World Exclusive: The Zeno Clash Review

By RPS on April 19th, 2009 at 6:53 pm.


We’ve been playing Zeno Clash. Developers Ace Team were kind enough to suggest that we should furnish you with the world’s first review of their insane beat ‘em up. Our razor-sharp analysis of defeating elephantmen and bludgeoning lunatics follows.

Jim: Right, our subject today is the esoteric fist ‘em up, Zeno Clash, by Chilean types, Ace Team.
Alec: I liked the bit where I repeatedly punched a bird-man in the face.
Jim: Bird-men are scum.
Kieron: Shall I do a brief fact-o-list of the game so we have the FACTS on the table?
Jim: Yes, facts, because facts are super-true.

John: I once heard that a fact can be so true it can slice a lie in half.
Kieron: Right – Zeno Clash is a linear first-person fighting (with bits of shooting) game built in the Source Engine. There’s no multiplayer, bar a challenge mode where you can compete to beat friend’s scores in set battles. It’s ACE team’s first game. They live in Chile. And that is all for the facts. SUBJECTIVITY ENGINES GO!
Jim: I believe it’s only available on Steam, at least initially? That might be a fact?
Kieron: No, it’s not. It’s on Direct To Drive.
Jim: Ok then, no fact there.

Kieron: Oh – for the record, how much has everyone actually played of the thing? I’ve finished it and played some of the challenges.
Jim: I finished it and I’ve not played any challenges.
Alec: I am on the very last fight, but became annoyed by it and haven’t yet completed it. I’ve also done a few of the challenges.
John: I’ve finished it ten minutes ago, so no challenges.
Jim: So it’s a game of melee, and of shooting. But it’s not much like any FPS I can think of. Can anyone think of any good comparisons or references to help give this game of context?
Alec: It reminded me a little of Riddick, but only a little.
Jim: Oh yes, Riddick is the closest in terms of sheer fist-action.
John: Hmmm, imagine if Condemned were set in the world of Mirrormask, and not shit.
Alec: Aesthetically, it’s Outcast meets a slew of crazy late-90s French adventure games.
Kieron: I think it’s actually a lot like a trad linear fighting game ala Double Dragon, as in, you move from fight to fight and it makes no pretense of being a “world”.
Jim: Yes, it did feel rather like the FPS rejig of a classic scrolling beat ‘em up.
Alec: It cheerfully repeats its enemies in the same way. That curious thing of fighting games: “oh, it’s that guy again.”
Kieron: Yeah – in a “You’ve had this guy – now fight this guy with a little friend” way.
Jim: Even down to food lying about to heal you up.
Kieron: But fruit instead of chicken. So healthier.
Alec: Mmmm. Chicken.
Jim: Yes, and it does feel healthy, as a game.

John: Going back a step: I don’t think that’s fair to the aesthetics, Alec. Those French adventures were lazy in their surrealism, just doodles for the hell of it. This feels like Bosch meets Dave McKean.
Jim: Quite so. It’s really unusual to look at. The visuals are something of a reward, I felt.
Alec: Yes, the main driving force for me was to see what new madness they’d show me. And agreed, it’s far more visually imaginative than those old adventure games – I was just scrabbling for some sort of context.
Jim: Anyone not actually like it?
John: Only a dangerous idiot wouldn’t enjoy it.
Kieron: No, adored it. Reminded me of French graphic novels too.
Jim: If one part of it disappointed me, it was that it didn’t escalate the craziness at the end – that final arena was *boring*.
John: And familiar.
Alec: Yeah, after the boat ride it pretty much just repeated earlier stuff.
Jim: Where as the beach whale-monster, or the giant elephant-giraffe things were incredible.
Alec: It does suffer a little from the Halo backtrack/repeat effect.
Kieron: Actually, about the graphical style – it’s worth noting that Alejandro Jodorowsky is actually Chilean. It feels a lot like a Jodorowsky joint. Even the plot.
Jim: Is he? I thought he was Spanish
Kieron: No, Chilean.
Alec: (The readers will have no idea what we’re talking about now. Giant elephant-giraffes, readers! With sheds hanging from their necks!)
Jim: Yeah, those should give you a gist of the kind of world it is, it’s probably one of the maddest I’ve seen since Sacrifice.
Kieron: For the uninitated – Jodorowsky’s a writer/director chap best known either for his weirdo westerns (El Topo, etc) or his comics (Metabarons) or just being gloriously mental. Anyway, yeah – someone paraphrase the plot.
Jim: Hmm, well, the raw story Zeno Clash tells is actually fairly unexciting. It’s journey of discovery thing. A young male protagonist fleeing after killing his monstrous “Father-Mother”
John: And having learned a terrible secret. Trying to return home, he’s outcast by his siblings. He had joined a clan called the Corwids of the Free, a group “not slaves to reality or common sense.” But their insanity makes them his enemies too. So he’s trying to escape, along with a friend, to find new hope.
Kieron: It’s the mentalness of the details which elevates the stories – the woods full of monomaniacal psychopaths, for example. They were amazing.

