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Z.O.E: Two Demos Instead of One?
Written By: Adrian V.

Konami has decided to take a stand in the videogame industry. While you may not respect them for various other reasons, like the endless string of rhythm-based video games, (I mean really...didnít Janet Jackson officially suck any and all coolness from the Ďrhythmí concept back in the 80ís?) or waiting fifteen years to provide a sequel to Metal Gear; the only one of their games anyone actually wanted to see updated. Regardless of these facts, you have to give them some credit for standing fast on anything in this era of delusional paranoia centered around interactive entertainment. I know I certainly wouldnít want to do anything to attract the attention of large groups of semi-literates (yes, that is a noun) convinced that pressing a button and seeing red pixels appear on a screen would shove a normal person over the edge into a homicidal rage. Because we all know that the proficiency with which I flex the muscles of either thumb obviously triggers my genetic ability to locate, acquire and make use of projectile weapons for antisocial purposes. This advanced capability of oneís hands would naturally never be put to use in the gratification of any other physical urges I might possess. In fact, one doesnít even begin to wonder why said gratification wouldnít encompass the entirety of my thoughts on a daily basis if my hands were truly so masterful at precise, minuscule movements.

However, I digress. What we are here to honor is the fact that Konami has stood tall in the sea of game developers threatening to drown us all in titles that require a significant amount of time, dedication and sometimes careful thought to discover what carefully crafted answers the developers provide to the questions their games pose. Yes, Konami has decided to stand head and shoulders above this morass of different-minded peers. Now if only we can find someone willing to take a headshot.

Can someone please explain to me exactly why you go to all the trouble of creating a very attractive game like ZOE with loads of potential backstory, only to apparently give up in the second lap? Actually, I donít need you to tell me the answer to that, because itís sitting right next to me, laughing maniacally and eating loads of truffles covered in mustard. And not even a decent mustard. Itís that nasty yellow generic stuff in a squeeze bottle with a pathetic artistís rendition of a baseball stadium on it...couldnít they spring for a camera? Or a paint program?

And do you know how much truffles cost? Whatís even more obscene than covering them with cheap condiments is that this little display of gluttony was paid for entirely with your money. Thatís right, the subject of this rather thin analogy that not only gave Konami a reason to release an unfinished game but got you, the Ďgamerí to thank them for it is a little slice of evil I like to call ĎThe Next Violence-in-Entertainment Lawsuit from Middle Americaí, or as everyone calls it at parties; The Metal Gear Solid 2 Trailer.

Oh, youíll laugh and point at me, then go back to your little group of friends and talk about that weird guy who hates Metal Gear Solid 2... and wonder Ďexactly who invited that guy anywayí just loud enough that I can hear you. But youíll know, in the dark little corner of whatever passes for your soul that keeps insisting you donít look like a geek playing your fruity-colored gameboy in public...that Iím right. That ZOE wasnít even half-finished when some bright boy at Konami called a meeting with all the programmers and the people who actually pay for the programmers to program, and said something like this:

"Well, we have giant robot blow-up game half done. I believe Next Violence-in-Entertainment Lawsuit From Middle America game will make more money than big robots. We have demo of violence game, and we have half a big robot game. I say, sell them both together and make big bucks off stupid gaijin. Then, use money- finish Violence-in-Media Lawsuit game. Make big bucks with that. Then, if we feel good, we finish big robot game. Or maybe More Air Force Delta, I donít know. Weíll talk."

He was then roundly applauded and they gave him a big raise and a promotion that carries a title I canít pronounce. Obviously this was a rough translation, but you get the point.

I am so disgusted with this game, that I have no intention of giving it a real review, since it hasnít earned it. Instead Iíll just hit the points youíre most interested in hearing me complain about, that way we can get this over with and you can get back to searching for free porn.

