Zone of the Enders
Review by MG Ray
"Great Controls and Action Save ZOE from the Garbage"
Zone of the Enders was a great buy when it came out last March, mainly because of the excellent Metal Gear Solid 2 demo that came packed in. However, times have changed for this game now that the full MGS2 disc has come out to a crowd of millions. It’s not that great of an experience now; it wasn’t that great of an experience then. Sorry, Kojima, but your mech game seems like it was an excuse for the demo to come out at a price of $50.
The story is the usual anime mech stuff that began with Mobile Suit Gundam 0079: The One-Year War in the late 70’s. A kid runs inside of a powerhouse robot and is instructed to do all of the damage to the evil guys of the story as humanly possible, then deliver the mech (Jehuty) to the owner. It’s supposed to examine life, pack powerful themes, use drama, and be another high-caliber story from Kojima and friends. Well, it’s not. It’s hard to listen to, warranting a quick press of the X button to skip past it, at best. The main characters Leo and Celvice are annoying as hell. I can see how “the other guy” in MGS2 got his personality.
To make things worse, the “ending” of the game leaves us hanging, longing for more. It sets us up for a great sequel, but with the kind of story that ZOE gives us, it makes me take a second thought about that. If a somewhat lengthy game gave us this kind of ending, it might be acceptable. Well, ZOE is not a long game (not even long enough to make us feel for the characters. Face it—the main villain of the story is only in three scenes). Try four hours, counting the scenes.
Even with all this bad talk about the story, there are even more cons to this disc. The game is just way too repetitious and monotonous. Go to one area, collect an item, demolish the enemies, fly out to another area, and repeat. Since when is this kind of game fun? It is pretty fluid all of the way through thanks to a smooth and simple control system, but you can’t overlook the fact that the game repeats itself too much.
There are a few really cool scenarios in the game. One has you defusing bombs while avoiding enemies, while another has you searching for an anti-virus as your health meter rapidly falls. If Kojima were to have taken ideas similar to the genius design of these situations and created more scenarios like them, the game would have been a lot more than mindless slashing and shooting.
Don’t get me wrong, though. The game is still pretty fun for a little every now and then, thanks to the intensity of the non-stop action in the game. I’ve always liked action games for a little bit every now and then.
This is one of ZOE’s few strong points. The graphics are top-notch. They even compete with MGS2, but in a different category. ZOE’s visuals are inspired heavily by anime and are vibrant with color, where MGS2 has a dark tone and realistic characters. I would say that ZOE is most like Devil May Cry, just a few notches better.
The mechs, environments, and human pilots all look great. The robots of the game sport great design and pack little details all over the place. They also move with fluid actions. The environments are similar in theme, but are different in terms of the structure and intricate details. The best stage is towards the end—a warehouse full of destructible crates. As you jettison around and fire at the boss of the stage, you’ll stare in awe at the destruction you’re causing.
As I moaned about previously, the game is too shallow and monotonous. The game repeats the same basic steps almost all of the way through—find enemies, kill. You also scavenge around for items and sub-weapons. It’s all too aggravating after a bit. Action game fans (you know, side-scrolling action games and stuff like that) will like it, though.
While the game packs in a few unique or breathtaking moments, the game also packs a few trying scenarios that turn out to be plain bad. You can tell Kojima is trying to vary things and add puzzles, but the design of the stuff just falls short.
The control system, though, is completely opposite. The stuff is simple; within minutes, you’ll be using all sorts of fancy maneuvers in the arenas, locking-on between targets and using your six-or-so moves that the game presents. It’s also a great idea to put sword and laser attacks on the same button, and have the game automatically vary between them depending on your distance from others.
The voice acting isn’t as bad as your average anime dub, but it’s no Metal Gear Solid, either. It’s still pretty good and tolerable.
The music is also on that same scale; good but no MGS. Like any game should, the soundtrack fits with the events happening. Action scenes are adrenaline-pumping techno music, while “emotional” cutscenes present emotional music. The title and ending themes are also great and surprisingly epic.
[Rent or Buy…?]
Action fans will like this game. Just like your average Final Fight or Streets of Rage, the game repeats itself with a few modifications each time. It’s just better because of the smooth control and amazing graphics. Those action seekers will want to buy this game. Anyone looking for Armored Core with smooth control, or a revolutionary game like MGS, or anything but a repetitious action game, will want to rent it first. It’s not a really awful game thanks to the controls and graphics, but it’s way too shallow to be remembered for anything more than sporting a MGS2 demo.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 02/21/02, Updated 02/21/02
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