Jim: His friend seems like the biggest mystery of the game, to me. The actual key plot “mystery” was obvious fairly early on, but his companion remains unexplained.
Kieron: She’s an odd un, isn’t she?
Alec: She’s just a friend/lover, with antlers on her ‘ead.
Jim: That old cliché.
Kieron: She’s Alyx with an enormous furry hat.
John: I figured that was splendid hair.
Alec: She’s curiously uninvolved – always disappears off to a safe ledge as you face-punch people.
Jim: Going back to what Kieron was saying about the Corwids: the entire game felt a bit like an excuse for the incredible character designs. Your companion is part of that, but just a tiny part: almost everything you meet is an awesome concept.
Alec: Yes. The Corwids are really there so that you can tour through a bunch of mad ideas, though they’re affectingly tragic too. There’s that bit where the narration tells you about one who basically curled up and died. And then later you actually pass her body – it’s weirdly distressing to do so.
Kieron: There’ s a real poetry to them.
John: Does this remind people of films like The Labyrinth and MirrorMask? A series of extraordinary visuals, loosely sewn together as a story.
Kieron: Yeah, a little – but really, much more the French stuff which you haven’t read.
John: Actually, it reminds me more of a Serbian thing that you’ve never even heard of.
Jim: No, it’s like Chinese stuff from a future only I can see.
Kieron: CHINA!

Alec: I definitely got a vague Metabarons vibe off it.
Jim: It does have a real whiff of esoterism to it, and I wonder if that will put people off.
Kieron: Maybe. But I dunno – to choose an example of its ideas, one of the Corwids who believes it’s most important to be invisible. To do so, he tears out everyone else’s eyes. I think that stuff captures the imagination.
John: Anyway, shall we talk about the game itself? I had thought, having played the few preview levels before, that it was just going to be a series of arena fights. So I was really delighted by the magic torch sequences.
Jim: Yes, it just about manages to be varied enough
Alec: If it had just been fight to fight to fight it would have failed, but it’s impressively diverse, with the exception of the last three-ish levels.
Jim: how does everyone feel about that base-line action: the melee combat? I was surprised by how good it felt.
John: I was really worried it wouldn’t work. I was convinced it would become a jumble. But it’s just stunning. I never got a good hang of the blocking, but I wonder if that’s because I never get the hang of blocking in games.
Alec: The only thing I thought was that some of the modeling is off – some beasts’ punch-range doesn’t seem to match the visible length of their arms, or their distance from you.
Jim: Boss battles in an FPS are usually achingly rubbish, but with perhaps the exception of the very end, the “character battles” in Zeno Clash are really something, especially the parachuting squirrel-bomb sequences.