Graphics:

All right, I really canít fault it here. No wait, I can. The distance you can see is pretty pathetic for the supposed power of this system. After a very unimpressive range, the enemies disappear, and the environments themselves fade away not much beyond that. Call me silly, but when you generate arenas like this, with little to no features (Donít believe that Ďooh, look at all the buildings I can blow up...and every single warehouse and apartment can be destroyed! *giggle!*í b******t. This amazing interactivity lasts for a total of possibly four levels, and two of those were obviously populated with destructible scenery because there was nothing else going on.) And I got pretty tired of seeing and fighting the same three robots everywhere I went, regardless of how intricate their design was. I got your intricate right here... Letís not forget that nearly every one of the weapons had some really weak visual effects. There were some nice touches on some of them, but most of those you would either never use.

The bosses were detailed enough, but you often couldnít get close enough to them to appreciate it, and the complete lack of control you have over the camera made getting a look at anything you really wanted to see while in the heat of battle impossible. The overworld map was very nice, but since you had no interaction with it whatsoever, it might as well have been a pre-rendered, animated background, which it probably was just to give them something else to laugh at us about.

Sure, the explosions were nice, and the mech was intricately detailed. But who cares? Especially after you read the next category...

Gameplay:

Wait, make that-

Lack of Gameplay:

Ahhh, thatís better.

Now letís examine the word, shall we? Game- any test of skill, courage or endurance or any specific contest, engagement, amusement, computer simulation or sport involving physical or mental competition.

Well letís just stop there. Test of skill? I beat it in 3.5 hours watching all the cinemas, with one continue and multiple bathroom breaks. In fact, I believe at least 40 minutes of that 3.5 hours was wasted on visiting every level I had already played through because I had to find items whose locations they didnít even bother to hint at. And do you know why they didnít bother giving me any hints? Because it only took me 40 minutes to search every nook and cranny of the entire game. I think they actually took that search into account as a feature. Itís on the box somewhere.

Endurance? Iíve endured far more stressful activities like lying in bed and waiting for my girlfriend to make dinner, so I doubt that I can be unbiased here.

As for the competition...well, there wasnít any. In fact the only guy I had any trouble with was the last guy you face, and they tell you outright that you havenít got a chance. Heís far too powerful. Instead, they let you know that you have to stay away from him (which is probably the most pathetically easy part of the game, next to actually putting it in the PS2) for a few minutes while you wait for someone to rescue you.

Can you believe this? Iím not done with this boss match yet...oh no.

See, they get you all pumped throughout the game about how bad-ass you are. This 12-year-old kid who jumps into the most advanced piece of equipment in the galaxy, and is somehow able to beat down people who have spent their lives training to use these machines...and as your final duty in the game, you get to hide like a bitch. "Ooh Iím a big scary robot that nothing can stop...except for him! Run away! Run away!" Because that makes you feel like you accomplished something, especially as your final act in the game.

And after you escape, your head is spinning while you try to grasp what just happened and what they will possibly provide you with to stop this guy. And you know that theyíll just give it to you, since so far, every last upgrade you for your mech, whether it be a vital component or monstrously useless doohickey, has been lying around waiting for you to find it. Out in the open. Nobody guarding it. Nobody cares.

So right in the middle of your astounded musings, they really pull the rug out from under you, and end the game. You just met the baddest-looking robot I have ever seen, he kicked your butt from here to tomorrow, and they stick your new giant robot toy on a shelf and tell you itís going to be used as a walking missile. Theyíre gonna send it in on auto-pilot to the middle of some base, and itís going to blow itself up. Because you obviously need the most sophisticated artificial intelligence operating the most technologically advanced giant robot ever built (next to the guy who kicked your ass! Ha ha!) to get that job done.

Oh, and by the way, at this point youíre supposed to care about this artificial intelligence, which brings us to the next category...

