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   PlanetDreamcast | Games | Reviews | Slave Zero
    Slave Zero
At least they got the second part of the title right... - Review By Fragmaster

Slave Zero Logo500 years into the future, an organization called the SovKhan rules over the First Corporate Dynasty from the pollution spewing Megacity S1-9. Needless to say, the SovKhan are the bad guys. Fighting against them are the Guardians, descendants of an ancient clan of warrior priests, who have sworn to bring down the unholy and tyrannical SovKhan by totally destroying Megacity S1-9. Banished to "the suck," a complex series of sewage conduits, the Guardians have constructed a hidden installation designed to provide a base for future attacks against the SovKhan. But the Guardians are no match for the SovKhan's evolving army of inhuman sentinels and giant "Slaves," war machines grown from a combination of cybernetic embryos, metal exoskeletons, and a mysterious neutronium growth compound dubbed Dark Matter.

To make an already long story somewhat shorter, the Guardians get their hands on one of these Slave units and choose one of their best warriors, Chan, to attempt to pilot it and achieve the perfect melding of man and machine. As Chan, you are the last hope for the Guardians, and perhaps, humanity itself. You must become the Slave Zero.

Or something like that. In other words, you're a giant 60 foot tall robot lumbering around Megacity S1-9 whose sole purpose is to kill lots of evil SovKhan and crush anything else that gets in your way. Sound cool? Umm…

  • The Good

    The Guardian's assist you throughout the game, listen closely to their advice or you'll be even more confused.
    While Slave Zero is essentially a shoot 'em up, at least some attempt has been made at giving the game a purpose. The game is divided up into 13 missions, each of which has an impact on the future of the Guardian's holy war. For example, in one mission you must escort and protect a convoy of Guardian ships carrying the rare Dark Matter. Other scenarios involve destroying an enemy train system and protecting the Guardian base from SovKhan attackers. The story is advanced through use of cut scenes between missions and parts of levels. You're in radio contact with your fellow Guardian's throughout the game, and they'll assist you in telling you what you need to do or get you into places that are otherwise unreachable. Listen carefully, or you may miss some important information.

    Item placement is good overall; you'll usually find ammo and health just when you need it. The HUD does a good job of displaying all the relevant info about your Slave with a glance.

    Getting used to the awkward controls is a challenge, but with time you'll adjust. The sensitivity of the stick and the button layout is easily customizable, and you can also play in a first person view if you don't like the default third-person mode.

    The sound is average, although the voice acting is much better than the norm. The interface is nothing special and there's no autosave, but saving your game is just two clicks away at any time. It should be noted that you can only save your game at the mission start, meaning no matter where you save in a level you can only reload at the beginning of the mission you saved in. This may annoy some people, but it's not bad.

  • The Bad

    You'll find graphical sloppiness like this throughout Slave Zero.
    You'd think running through a massive city and blowing up anything that got in your way would be fun, but it's not. The game gets repetitive quick, and the fact that a good chunk of the combat can be skipped simply by running and jumping over your enemies is actually a nice "feature." The enemy AI is not very smart, and simple circle strafing will do in almost any enemy without any fuss. To compensate, the game will often throw a large number of enemies with you, and eliminating them all is often an annoyance. Also bringing down the gameplay is the inconsistent level design, which can result in confusion or uncertainty of what to do next. Some mission objectives are unclear, especially if you can't hear the voices of the Guardians over the gunfire. And since you end up spending most of your time battling with enemies anyways (or walking around aimlessly trying to find more enemies), the mission objectives aren't particularly important. Yes, some of the missions (like the escort one) are actually kinda cool; most of them are just the same thing with a different object to blow up at the end.

    Oh, and the fact that the game doesn't restore your health between missions may result in having to replay the last mission all over again to get enough health to advance. While health and item placement throughout most of the game is just fine, there are a couple instances where you can get yourself into tricky or almost impossible situations. For example, after destroying the train I only had 5% health left. In the next level, there's no health in sight and advancing took numerous restarts.

    The sense of scale just isn't very convincing, I guess it doesn't help that the levels were designed to perfectly accommodate 60-foot tall robots such as yourself.
    It doesn't help that the graphics are putrid. Where to begin? First of all, the much-vaunted sense of scale just doesn't work well. No surprise there, really, because if you're a 60 foot robot and spend most of the time killing other 60 foot robots… then you feel just like you would be if you were a 6 foot robot fighting lots of other 6 foot robots. Sure, there's the occasional car, hovercraft, or person running around to remind you that you're 60 feet tall… but you never get that sense of grandeur I'd assume you get if you were a huge robot lumbering through a huge city. Instead, this game kinda reminds me of that time when I was a kid and built a city in the sandbox, only to stomp it to the ground with my best Godzilla impersonation. It was so utterly unconvincing and unfulfilling, because I felt nothing like Godzilla and my pathetic little city looked like hastily constructed sand structures (which they were). Slave Zero gave me a similar feeling.

    Besides that, this game has some awful textures. It's hard to tell sometimes whether you're looking at a skyscraper or a giant chain link fence. There are some very distracting graphical glitches, including blinking textures and immense amounts of visible triangles in the environments. The lighting is poorly done and the game is, overall, way too dark. You'll need to play with the lights out to get anywhere in some of the levels. It's also hard to tell what many of the items do, since they're so small and hard to see. To top it all off, the camera is flaky. Backing up against the wall will result in your entire view being violently shifted, and jumping around often results in visible clipping through buildings.

    Think I'm done complaining about the graphics? Oh wait, there's more! Slave Zero has some serious frame rate issues. The game doesn't run that fast to begin with, but at certain points you'll find the graphics chugging hard, making it nearly impossible to even move, let alone take out the tens of Sentinels surrounding you. Ugh!

    Want to play Slave Zero multiplayer? Save yourself some trouble and hit yourself in the face with a brick.
    And did I mention that the death animations for many of the enemies are way too long? There's nothing more frustrating then wasting ammo on an enemy only to realize that you've already killed him and it was just in the process of a drawn out death. Just die already!

    While Slave Zero touts "Hot 4-Player Action!" on the front cover, multiplayer mode is a total dud. Setup is easy enough; just select the map (there are eight in all), time and / or frag limit, and the number of players. Once you're in the game, the bad stuff begins. First of all, multiplayer mode is played from a first person perspective, since there's not room to show your slave on the screen as well. This makes control even more awkward, especially at first. Trying to play this game with the screen split into quarters (meaning with three or four players) isn't worth the frustration, and even one on one play is just barely playable. Plus, the maps suck.

    For some odd reason, there's no in-game music. Huh? That's not to say the game would be good if it had music, but a moody soundtrack probably could have helped a little.

  • The Final Word
    You know a game is bad when playing it seems like a chore. Slave Zero is one of those games. There's just so much wrong with the game that it's hard to even recommend it as a rental. And that's a shame since I was looking forward to this game and the concept really had potential. Oh well.

    Developer: Infogrames
    Publisher: Infogrames
    Genre: Action

    Highs: There's a story, the missions actually mean something, the voice acting is good.

    Lows: Crappy gameplay, putrid graphics, multiplayer sucks, not very fun.

    Other: 1-4 players, VMU Compatible, Jump Pack Compatible, VGA Cord Compatible.

    Final Score:

    (out of a possible 10)

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