Kieron: My main problem was the lock on system – where you lock onto an enemy and can circle them – was on the same key you use to pick up stuff. So trying to make a grab at an object near a baddie was literally impossible. And allow me to repeat what Jim just said: “Parachuting Squirrel Bomb sequences.”
Jim: In terms of feeling manageable, and visceral, the melee is about as good as anything other than Riddick.
Alec: The other thing that annoyed in the melee was if you knocked someone down they were automatically de-targeted, and if you had a gun at the time, that would auto-pop up, which totally alters the fighting style.
Jim: Yes, that was what was interesting about it how it mixed in the ranged combat: it allowed you to put away your weapon and fight, or to have it knocked from your hands when an enemy got close. You could try to play a shooter at times, but it wouldn’t work. Or, at least, it would only work so far.
Alec: I was actively trying to get my weapon knocked out my hands at times, just so it wouldn’t pop up whenever I knocked a guy down.
Jim: I didn’t notice that, but then I generally had the weapon knocked away from me.
Kieron: The problem with that is how long some moves take – like, say, reloading. How slow you move when you reload is… grating.
John: On a number of occasions, in the middle of a battle, it would take control away from you and show a cutscene in which you were losing. And I bloody wasn’t! It did this twice when you’ve actually beaten the enemy, cutting to your being held to the ground and only winning by an action in the cutscene. I WON THAT!

John: So what were the other problems, Kieron?
Kieron: Doesn’t end, for a start.
John: It sure seemed like it ended.
Kieron: Explain Golem. What did Golem do? Who was the enormous dude? All the spoiler stuff we can’t really talk about in this verdict?
Jim: The end was unsatisfactory. I think it needed a bigger reveal to be any good – I’d already guessed the secret.
Kieron: I didn’t. I wasn’t trying, admittedly. I thought it was a pretty funny secret.
John: I was perfectly happy with it. I didn’t guess the secret, which I guess helps.
Alec: I shrugged the story off as cheerfully inchoherent bunkum – just a backbone to show us mad stuff.
Kieron: But fuck you, y’know? I paid for a story. You didn’t say it would be a Halo 2.
John: I paid for fistifights. Well, none of us paid a thing because we’re too important.
Kieron: Well, obviously.
John: Regarding linearity, I think that’s great. Double Dragon was linear. Hell, the Half-Life games are linear. It’s an ideal way to give us this sort of game.
Jim: Kieron, you’re not satisfied with just the ideas and the fights? I think that would be enough for most people?
Kieron: Oh, I like the game a lot. But I think for developers to end their first game with so many things open is an act of incredible arrogance.
John: It felt more dreamlike for me. Aimless start and aimless end, with a couple of threads through the middle.
Jim: It is quite dreamlike in that way, but then the narrative of dreams tend to not be much good. It’s an incredibly visual game, and not in an “oh we’re showing off with technology” way. It was more about their abilities as animators and artists. And even the voice acting is okay.
Kieron: Which is all the more amazing when it appears to have been done by the team.
John: There’s so many needless mistakes.
Jim: I think you’re exaggerating that, John. Look at it in the context of almost every other foreign game. The dialogue is fine.
John: I’m not exaggerating that there were many needless mistakes.
Jim: Oh come on, the voice acting in Men Of War makes Zeno Clash seem like an Oscar winner.
John: The subtitles were littered with typos, and many statements weren’t correct.
Jim: I didn’t have any subtitles, mistakes in the subtitles would emphasize it enormously.
Kieron: I dunno. It felt okay, in a translated foreign film way.
Alec: When the world it depicts is so strange and alien, it’s easier to forgive grammar messiness. They almost add to the strangeness, in the way they did with Russian in Stalker SHOC.
John: I think that’s nonsense.
Kieron: I didn’t notice a single typo.
Jim: And in the game? Aaaanyway, does anyone have anything they’ve not yet vented?
Kieron: We haven’t even hit the major problems, you know? As in, it’s 4 hours long.

