Zed Is (Not) Dead – Z: Steel Soldiers Comes To Steam

We could just spend all day, every day writing about the ancient games being re-released via Steam, but this is one people actually care about. Z: Steel Soldiers, the Bitmap Brothers RTS and sequel to Z, lands on the service later today. There’s a new trailer below, but first I want someone to explain to me: why did you like this game?

In case you don’t remember what the original version looked like, there’s a gallery of comparison screenshots. It looks like there’s certainly higher resolution textures, though a thread on the game’s Steam forum from the developer also lists proper shadow mapping, a new tutorial and a more efficient codebase.

I played the original Z and it was a bombastic if forgettable robot romp, like a midway point between the click-and-swarm of Cannon Fodder and the gosh-its-nearly-strategy of Command & Conquer. I remember it mainly for the CG intro, which works today as a reminder of an age when all British game development was apparently fuelled by 2000AD, Viz comics and Bill & Ted.

I never played the sequel though, which Wikipedia tells me abandoned some of the original’s simplicity in favour of a by-then traditional plot-driven story. It even gave the two robot armies names other than simply “red” and “blue”. What did I miss by not playing it, do you have any fond memories of it, and is it worth re-playing today for any reason?

Basically: why?


  1. Siimon says:

    The second one, to me, was not worth playing; it just… wasn’t Z.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      The sequel blows. and I wouldn’t buy an old game from Steam with such a lack of support and no money back guarantee.

  2. James Allen says:

    The re-release of Z was absolutely horrendous. I’m not expecting much better here.

    • d3vilsadvocate says:

      I came here to post this. You should keep your expectations VERY low.

      The Z re-release doesn’t even have multiplayer, they just left that out because it wasn’t that important. Other than that, the game is buggy, has even worse pathfinding than the original, has an annoying UI and horrible controls.

      I expect Steel Soldiers to be even worse than Z.

      They said on the forums that they had to ‘remake’ the game due to some ominous publisher owning the rights to the old, compiled game (I wonder which one because they all seem to be gone…). But apparently, recreating the game from the old assembler code is alright from a legal perspective… it’s really bizarre because a simple re-release of the classic game using DOSbox would have been perfectly sufficient and a lot better than the current release of the ‘Z The Game’.

  3. magogjack says:

    Reminds me of the intro to Space Rangers 2.

  4. McCool says:

    “a midway point between the click-and-swarm of Cannon Fodder and the gosh-its-nearly-strategy of Command & Conquer”

    You just answered your own question. I always saw Steel Soldiers as the Duke Nukem to C&C’s Doom. I don’t think there is anymore to be said, other than the fact we all teenage boys once (yes, even the girls). It was the 90s.

  5. Glow says:

    Wait…is this what inspired the ridiculous running animations in the Dawn of War series (a huge blemish on otherwise fantastic games)?

    • Dare_Wreck says:

      Er… what? I’ve never heard anyone complain about the running animation in the Dawn of War games. I can’t say I ever noticed anything odd about them that stood out to me, and I sure played the heck out of them.

      • Glow says:

        I merely make reference to the the slow motion like strides which have little semblance to how most people actually walk/run. Watch a gameplay vid of DOW2 and compare the running animations to the ones in the video above and perhaps you’ll see what I mean. Granted it is a little thing but it did always bug me to watch

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          I think if your complaint is based on comparing anything in a WH40k game to real people, you are probably missing the point of WH40k, and please believe me, I mean this in the kindest and least sarcastic way possible.

  6. TheBigBookOfTerror says:

    I liked the original Z because of the ludicrous amount of swearing in a demo I had. Turns out they cut all that out from the full game, but I copied all the sound files from the uncut demo in to the full game directory and it worked! Can’t even find that demo anymore…

  7. Gap Gen says:

    The original Z had an interesting flow – each level was quite short, but if you lost momentum you’d lose pretty quickly because you made units by capturing factories located across the map, and if the enemy captured more than you it was quite hard to come back from. They also had stuff like veteran units that could dodge fire better. Also noteworthy for the announcer verbally abusing you if you were losing.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      So kind of like a simplified Total Annihilation, only limited by factories instead of metal extraction?

      • Gap Gen says:

        I suppose – it’s much smaller scale than TA, and there’s no fixed defences that I can remember. There’s also the issue of different factories being in different zones, so a tank factory can be more valuable than an infantry one. But yeah, it has a similar approach to “you get stuff continuously for owning territory”. (This is all half-remembered, btw)

        • CMaster says:

          Based on memories of the demo:

          There are several territories across the map. They have factories of various types (inf, mech, air etc) and tech level. They crank out a unit every X seconds (time reduced for lower tech units, increased for higher). You capture a nearby flag to capture the sector and factory.

          There were defences – you could spawn a turret rather than a mobile unit from several of the factories. As I remember, using these was pretty much necessary in the demo, where you started out badly outcapped by the enemy.

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            Bluerps says:

            If I remember correctly, another element was that production times for each factory depended of the number of sectors a side had captured. So having more sectors meant not only (potentially) more factories, but also shorter production times for each unit.

            I also remember that it was possible to change the driver of a vehicle. The driver could be ordered to leave the vehicle, or it could simply be shot by a sniper (which left an empty vehicle that could be claimed by anyone). Freshly produced vehicles came with a standard soldier as a driver. When another type of soldier drove a vehicle, the accuracy (and possibly other properties) of that vehicle changed, so it was for example not a bad idea to replace the driver of a long range missile tank with a sniper.

  8. trillex says:

    There was a mod or launcher, rather, which had high resolution, working multiplayer and whathaveyou, but I can’t for the life of me find it again. Doesn’t help that it is practically impossible to google anything with just 1 letter.

  9. Neurotic says:

    Okay, so, so far we have:

    The Chaos Engine,
    Speedball 2,
    Zed: Steel Soldiers.

    Now then *rolls up sleeves*, next I would LOVE to see:

    Xenon II: Megablast,
    Magic Pockets,
    Cadaver (with Cadaver: The Payoff)

    The rest I can wait for, although a bit of WWII: Frontline Command might be a laugh as it’s the only BMB game I haven’t played.

    • PostieDoc says:

      The problem being that none of those reboots you mention have been very good.

      This is why I have a modified Amiga 1200 with all the games on it.
      I can play the originals in all their glory.

  10. GomezTheChimp says:

    Another “why bother?” is Colin Mcrae 2 on Steam. I still play CM 5 and it hasn`t aged that badly. Even better, it`s almost as cheap as CM2.
    Come to think of it, have there been of these re-releases that are worth buying (except Startopia maybe?)

  11. Burningvillage says:

    I actually liked Steel Soldiers. There, I said it

  12. Burningvillage says:

    Although Sacrifice was a far more worthy re-release…