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Zone of the Enders
Review By: Christopher Coey
Developer:   Konami
Publisher:   Konami
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Action
ESRB:   Teen
Date Posted:   8-17-01

I was excited about this game when I saw the first batch of screen shots. I enjoy anime, although I don't really watch Robotech or Gundam regularly. However, the original screens I saw showed what seemed to me to be high level graphics, fast and furious fighting, and rich detailed mechs (orbital frames as they are called in ZOE) in a 'playable' setting. It was the last point that got me hooked. Up until the release of ZOE, I didn't really feel that my PS2 was living up to its capabilities graphically. But these graphics looked amazing, and they weren't just more CG cut-scenes, this was PLAYABLE. Well, it didn't hurt that the game was packaged with the MGS2 demo as well. But I was actually looking forward to ZOE itself.

When I first started playing the game, I wasn't the least bit disappointed. The graphics were dead on. No post-production 'touch-ups' here. ZOE was the best game, graphically, on the market hands down. But what about the actual game? Again, no disappointment. The style and moves that any fan could or would expect are built in, and the controls are so easy to pick up it's breathtaking. Within a half an hour of playing the game you'll marvel at what you can make you're orbital frame do. And the framerate never seems to drop. My only complaint about the graphics is that they are TOO fast. I know that sounds weird, but it's such a beautiful game, I felt like I wasn't able to take it all in. Sega used to create some games like that. Of course, they were on inferior consoles, but at the time there were some great graphics. Take the Sonic games (for example), you spun past at such a furious speed that you never actually got to SEE anything.

The explosions and weapon effects in ZOE are enough to make you cry. The first time you fire a new weapon at an enemy, only to have him dodge so the entire building behind him splinters into tiny pieces, is truly something to be seen. The orbital frames and backgrounds even 'blur' from the speed, or recoil from a shattering explosion. The camera zips and turns constantly, somehow managing always to find the best possible angle to view the destruction. Buildings crumble, people scream in terror...loads of fun. Don't have TOO much fun, however. There is a built-in morality system in place. If you let too many innocent people be killed, or buildings get destroyed because of YOUR ineffectiveness in battle, the game keeps track. Be good, or else!

So, there I was, playing this incredible game. I was even immersed in the story: about a lonely boy, Leo, who witnesses his friends being killed. He wants to run, but stumbles, it seems, on a war being fought all around him. He has no choice but to defend himself, and along the way is faced with the decision: save himself, or save the innocent people being slaughtered in his hometown. Then.

The game ends. That's it. Bye-bye, thanks for coming out.

When the credits started rolling, I was shocked! What!?! It can't be over! I just started! I was playing for maybe 5, 6 hours tops. I was just expecting it to get good, or challenging, or something. But it never does, it just ends.

The ONLY surprise, in the face of utter disappointment, is that by completing the game, you unlock a 'hidden' (I use the term loosely) two-player, 'versus' mode.

It seems that game producers have finally come to the realization that they need to add more features that strictly increase a game's replayability. Or maybe some are just throwing us a bones for fear that we may actually stop paying $50-70 for a game that takes 5 hours to finish, and has no replay value whatsoever. Either way, more and more games are adding these features. Most notably ZOE, and Star Wars: Starfighter. Both of which have two-player modes that unlock after the game has been completed in one-player mode (both of which, also, have frustratingly short one-player modes.) ZOE however, advertises itself as a one or two player game. In the case of Starfighter, it is simply an extra 'bonus' feature.

The 'versus' mode in ZOE is enjoyable, and the two-player mode even more so, but it's a bit of a stretch to advertise this game as multi-player. Now, ZOE is a spectacular game, the visuals are so far unmatched. The ease of play is incredible, and the learning curve is very forgiving. But just when you feel like you can finally put every last bit of power into your battles, the game ends. It's almost embarrassingly short. Like a writer who simply decided they 'didn't feel like writing a proper ending.'

By packaging this game with the MGS2 demo, AND advertising the game as multi-player, producer Hideo Hojima and the rest of Konami are all but admitting that ZOE isn't worth the price of a full game. Saying: 'we'll try to make it up to you by throwing in a lot of free stuff.' Everyone likes free stuff. Like when you go to a movie during opening week, and as you leave the theatre they hand you a free sample of cereal, or a poster. But I would have preferred they just made a better movie.

HIGHS:

  • Cool concept that is well executed
  • Superb controls
  • Cool concept that is well executed

LOWS:

  • Embarrassingly short
  • Weak two-player mode

FINAL VERDICT:

This game looked very promising while in development. It even looked very promising while playing it. Smooth, beautiful graphics. A very cool, futuristic environment that's sure to please the 'bad-ass fighting robot' fans out there. But the game is over almost before it begins, and there is little point in replaying what is essentially a story-based game (unless you get some kick out of trying to perfect each level, seems to me a lot like trying to get a quicker and quicker time on what should have been a 15-20 minute demo [re:MGS2].but whatever floats your boat.) In the end, buy it for the MGS2 demo.

Overall Score: 8.4

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