Jim: How much is it going to cost at release? Because for £7 on pre-order, that seems okay.
Kieron: When its released, its 15 quid.
Alec: I genuinely think it would have outstayed its welcome if it got much longer, some of the multi-enemy fights were getting pretty frustrating as they were – if it had been longer, it would probably have involved more escalation and thus become miserably hard.
Jim: I think it could have been longer, if they’d had more visual awesomeness to throw at us. Towards the end it was losing that edge, for me.
Alec: It’s best they quit while they were still ahead.
Kieron: Which actually seems reasonable for me – you’re right, that they’d have to have added more art assets and general mentalness to justify extending the game. As a budget game, it sits right. I think the actual challenges show the game’s combat system up for the best actually – stuff like enemies fighting each other becomes much more important.
Jim: Do the challenge mode things have any life to them? I mean, I can’t see myself replaying the story any time soon
Alec: If you’re into competing with your mates for leaderboard places, maybe.
John: I want to say about the melee: The visceral nature of the combat is just astonishing. The force and heft makes you reel, and the sense of contact is incredible.
Kieron: Totally. KICK! PUNCH!
Alec: It’s incredibly brutal in its feedback loop. I really felt bad about kicking guys when they’re down.
Kieron: Yeah. I mean, I didn’t feel bad. I felt ruthless. For me, the height of the game is stuff like stunning an enemy, grabbing him, kneeing him in the face three times – no more – and then throwing him to my left, where I know another enemy is, knocking them both over.
Jim: Compared to Mechants Of Brooklyn – a very similar project in size and attitude – this is a true feat of design and production.
John: We’ve been quite picky about bits and pieces, but I think that’s testament to the fantastic standard overall. It in no way feels like the first game from an indie developer.
Alec: Yes, we’re not criticising its fundamentals. It’s an FPS fisticuffs game that looks and feels incredible.
John: My concluding remarks would be: Amazingly brutal, properly good melee combat, in the most beautiful lunatic world.

Jim: Enough! VERDICT!
John: BUY!
Alec: The Meerian thumb is aloft.
Jim: BUY!
Kieron: Yeah, thumbs up. If you’re interested, I suggest you pre-order now. It’s ten dollars on Direct2Drive right now, a 50% off offer which ends on Sunday night. On Steam it’s only 25% off, but that’s up to launch, I believe.


Our verdict: SALE!

Jim: Hooray, good work, Ace Team. The name proves befitting.
John: And punching bastard elephants is always good.
Kieron: I’ve always wanted to punch an elephant.
John: RPS instructs you to buy this immediately.

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150 Comments »

  1. Villane says:

    I bought it when you mentioned chicken. Or was it monomaniacs.

  2. Nighthood says:

    According to Ace Team, the game is around 3gb. More than just a few hundred mb really. :P

  3. qrter says:

    Nevermind, I took the plunge and preloaded it anyway.

    It’s about 3.23 Gb.

  4. Markoff Chaney says:

    Excellent. I’ll end my vigil then. ;)

    As far as its’ finished size goes, it is a couple hundred Peggles. I just had the order of magnitude incorrect. Clearly it goes MB –> Peggles –> GB –> GP –> TB –> TP so I reckon I was only off by a magnitude of one.

  5. Dan K says:

    I will buy this based on this review, I mean, £6 for melee combat, the only game that’s gotten 90% melee combat right before this was Dark Messiah Of Might And Magic.
    Discounting F.E.A.R because it’s a shooter at heart.

  6. Akirasfriend says:

    It’s my brithday today, as of 2 hours ago, and my good friend Draan Idracil bought this for me on Steam (after singing Happy Birthday to me on Skype, of course).

    DRAAN IS CREDIT TO TEAM.

  7. Matosh says:

    Yeah John, we want to know what that Serbian thing is that we’ve never even heard of! I wanna know if I’m on the right track. And if not, what stuff needs to be bought.

    As for the game, I actually won a free copy in a contest yesterday! Can you believe it? That never happens to me! But if I hadn’t I would’ve bought it today. I may not have fifty bloody Euros to spend on Empire: Total War, but I don’t mind supporting a creative new team from an unexpected country with a great little game. After all, when Serious Sam first came out we all had our fingers crossed that people show that kind of trust in our guys.

  8. Sam says:

    Excellent review. It’s things like this I read RPS for!

    I’ll buy it, but not yet. No time for more games right now–I still have several sitting and waiting to be finished.

