Gamestyle Archive intro: well the enduring memory of this release is the demo disc for Metal Gear Solid 2 that was bundled within and ensured huge sales. More of a homage ZOE could not match the huge experience offered by Snake on that boat.
Format: PlayStation 2
Published: March 2001
VERSION: PAL PS2
ACCESSORIES: Memory Card
RELEASE: Out Now
So it’s finally here, no not the MGS2 demo, but Zone Of Enders (ZOE), which has been overlooked by many. No doubt the press and general public will be going nuts over the demo but here at Gamestyle we’ve been waiting quietly for Konami’s debut on the PS2. Is it a quality title in its own right or easily ignored in favour of that other disc?
It’s the 22nd Century and man has conquered the solar system, as we know it. Colonies are scattered far and wide throughout the galaxy and those who live on these remote outposts are known as Enders. The populations of the main planets i.e. Mars and Earth look upon Enders as strange and backward. A modern day example would be how some Londoners think that north of Luton is an untamed wilderness. You take the role of Leo Stenbuck, a shy withdrawn youngster who witnesses the death of his friends and flees only later to feel guilt about his actions. Upon hiding from the attackers in a warehouse, he stumbles across a prototype orbital frame (Jehuty) waiting for delivery to Mars. All orbital frames, which are giant mechoniod war machines, run on the rare mineral known as Metatron. From this point your adventure begins.
As with all Konami games the presentation of the game is distinctive and well designed. There is no doubting the influence of Hideo Kojima or of manga/anime but we mustn’t overlook the work of Yoji Shinkawa, who yet again has produced some inspired character designs. This is easily the best looking and most inspired piece of design on the PS2 so far and offers an indication of what can be done with some talent and originality. The lighting effects on show are incredible and the best seen outside of a PC yet. The range of colours that streak across the colony as you engage the various enemy frames is real eye candy. The structures on the ground are solid and yet all destructible if you are careless with your aiming. The objective is to cause as little damage as possible to the colony – less damage equals a better ranking. This can prove challenging as your rivals will move as fast as you, often in packs and they don’t share the same values when it comes to innocents. Therefore when you confront them a quick kill is most preferable and with some of the devastating attacks on offer this is possible but try not to miss!
Not all is well with the graphics however, the draw distance is limited and is very obvious when you are flying over a certain section. KCEJ have set most of ZOE in darkness, the future is bleak and miserable, which does help to hide the problem but at least it moves at a constant frame rate. The colony is split into different levels some of which you may think are possible to ignore i.e. a mercy mission. At certain stages of the game you won’t be able to progress further without a program or weapon and will need to visit any missed levels. Your orbital frame is upgradeable and like any computer will use any new and improved programs – in all there are 10 weapons and several sub weapons that you can use. At times like these your onboard computer ADA also known as Celvice is invaluable in providing information and hints. Overall perhaps too much help is on offer and reduces the exploration and mystique that you might have experienced.
The most used feature of ZOE is the combat system, which is unique and could be described as the first fully three-dimensional beat ‘em up. Although the controls may seem daunting at first it is a well-designed system and the training program that Celvice provides is comprehensive. Your attacks are divided into primary and secondary weapons, some of which can only be found in certain areas. You also have the ability to boost, hold and block – all of which you will must utilise in order to survive some of the boss encounters. Your opponent’s range in design, attributes and level rating, which you may think allows for some planning and tactics. It is unfortunate that such an enjoyable system with hidden depth can be mostly ignored in favour of random button bashing – we all know the people who play like this. At times the battles themselves can be awkward but this is solely down to the game camera. For the most part the camera is solid and easily controlled with the right analogue stick but to allow the camera to centre behind Jehuty you must remain still for a second. There is no need to explain how frustrating it can be to loose a target even with the radar and lock-on plus it allows your enemies that split second to attack.
One aspect of ZOE, which delivers, is the audio; both the music and sound effects are superb and add so much to the experience. The voice acting is of a reasonable and believable standard compared to what we’ve heard recently and will all the cut scenes involved it’s a good job as well. The plot is thoroughly enjoyable enough with a good range of characters, emotions and morale’s on show but certainly not engrossing. The sheer number of cut scenes and plot building compared to actual gaming on offer is too much. I did find the story interesting but sitting through another pre or post battle scene my interest began to wane and the flow was affected.
Once you have completed the game a bonus versus option will be available to you and friend to play against one another. This mode does seem to be much of an afterthought and unlike Goldeneye, is not such as successful because it is very limited. Beyond this there is little replay value in the game, no alternate routes or endings on offer only those who which to experience the combat sequences once again.
The main fundamental problem that prevents ZOE from obtaining a higher score is the actual length of the game. I completed the game in less than six hours and when you consider the amount of cut scenes that you have to view, this is not good. With the exception of most RPG’s taking 60 hours plus, the common length for most games these days is 10-20 hours. The public will buy ZOE to play a game but not to engage in an interactive movie – ok and that other disc as well. When ZOE plays it burns brightly but unfortunately is doesn’t burn for too long. Shame.