazing animation too, and some great weapon effects. There is even a boss that destroys the building you are standing on!
However, the animation is not perfect. The enemy robots feature the same death animations over and over, and the civilians look as if they are only made up of a few frames of animation. This is sad to see as it does take away from the visuals, which are of a high standard otherwise. Helicopters also suffer from poor animation, making them hard to hit, as they seem to just -jump- on occasion. Jets also suffer from this problem, although thankfully not to the same degree.
Some of the levels are also rather bland and uninspired, such as the sewers, or the SovKhan base. The sewers especially all looked the same, with identical tunnel followed by identical tunnel.
Some of the explosions and weapon effects featured in 'Slave Zero' are amazing, and some of the bosses are just huge, such as the final boss who is at least three times the size of your own character!
The sound was rather glitchy on my system. I have a 'SoundBlaster Live!' soundcard, and have my audio properties set up so that my wave volume is low and volume is on full. If I turn up the wave to full, this causes my speakers to distort at even very low levels. Strangely, 'Slave Zero' worked wonderfully till the halfway point, where it just decided that every time it ran it was going to set my wave volume to full. This made the game barely playable with sound as my speakers distorted at every turn. A pity too because 'Slave Zero' has some half-decent music and sound effects. The music is a mixed collection of modern techno beats that suits the game setting to a T. The voice-overs are no-where near as good however, and I just had to laugh at the mystical 'Chinese prophet' type guy who spoke his 'words of wisdom' down your com-line every five minutes. SovKhan also has some ridiculous voice acting, although you don't hear from him much. The main lady who tells you mission objectives wasn't voiced too badly though, a good thing as she's the one you hear from the most. The enemies also sound fairly good, the police units will yell 'halt slave' before attacking you, which was fairly cool. 'Slave Zero' himself also sounds great, thumping, roaring and smashing his way about the cityscapes. The civilians will even let out a scream of terror when they see him. The problem with the volume properties being changed was hard to ignore however, and there were even some problems with the sound getting stuck and repeating the same thing on a loop, which caused a fair bit of frustration.
'Slave Zero' is an extremely simple game as far as gameplay mechanics go. You are given objectives at the start of the level, but these typically only involving destroying things or getting to a certain point on the map. It all just boils down to smashing and crushing every thing that stands in your way. How's that for depth!?
'Slave Zero' can carry up to three weapons on him, a rocket pack, energy weapon and energy weapon. There are different types of each of these weapons, and each time you find a new weapon, the old is automatically discarded. Some of the weapons get extremely big, and the largest energy gun is just MASSIVE as is the explosion it produces. Some of the missile packs have lock-ons, although I found this feature next to useless. If you target an enemy long enough a red box will appear over them, and if you fire a rocket it will chase the target. Sounds good, except for the fact that the missiles are too hard to lock on with, have a short lock-on range, and are easily obstructed by objects. Should a building get in the way, even just a corner of it, the rocket will hit the building. There is some very poor collision detection that causes some locked-on missiles to just explode for no reason. I found it better just to shoot the missiles unguided, as they had a better chance of hitting.
There are a number of different enemy types within the game, from helicopters to jets and tanks, as well as the other robot units. There is a fair amount of variation within the enemies, as they are not all just grunts with machine guns. Some have rocket launchers, other have energy guns, machine guns, and on the bigger enemies, a mix of all three!
Level design is average to say the least, with each map being extremely linear, offering only one path to take. Wave after wave of enemies are thrown at in an attempt to stop you from reaching the end of the level. A number of lifts are also located on each level, throwing in more enemy re-enforcements until you destroy them.
Some of the battles within the maps are just amazing, involving you strafing madly from enemy attacks, and weaving in-between the destroyable buildings. Some of the battles are so good that they just look like something out of a Japanese cartoon, they are that good. It's a pity that there was no replay feature, as it would have been great viewing some of these battles again from multiple camera angles... oh well. Let's hope if there's a sequel that they implement this feature!
'Slave Zero' is not without its own set of flaws however. I found a tendency for the character to get stuck to walls and objects, making you have to load again from your last save. This happened a bit more frequently than I would have liked, completely disrupting the flow of the game.
A few times I got shot at through walls, which wasn't really a problem till the final boss, who had one powerful attack, which kept hitting me through a wall even though it wasn't supposed to.
And finally, I found the game to be to short and highly repetitious. Blasting away enemies is all well and good, but eventually it becomes tiresome, leaving you to desire more from it. In an age of wonderful non-linear games such as 'Deus Ex' and 'Morrowind' I found it hard to just follow a set path.
Still, 'Slave Zero' offers a very old school style approach to gameplay, and even features secret areas with weapon power-ups and other goodies.
'Slave Zero' is at best described as an arcade style game. I was almost expecting a 'insert coin now' screen or two during gameplay. It's no wonder that this game was also ported to the Dreamcast.
I recommend 'Slave Zero' to those people who just want a game that they can pick up and play for just a few hours, and aren't too worried by its repetition and flaws. It would have been nice if upon completion a few extras became available, but there was no such luck.
'Slave Zero' can be found in the bargain bins these days at a very cheap price, so if you see it I do recommend you buy it. Otherwise, this game is not worth full price.
On a side not, Australian PC USER December 2002 issue features 'Slave Zero' free on the cover disc, so if you live in Australia it's highly recommended you get that magazine.
+ Amazing animation
+ Nice sound effects and music
+ Battle scenes
+ Difficult boss fights
- Problems with collision detection
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 11/23/02, Updated 11/23/02
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