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All reviews - Games (1)

Consistently Fascinating

Posted : 8 years, 8 months ago on 22 April 2009 07:35 (A review of Zeno Clash)

Most nights I find I have an idea of the sort of game I want to play. Having some vague idea of what Zeno Clash was like before I fired it up, I have to say that I went into it feeling that it wasn't the sort of game I wanted to be playing this evening. I just intended to take a brief look and then leave it for another night. Even though I started every brawl by telling myself it'd be the last one for the night, I didn't stop until I was a good 10-12 fights into the game. And yes, I'm writing this before I finished the game (think of this as a first impression review).

Zeno Clash takes you from one small arena to the next, each one featuring a first person rendition of a no-holds-barred street brawl. The first thing you're likely to notice is that the mechanics of this work surprisingly well too. With each punch and kick the camera moves just as you would expect if you were actually there in the protagonist's head. You even get an excellent view of the rest of your body as you throw yourself into each swing. While I did, at times, find myself having to test just how far out I could throw my arms to hit an opponent, this never seemed to be too much of a problem.

There is also some limited gunplay in the game. You'll usually find guns when one of your enemies charges into battle with one and you manage to knock it out of his hands. I've seen 3 or 4 guns so far and they're all interesting, but nothing too different from most shooters. They all feel pretty good to use, but you won't get much chance to use them as enemies close in pretty quickly, forcing you to switch back to your fists. If you really want to keep shooting you can, but you'll find each weapon is very slow to reload when you have people punching you. I have to mention here that the game is built on the Source engine (as is clear from the way the main menu works), and the strength of that engine's gunplay mechanics is plain to see in Zeno Clash.

What really kept me playing was (surprise surprise...) the amazingly unique setting, characters and art style. Nothing about it is really explained to you explicitly. What story there is, you're forced to glean from the characters' dialog. The voice acting for the most part seems decent, although some of the more alien characters will leave you straining to understand what they're saying. There may be subtitles that help with this, but I didn't think to try turning them on until now.

The game moves quickly from one brawl or set of brawls to the next, and never really leaves you guessing what to to next. In fact, there's very little exploration or puzzle solving, which I feel is rather disappointing. I'd love to explore this world a great deal more than the developers seem to have allowed for. I find the art direction reminds me a lot of the Heavy Metal movies at times, though I couldn't say exactly why.

From what I've seen so far, I have to recommend this game if you're at all interested in it. Take a look at the screenshots and videos available, and I think you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.


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