  9. Presagio says:

    Does any one knows if there are plans to sell the game in other sites, aside of Steam or D2D? I long time ago decided not to use either service, but I really want to support new developers that:

    a) Develop primarily for PC
    b) Focus on design, rather than on technical prowess.
    c) Emboss their own visions in the game, instead of being constrained by external sources (movie/book adaptation, franchise, previous successes, etc )
    d) Not afraid to indulge into odd aesthetics, that escapes the current tendencies (More Morrowind, less Oblivion)
    e) No doubt add richness of their own amalgam of cultures, in a medium dominated by the usual suspects (USA, Japan, UK, Canada, Germany and recently Poland, Russia)

    Hope it becomes a financial success, and inspire other Latinoamericanos to break into the market.

  10. mister k says:

    I completely missed this post until just now. I’d just like to say- yay for a full rps verdict! I missed the optimus prime thumbs…

  11. Piotr Burzykowski [LocWorks] says:

    (self-serving plug) Play it with Polish, French or German subtitles and tell me if they do the job. The audio will still be in English, though.

    And it all started back in 2005 with me pestering Adam Foster to let me localize MINERVA…

  12. Lewis says:

    Zeno Clash first impressions: a tentative thumbs-up.

  13. kadayi says:

    Bought, I just hope it lives upto the hype

  14. jalf says:

    Just played the tutorial thingy for all of 5 minutes. Have to run for a bit now, so will try more later, but so far, my first impression: DAMMIT, THEY RIPPED OFF OUR IDEAS! :D

    Nah, srsly, I made a Source mod a couple of years back, featuring a very similar close combat system (including the lock-on mechanic). And yes, we also found out it worked surprisingly well.

    But WE DID IT FIRST :D

  15. vlphx says:

    China Mieville, anyone?

  16. Piotr Burzykowski [LocWorks] says:

    @vlphx: Not tonight, I’ve got a splitting headache…

  17. Dominic White says:

    The game has only been out a few hours, and I’ve seen opinions running the whole spread, including a few ‘Holy shit this is the worst thing I’ve ever paid money for’ rage-fests.

    Is every videogame these days horribly divisive?

  18. Markoff Chaney says:

    Holy shit this is one of the best things I’ve ever paid money for.

    How’s that? :)

    Art is phenomenal. It looks even better in motion than the pictures. The Source engine can still amaze me… Most amazing is how well the melee works. Fantastic. It’s like playing Streets of Rage mixed with Street Figher (3 on 1 edition) in a First Person perspective.

    Awesome game. Excellent work, ACE. Amazing this is your first outing. Thank You.

  19. MD says:

    Is every videogame these days horribly divisive?

    I think it’s pretty much inevitable with anything this heavily-hyped. So you get it at both ends of the spectrum, from mega-budget sequels to interesting indie games, but I’m pretty sure there are plenty in between that get by relatively unscathed. Of course, gamers being gamers, there will always be someone willing to fight to the death either in defence of a game or in a fit of rage at how appalling it is.

    I was lucky enough to score a free copy of Zeno Clash, but I’m yet to download it as my ISP seems to have forgotten that daylight saving time is over, counting a bunch of my off-peak downloads as on-peak and throttling me :-[
    Really looking forward to trying it, although I’m a bit nervous as my CPU doesn’t actually meet the minimum spec. I’m assuming the game will still run, as it’s not like I’m missing a crucial pixel-shader or anything. But has anyone here run the game on a low-spec machine? I’d appreciate any information on how it is likely to run on an Athlon XP 2600+ (with a Radeon 9800 Pro and 1GB of RAM).

  20. jalf says:

    This was heavily hyped? I hadn’t even heard of it until Steam did their 50% off on preorders dealie. Bought it because I like weird art styles, and the price was right. :D

    I can understand why this game would be somewhat divisive though. It’s kind of borderline between indie and “real commercial game”. It’s a bit rough around the edges, and not all parts of the gameplay work equally well (and probably not everyone likes the arena-based melee combat) and the setting is likely to turn some people off (it’s not brown and realistic), so there’s definitely something to hate if you’re into that. On the other hand, it looks crazy and colorful, the story keeps you entertained, and the combat system actually works very well I think (at least when the shooty bits don’t collide with the smashy bits), which is rare for fps melee games. I guess it just depends on what you focus on.

