Zone of the Enders (ZOE)
Review of Zone of the Enders (ZOE)
Take the 3D go-anywhere aspects of a mission based space shooter such as Colony Wars or G-Police and REMOVE most of the complexities and boring bits. Then take the raw excitement of a traditional 2D side scrolling shooter such as R-Type, mix in a little Soul Blade type fighting and sprinkle with a tiny amount of strategy. The result is an outright shoot-em-up, but with the freedom of a go-anywhere three dimensional environment.
Zone Of the Enders (ZOE) was written by the same team that is responsible for the epic Metal Gear Solid and features one of the most captivating storylines ever seen on a console; so this is where we shall begin…
Fossil fuel is about to dry up on Earth, forcing scientists to desperately search other planets for alternative energy sources. The space race is rekindled and within 40 years the human race has the ability to travel to Mars with a view to colonization. Soon after this, a new form of mineral energy is discovered on Jupiter called metatron that would give hope to those who had not wished to migrate from their home planet.
Time passed and those people living on the Mars and Jupiter colonies wished to break their ties with Earth and become independent. They knew there would be resistance and so began secretly developing a huge mech-like manned robot that would be capable of defending both planets.
Fearing that they would be denied access to the metatron energy supply, Earth sent a huge task force to find this mech and destroy it before it could be activated. The invaders took it upon themselves to flatten the cities in search of this war machine and while fleeing from the brutal destruction of his home, a young boy called Leo accidentally discovered the mech hidden inside a damaged factory.
Climbing inside he was informed that the only way to save his home from extinction was activate this device and use it to eliminate the enemy. At this point Zone of the Enders begins...
Throughout the game more of the story is revealed using possibly the very best quality animation and graphics we have yet to see on the PS2. You will smile at Leos victories, frown at his typically childish comments and a tear may well be shed when those he grows to love are killed during battle.
The In-game visuals are also a great demonstration of what CAN be done on the PS2; even at this early stage in its lifespan. Your craft pulses with light and looks amazing whether at a distance or right up close. The buildings that adorn each level can be destroyed by both friendly and enemy fire, first disintegrating and then becoming engulfed in raging flames and eerie smoke. Looking up reveals a moving sky full of life, with other cities clearly visible in the distance.
Enemies look amazing too… full of detail, animated beautifully and not a glitch or breakup of polygons in sight; no matter how intense the fighting gets. Even the huge Boss characters manage to fill the screen completely (throwing various projectiles at you) without slowing down the action in the slightest.
The onboard battle computer called ADA provides constant companionship. She begins by sounding very logical and mechanical, but such is the level of her artificial intelligence that she quickly learns from the your actions and becomes far more human-like. The voice acting throughout Z.O.E really is of movie quality.
Just as much attention has been paid to the other audio elements (with the exception of the theme tune - which is terrible).
Into the game at last…
Essentially this is a 3D go-anywhere combat shooter. Sounds great, but in practice this makes lining up a shot against targets that are constantly moving up, down in and out of the environment almost impossible, especially when you can move in three dimensions too. Konami have tackled this issue in three ways…
1: Close combat is encouraged.
Flying near to an opponent disables the missiles and switches automatically to hand-to-hand fighting mode, allowing you to slash them with a sword, punch or grab-n-throw them. Please dont get the impression that this is like Tekken or DOA2, the moves available are very limited and most fighting is a button-bashing affair.
2: Lock on and follow targets.
Pick out your next victim, lock onto them and your craft will automatically turn to face them at all times making battle far less confusing. In addition some of the other enemies in the same squadron will stand back and let you defeat your chosen foe, before joining the battle.
3: Power Boost.
Forget about getting all flustered using forward, backward up and down during the heat of battle… instead just use left and right with a spurt of the booster to avoid incoming attacks. This works wonderfully well and simplifies even the most intense action to a manageable level.
The key to success in the ZOE is in choosing your next opponent carefully. Most of them travel in groups and carry either health power-ups, ammunition or pass keys. The latter are used to unlock new features within your craft and are an essential part of the game.
Enemies also come in different grades; Level 1 are a real pushover, while Level 8 will dodge your long-range firepower and are really tough to defeat in close-combat without sustaining a huge amount of damage yourself. The reward for tackling the better ones is in the amount of experience points you get for beating them (ranging from 3 to 24). Once accumulating 100, the overall power level of your craft is increased; so make sure you kill everything in sight at the beginning as it will give you a distinct advantage for later stages.
To make this more than just a blaster, Konami have added a few mild adventure elements too. Once an area has been completed you can leave it immediately, but expect to re-visit each location a few times during the game before all of its secrets are uncovered. Obviously I dont want to spoil things for anyone, but its worth pointing out that the area map contains a massive amount of information which needs to be fully understood to avoid going round in circles during key sections of the game. My tip is to read this section of the manual VERY carefully.
Playing on normal difficulty is just no challenge at all until you get through about 50% of the game… fine if you are just renting for a few days, but for those looking for some kind of value for their money make sure you start on Hard mode (fewer repair pickups and damage to buildings causes reduction in your power level - forcing a degree of tactics into play).
Its also worth pointing our that completing ZOE unlocks a VERY disappointing 2 player versus battle mode that emphasizes all of the games weaknesses and was obviously a locked feature for a very good reason.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Zone of the Enders (ZOE)' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Stevie Vincent © Absolute PlayStation
Click here to view our 43 Zone of the Enders (ZOE) in-game screenshot slideshow
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