Presentation:

Wow, they really get your blood pumping with the opening movie. Your Ďfriendsí die, you suck, and now youíre in a 7-story transformer with a computer for a sidekick. Of course, the computer tells you to kill your enemies, but you donít want to do that, because you think itís Ďwrongí. So every time you come up against a boss, you let them escape to wreak vengeance on you later. Regardless of the fact that these people have already murdered hundreds, possibly thousands of people from your orbital colony, and will absolutely be back for more, you feel itís wrong for you to hurt them. Because this gives your character Ďdepthí. Then you go and save your would-be girlfriend from getting stepped on, and somehow you fit her into your one-man pod, where she stays for the duration of the game. In the cinema, she actually has to sit in your lap and you have to reach around her to touch the controls before the canopy Ďre-congealsí. Right. Of course she wonít be in the way.

Not that you have time to ponder the insanity of this. Youíre too busy trying to ignore your own incessant whining. The hero of this story is the most unlikeable, uselessly moralistic, offensively voiced character I have ever encountered. Heís like Jar-Jar, if Jar-Jar ran around saying "Mesa donít wanna hurt nobody!" every five minutes. You want to lose every fight just to kill him yourself. And the artificial intelligence is the traditional Ďcold-hearted logic machine you teach how to feelí that gets stuffed into sci-fi so much these days.

What am I saying? The plot was pathetic. The story was useless, overplayed and heavy-handed. The voice-work was well done, since itís obvious that the actors were given a piece-of-filth script to work with from the beginning. Please, for the love of all thatís holy, let Konami hire some honest-to-god writers for Metal Gear Solid 2.

You know what else? Iím not done yet.

Lack of Gameplay II:

This bothered the hell out of me. All I heard was how Ďintuitiveí the control system was, and how easy this game was to Ďpick up and playí. And to some degree, they were right. You do have a considerable ease of use involved here. However, this is meaningless since what youíre controlling are some really poor mechanics anyway. Itís kind of like taking the transmission, steering and wheelbase from a Ferrari and putting it on a Honda Civic. Sure, it handles well...but is this the thing you want to handle like a dream?

Every single battle can be won with the use of one move. You just get close, push in a direction, hit Ďattackí and your big scary robot performs a slash attack that not only does a good job of killing your opponent, it also helps you dodge their attacks. If it werenít for the bosses, you would never need to use a special weapon, ever. Not that it matters, since half of the weapons are just an excuse to have enemies drop something when they die. Thereís one that has you toss out a handful of discs that land randomly on the landscape and emit a laser beam from one side thatís just a little taller than your robot. You end up with a few beaming straight up in the air, a few at various angles and the occasional disc completely sideways. A neat trick, until you remember that you never have to go near the ground. Iíd say 80% of your battles occur in the air, and the few that donít generally have the opponent attacking you from above. So if you toss the discs where they can hurt him...youíre hitting yourself too. Pure genius.

The targeting system is also a joke, since finite control in this game is so awkward they did everything they could to eliminate the need for it. If it werenít for the ability to auto-lock, I swear you wouldnít get more than two levels into the game before wondering why you tried. God forbid you suffered through without it to the end only to realize that was it. You just went through all that for the lamest plot-closer in history.

So donít buy this game. Find some idiot who did and borrow it from him. I would tell you to rent it, but the guys who work at those places were smart...they all stole the demo discs and left the games behind.

The honest truth, I feel, is that this game wasnít even near completion. There was too much potential, too much back-story (the space-colony alone could be the subject of multiple novels) and the final confrontation left far too much unresolved. This game was, without a doubt, meant to be so much more. Perhaps Kojima-sanís ambitions were too much, or required more time and money than they had anticipated. Perhaps they needed him to focus entirely on MGS2. Or perhaps this was a really devious and evil way to get people to buy a sequel, which will turn out to be the original game as it was intended. I donít have the answers, but I hope you donít bother trying to find them with your hard-earned cash.

Konami, I am deeply disappointed, and the fact that you want to charge gamers $50+ for essentially two game demos is appalling.

 


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