    I’m definitely enjoying the game so far. By the way, I’ve been through the boat ride, and I can’t recall seeing any beach whale monsters yet. Do I get to that later, or is my memory that bad? :D

  21. MD says:

    “Heavily-hyped” wasn’t a great choice of words (nor a great choice of hyphen, probably), but how about “high profile (for an indie game)”? Maybe it’s just because most of my gaming news comes from RPS, but I felt like ZC was quite eagerly anticipated, as well as obviously being a relatively major production given the cirumstances (small team, first game, bizarre original concept). There seemed to be a hilarious/crazy new trailer every few weeks featuring dual fish guns or hammer-based elephanticide, which must have generated quite a bit of interest.

  22. Rumpel says:

    I’d like to point out that this was an exclusive review. Never ever trust exclusive reviews, no matter who’s writing them. Ever.

  23. Jim Rossignol says:

    Rumpel’s point seems valid. But here’s why it isn’t.

    It’s true that some publications have thrown away their credibility for the exclusives. But you should probably examine their motivation for that. Most such exclusives are deals made with large publishers who have a catalogue of other major games, and probably an advertising portfolio with the same editorial outlet.

    In this case, however, Ace Team have nothing: no forthcoming game we’re desperate to preview, no prior reputation that would set an army of fanboys on us if we slagged them, no advertising money. Hell, as a bunch of indies they might not even be around to make another game. If Zeno Clash had been a terrible piece of crap we would have had no motivation whatsoever *not* kick the shit out of it.

    Fortunately it was a good game, and we were able to pimp it pretty heavily. And that just adds to our credibility. In fact, long term it makes no sense to mess up the exclusive review thing: we have to be honest because otherwise our readers simply won’t come back. We’re a tiny site that relies on the patronage of experienced, perceptive gamers for its survival. If we fuck up something by being corrupt, then we’re done for.

  24. f3nyx says:

    Some of your questions can be answered on the official Ace Team forums.

    Give those Chileans a palm on the back for the amazing work.

    http://www.aceteam.cl/

  25. unclelou says:

    Played it for 2-3 hours last night, and it’s excellent. Very, well, *playable*, the combat is visceral, it looks gorgeous, and the setting is wonderful and coherent in its weirdness.

  26. shamanic miner says:

    Just read the Eurogamer review which sums it up quite well.
    I would have gone with “Muhamma-Dali” as the tagline though ;)

  27. MA6200 says:

    This game is a whole lot of fun! The combat and animations are so smooth and I can’t believe how well dodges are handled. All I can remember from other first person melee games is that you hold a few buttons and the screen moves to the right or left a bit.

    EDIT: Holy crap! Is that an edit button?

  28. Andrew Dunn says:

    The combat in this is incredibly kinetic. I really do find myself getting into the fights, thinking “Stitch this ya cunt” when I kick fallen enemies all ower ra shoap. Bit worrying that.

    It is very, very pretty too. Some stunning scenes. I’d imagine that its extreme linearity will stick in some people’s craws, though. It’s about as linear as it’s possible for a game to be and some people will absolutely hate that.

  29. Guhndahb says:

    What a spectacular game. I sure hope they continue the story in sequels. The auto-locking and auto-weapon issues desperately need to be fixed (also, tournament mode unlocking) but otherwise I adored it.

    I enjoyed the story. I guessed the secret as well but late enough that I realized I could have figured it out earlier and early enough that I felt myself clever. That’s pretty much the perfect time to figure out a plot secret.

    I’d really like to learn more about the things that happened and, of course, about Golem and what is beyond the end of the world (don’t worry folks, that’s not a spoiler), but I felt it had a well defined and satisfactory ending leaving me hungry for more insights.

    Control issues aside, combat was exceptional. I agree that there were a few enemy moves where the connect distances were not just too far but so far that it hurt my immersion for a moment. Aside from that I just loved melee in FP. As a person who only tolerates 3rd person, this was a breath of fresh air. They didn’t just prove this could be done and done well but that it can be very fun and satisfying.

    All told, I’m completely happy with my purchase!

