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A.P.I Review: DEAD BALL ZONE
Developer: Rage Software OPTIONS: S.SHOT
SCREENSHOTS:
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: GT Interactive 1-2 Player
Game Type: Futuristic Sport Memory Card
Review Date: June 1998 Dual Shock Compatible

Setting the Scene

Some years ago, the Bitmap Brothers developed a couple of successful 
futuristic sporting simulations called Speedball and Speedball 2. The ideas 
of these games owed more than a little to a splendid movie by James Cameron, 
titled Rollerball. Last year Rage Software produced a game that displayed 
their own ideas on how futuristic sporting contests will evolve over the next 
century, in the form of Riot.  Twelve months on they are at it again with 
more than a few alterations and a new title - Dead Ball Zone.

In the future, the world has been decimated and the remaining political powers 
have built geospheres to house what is left of humanity. Word of a new sport 
called Dead Ball Zone spans the globe, and leaders see this as a way to reap 
fortune and fame. Dead Ball Zone is played with two teams of eight players, 
and the object is to get the ball into the opponent's goal. As trainer of a 
team of psychotic and extremely tough street gang types, gamers advance 
throughout tournament play and are rewarded with money for further training 
or treatment of player injuries, which is highly common in Dead Ball Zone. 
The ultimate goal is to build a successful team that is solicited by all of 
the geospheres to represent them in their quest for glory. 

Genre

Set in the future, when all major sponsors of basketball, rugby, boxing 
and football are reinvesting in the future of sport.   Dead Ball Zone is 
essentially a combination of all of the above sports.

Graphics

What I find highly frustrating about the graphics in this game is that 
surely when developers are inventing a new sport they would at least look 
at the successful format of a more popular sport and take on board a 
couple of pointers.  

Most sporting events take place in a brightly lit stadium, not in dark and gloomy surrounding. The scene has obviously been set in this style to highlight the glowing plasma ball and bring to your attention the brightly lit icon at the feet of the player in control of the ball. However, due to the fact that both teams wear dark colored strips identifying players from your particular side becomes almost impossible. I often found myself running into space with the ball only to pass towards a group of players that belonged to the opposition, which was highly frustrating. This leaves you fiddling with the 'select player button' to determine just who is who, when you really should be pushing forward with your attack. Rather than have dark blues playing against dark greens surely it would have made more sense to have one teams wearing white or bright yellow. There's no need to get excited about the blood and vomit effects because all this involves is a small splash of red or green coloring momentarily appearing on the playing surface. In the exhibition mode there are two stadiums available for selection but as you progress through a league program the standard of arena gradually improves.

Sounds and Effects

The crowd sounds help to build up the atmosphere but rather than raise the 
roof when you score a goal they just seem to have occasional highs and lows, 
no matter what is going on in the field of play.

The remaining sound effects would be more suited to a beat-em-up as the rule 
book is quickly thrown out of the window when grunt's and groans become the 
order of the day following a series of punch, kicks and throwing moves.  

There is no match commentary but an electronic announcer keeps you informed of 
each point scored. 

Playability

Before battle commences a brief journey into the options menu reveals 
the simplicity of the control system.  Configuration doesn't really come into 
it because on the face pad you only have two buttons to worry about - shoot 
and pass.  The same two buttons are used to violently attack and tackle your 
opponent when defending.  The shoulder buttons allow you to switch player, 
turbo boost and bend left or right.  That's it!

Gameplay options may be finely tuned to adjust the camera viewing angle 
(choice of 4), difficulty setting (2, expert or not), quarter length 
(30 secs - 2 min 30 secs) and goal replays (yeah or nay).  Further adjustment 
may be made which affect the sick and violent nature of the game.  Developers 
have quickly realized that they can now make a game as bloodthirsty as they 
wish without fear of retribution by simply including an option to switch the 
more gruesome effects off.  This choice is available for the inclusion of 
weapons, blood splattering effects and watching the players puke up over 
the court.

There are two modes of play within Dead Ball Zone which are Tussle and League.
Tussle is your average Exhibition mode where a team is selected from the 
fifteen available, each with varying attributes.  Skill rating can be compared 
between the teams which have such interesting names as the Killer Klowns, Full 
Kontakt and the Dominators.  In this mode two players can compete against each 
other by selecting opposing teams.  

In League mode you start life as the team of your choice but must begin from 
the lowest league and work your way right to the top by gaining promotion at 
the end of a season.  There are ten teams in each league with three points 
awarded for a win.  To gain a victory you must out-score your opponent by 
throwing the ball into their goal more times than they do in yours.  Successful 
shots from outside the keepers area are awarded with five points while goals 
from a closer range will only earn a single point.  In League mode you can make 
tactical changes, substitutions and even train up your players.  Each player 
has a skill slide bar which may be adjusted to suit your individual style of 
play.  Should you prefer a tougher defence and forwards with pace then 
distribute your skill allocation accordingly.

Value for Money

It's difficult to imagine what type of audience Dead Ball Zone is being 
aimed at.  The fighting is basically a few over the top tackles and the 
sport is a combination of handball/basketball and football.

Perhaps there are a few Bitmap Brothers fans out there who may wish to 
refresh their memories.
Opinion
MARTIN
GRAPHICS: 14/20 Inventing a new sport is fairly easy but coming up with a successful one is indeed a rare occurrence.

Dead Ball Zone plays very similar to an eight-a-side rough game of football, only you use your hands to pass the ball around the court which an eventual aim to throw it at a goal with points awarded for the distance thrown.

I found the similarity between the two sides playing strips very annoying while the gameplay is quite repetitive.
SOUND: 5/10
PLAYABILITY: 40/50
VALUE: 15/20
OVERALL 74%

 

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