Zeno Clash - PC - Review
Weird, very, very weird...
These are the words I wrote when I previewed Zeno Clash a few months back. Well, I got hold of the final product and those words still ring true. Zeno Clash is a weird hybrid game that takes place in a fantastical world dreamt up by people who have some strange dreams.
In Zeno Clash, you play as a man named Ghat. Ghat is the son of a mother/father creature that's about nine feet tall and gives birth to both human and animal-like humaniods. The game is a combination of an adventure, first-person shooter and fighting game. Combine this with a plot that is very heavy handed and a bit richer than it should be and you have a unique gaming experience. That's not always a great mixture, and I will admit, Zeno is not without its faults, but sometimes weird ingredients can make a tasty snack.
"Look, I don't want to talk about it anymore, I was young and needed the money."
First and foremost, since the game is viewed first person, it takes a bit of getting used to the hand-to-hand combat. The controls don't gel as well as I think they should and I couldn't help but think how neat this title would be on the 360 or PS3. The timing of fighting enemies with punches and kicks can be overcome but an inefficient lock-on tool makes things more difficult than they should be. This is never more tedious than when you actually fight multiple enemies and the darn thing gets in the way. Weapons that actually fire are somewhat different looking and function different anyway, so I found myself using the range weapons less and less when I thought I could solve things with my fists.
Now in the game, which again is a strange somewhat-confusing tale, you are on the run with your female partner from all of your brothers and sisters who are quite upset you killed the Mother/Father thing. Escaping your town, you are pursued by your family and a crazy fella who is hunting you down on the back of dinosaur-looking things.
"Early man's headache treatments."
And that is one of the game's strongest areas, the visuals. Now I know they won't make everyone happy, and they are built on the Half Life engine, which is becoming dated, but it is the things you see as much as how well you see them. Weird, fantastic-looking creatures both small and large are all over the place. Seriously, these are things straight out of a Peter Jackson movie like Hellboy or Pan's Labyrinth and they are so far out there that some of these creatures actually make you feel a bit disturbed, it is something that really sticks with you.
The audio portion of the game is hit and miss. The tutorial at the beginning of the game features quite possibly the manliest, roughest voice ever recorded for a video-game as a combat trainer proceeds to put you through the paces. Its almost comical on some levels but still, the game tries to take everything as serious as possible even when things have gone street-rat crazy. Fairly decent background music helps drive the adventure and combat but can sometimes pop in and out.
Yes, there are some bugs and even though my PC is more than capable of handling this title, there is some choppiness and that can be attributed to this being a independently developed game. The dev team, ACE, is a sort of a working-class hero in terms of getting this game off the ground, so I can sort of forgive the little problems, especially since the big guys can't seem to launch a game without bugs and problems.
"That dude in the background is sure mad I'm not letting his bird sit on my arm."
Now as you play the game, and admittedly, it can be played out totally in about 3-4 hours you have to bring your big brain with you as you are bouncing around an unfolding timeline that jumps from past occurrences to current ones. Add to this that the game is both an escape and a return to face-your-demons sort of plotline. Ok, I won't ruin the whole thing, but in all honesty, I questioned exactly what the devil my man Ghat was doing. I have never had to run from my family to save my life (well that one time I forgot my wife's birthday ...) but I can't say I would do the things that he does. The guy is completely crazy.
Finally, the game does not have any sort of multiplayer mode, which is kind of sad, but not totally upsetting. It would be neat to play against others online in the weird and funky locations you visit in this title, but then I understand because the game was a labor of love by the folks at ACE, who probably all morgaged their homes to get this made. Hosting a big online server would have put them over the edge.
Review Scoring Details for Zeno Clash
It's more complicated than it needs to be with the lock-on function of fighting enemies. It is an adventure, it is a fighter, it's a FPS - it is the Shamwow!
If you don't like mutants then this is not the game for you.
It could be better, but it does the job; some fun voicework.
The hardest part is dealing with that dang targeting feature when fighting.
A weird, and wacky title that has you sometimes scratching your head trying to figure out what is happening with the plot. Creature and set pieces are waaaaaayyyy out there.
This is not going to be for everyone, only the fans who love fantasy action games involving mutant creatures hunting down your character who killed the family's Mom/Dad monster through a punk-inspired wasteland while dragging your girlfriend in tow.