  30. unclelou says:

    Please tell me I am missing an obvious trick in the final battle, and it’s not just awful game design with a 1000% difficulty rise.

    I’ve died significantly more often in that fight (without having beat it yet) than in the rest of the game.

  31. Lorc says:

    You do the most damage to father-mother if you press E to focus on him/her when he/she’s on her knees. As usual, counters are especially effective. You should be able to get one round of wailing in before the first helper turns up.

    Prioritise the “helpers”, killing them with the fish guns and the skullbomb. Only two join in in total, so once they’re both down you can concentrate on father-mother. Getting bogged down in melee with them seems a bad idea since father-mother can strike through them.

  32. unclelou says:

    Cheers, Lorc – of course, as it always is, I managed to do it right after complaining (and reading your comment). :-)

    Your tip that there are only two helpers helped a lot – I was more or less trying to ignore them before because I thought it would be the whole clanship again, and I’d have to kill Fa-Mo as quickly as possible.

    Brilliant game, all in all. And the universe they created sure can be built upon for something bigger.

  33. Dominic White says:

    Having read up on the history of this game a little more, it’s hardly arrogant that they began and ended the story where they did.

    Before they ever started work on Zeno Clash, they had a design doc for a huge sprawling surreal RPG world called Zenozoik. Unfortunately, making such a game would be an absurdly ambitious project, and would almost certainly crash and burn.

    So they chose to just tell one small story from this strange world, and they did. And they did it very well. I’d love to see them expand and reuse the melee combat system in any future games. Hopefully they’ve made enough money to expand into a full-fledged Zenozoik adventure next time.

    They’ve got a whole world worked out here, and we’ve only seen part of it.

  34. danielcardigan says:

    I played for around forty minutes last night and I felt like I’d been dumped into a washing machine and left to fight for my life. I seemed to finish every encounter virtually dead. But I generally triumphed. Then my screen went weird and I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be like that, because I was fighting the guy who wanted to be invisible, or it was a bug. I crashed out about fifteen minutes later, playing with a weird mosaic overlay on my screen and all my bars messed up for the whole time. Made targeting with the guns a real joy. Where’s THAT achievement?

    I love the art style but I think I’m just getting too old and cranky to play games like this.

  35. Matosh says:

    shamanic miner: “Muhamma-Dali”

    You, sir, win the Internet. If you haven’t got it already, someone should give you a free copy of the game for that.

  36. Rumpel says:

    “In this case, however, Ace Team have nothing: no forthcoming game we’re desperate to preview, no prior reputation that would set an army of fanboys on us if we slagged them, no advertising money.”

    :-) You’re missing something quite obvious, though. They have Zeno Clash. And they gave the exclusive to you. They gave you a specific advantage over all other gaming sites(*). For free. Gosh, how nice of them.

    I’m not suggesting corruption. But corruption is far from the only reason exclusive reviews should not be trusted. The fact that a specific site gets a clear favour from a developer/publisher is in itself questionable enough.

    (* other sites were not allowed to publish reviews before april 21st)

  37. Jim Rossignol says:

    @Rumpel: You were implying that the review could not be trusted in this case *simply* because it was an exclusive. Which is not the case in this instance, for the reasons I’ve outlined. The exclusivity made no difference at all to the critical judgment. If Zeno Clash *had* been rubbish, what good would have moderating our criticism have done for us? In fact we’d warned Ace Team that we might kick the game if it was crap (which I fully expected it to be, incidentally), but they were confident enough to insist we had the exclusive. Rightly so: it’s a great game.

  38. Kieron Gillen says:

    The “Are you sure they want us to review this first?” discussion in the RPS chatroom was quite the thing.

    KG

  39. Simon Jones says:

    Have only played it for about 30 minutes but it’s felt quite unintuitive so far – possibly due to being dumped in at the deep end, both story-wise and in terms of the combat.

    I’m never entirely sure about the timing of the punches – some of the longer/stronger moves seem very difficult to time. Obviously this is half the point, but it feels like it’s all introduced a bit too quickly. I’d barely got the hang of the basic punching before I was being told to do something else. It’s not giving me time to explore and become familiar with a move before throwing a new one into the mix.

    One aspect of the fighting I find particularly odd is when you knock someone to the ground. In such cases you lose your ‘lock on’ to the enemy and they lie there immobile for a bit, indicating that you’ve defeated them, only for them to get up again shortly afterwards. Knock-downs are fine, but removing the lock on seems like a weird choice.

    Strange how tiny the levels are, too – I don’t mind the arenas being small, but why does it have to load each one individually? Surely they could have fit more than one into a single load?

    As nice as the character designs are, you rarely get to actually appreciate them as you’re too busy running around in circles. The surrounding landscape art seems rather poor in comparison – rather featureless.

    Hurm. So far, Dark Messiah’s melee and swordplay seems much more intuitive, fun and flexible.

    Maybe it’s just because I’m tired and grouchy after a 21 hour return trip from Vegas?

  40. jalf says:

    Maybe it’s just because I’m tired and grouchy after a 21 hour return trip from Vegas?

    I’d consider that a definite possibility. ;)
    I’m probably biased because I once made a mod with a *very* similar combat system, but I settled into it pretty easily. Don’t bother too much about the advanced counters and such. It’s handy against a couple of big nasty enemies, but in a lot of cases, you can really get through just by punching and regular blocking, and occasionally running like hell. ;)

  41. alseT says:

    @Simon
    Keep at it, you’ll get the hang of it soon. As a matter of fact, I was playing Dark Messiah alternatively with ZC, and the combat felt much more satisfying and fluid in ZC.

  42. Tom says:

    I think the combat is pretty horrible – inferior to Riddick. All sorts of control fuck ups are in there: auto targetting, auto weapon draw, combat range… and then there’s the fact that the combat system makes no concessions to the fact that you’re almost always facing multiple enemies with ranged attacks.

  43. Devan says:

    Well, this is a game I probably wouldn’t have given a second glance if not for the repeated articles on RPS. I’m glad I picked it up, though, as I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

  44. skalpadda says:

    Tom: “and then there’s the fact that the combat system makes no concessions to the fact that you’re almost always facing multiple enemies with ranged attacks.”

    I’m absolutely rubbish at games like this, but I found that the ranged attackers were easy to deal with by simply running up to them and ramming them, making them drop their weapon. Mind you, I did play on “normal” difficulty (that’s the lowest, default seems to be “hard” for some reason). Having a bit more control over the weapons would be nice though, but they weren’t really overly useful except in a few cases anyway :)

  45. Bob Hope says:

    Jodorowsky is making a new film and I for one is looking forward to go seeing it. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0892411/ Try google and you will find a video interview with more details surrounding the project.

  46. Rostere says:

    This game rules. I think I will buy a second copy on Steam and gift it to a friend, just because.

  47. Y3k-Bug says:

    What a lovely game. Just very, very accomplished. And the glorious art…

    By the way, an update to the game was just released that fixes the (valid) issues the RPS reviewers had with the lock-on system, notes here:

    http://store.steampowered.com/news/2459/

  48. Hulk Hogan says:

    This game was made for me!

    I CHALLENGE ALL WHO DISAGREE TO A CAGE-MATCH TO THE DEATH!!!

  49. DoomRater says:

    I like how some of the people are talking about ACE Team as if they have no prior game to base themselves on. Actually, they do- though they were both Total Conversions for the Doom engine (one ZDoomGL, one a vanilla Doom 2 mod), they’ve shown they’re quite capable of handling a full on edit with just their own ideas. Batman Doom was a fan project of love but well executed, while the ZanZan is essentially a short Zeno Clash-like game with just as freaky effects and surreal environments. In all, they had a bit of a cult following from the ZDoom community because of it.

    As a fighter myself, it feels quite real for a street brawler. But then again, that’s what I expected and paid for- lots and lots of running around punching things in the face. I really can’t get enough of it. In fact, I’m snacking on the tower challenges to prepare myself for punching people in the cage!

  50. party gowns says:

    This looks pretty interesting and I’ll share it with my friends.