There are some games that come around once in a while that make you think: “What were they on when they made this game?” Well, Zeno Clash is one of those games. The first game from the developer ACE Team, Zeno Clash dons the Source Engine, and is unique as they come. It is at its core a 3D brawler that’s follows an interesting story, taking you across various vistas with diverse game play. It comes out to be a well thought out package, with a few shortcomings to not make it quite up to par with others in the genre.
The game is set in the fantasy world of Zenozoik, and follows Ghat, a man who is on the run from his siblings, and Deadra, his female companion. Ghat has been accused of killing the Father-Mother, a unique creature that gives birth to many of the world’s inhabitants. The story starts off on a very intriguing note, and gets you right into the thick of it. After some setup, you go through a series of flashbacks and then return to present day, finishing the story from there. They don’t do much explaining to the lore of the world, and you are sometimes left with a nonsensical mess. I often had no idea what was going on, and they brought in characters that they would never explain the origin of. This often becomes a problem, and slows the story down, and makes it hard to pay attention to.
As I mentioned above, Zeno Clash is a 3D brawler. All of the combat is fought in first person. All of the controls are responsive and some of the moves you can pull off look awesome. The fighting also feels good and has some weight to it, and you really feel like your punches connect. The problem is that it can get very disorienting. If you have problems with motion sickness, this may be a game that you want to pass on. There were also times where I wasn’t sure where I was being hit from, and was thrown around and then would be scrambling to even face my enemy. This is also due to the fact that they can sometimes throw too many enemies on you at once. You can be facing one, and then suddenly another is right behind you, making it hard to focus.
Also, the game teaches you many advanced maneuvers, but in the end you really don’t need them. You can almost three-punch your way to victory. Aside from the punching, Zeno Clash does offer some gunplay sections that are often short-lived. The guns seem to have no real power to them at all, and don’t do nearly as much damage as your fists. This leads you to dropping a weapon after a few shots, because you are better off using hand to hand combat. The developers do a good job though of mixing up the game play, so right when you are getting tired of a hand to hand section, they switch it to gunplay. There are also some unique sections that I won’t spoil here that break up these two types of game play.
Aside from the single player portion, which is not very long, there are a few other modes. First, Zeno Rush is a game mode designed for speed runs through the various levels of the single player mode. Next, there are the Pit and Tower Challenges. These are arena type levels that allow you to refight various enemies of the main game again. The interesting part about these challenges is that they feature online and split screen co-op. They are best play with a friend though, and can add a few more hours of entertainment.
I also want to get this out there: Zeno Clash looks good. It has brilliant and unique art direction, lush visuals and a vibrant world. Every character feels unique and different, and makes you to really think about how they come up with them. There really are not many games that have a look and the feel like this. The music is great too, and fits each area that you are in. The sound effects work well, and each enemy has unique sounds depending on what animal they have been spliced with. Overall, the presentation is top notch, and really shows the hard work that went into it by this team.
As a whole, Zeno Clash is a decent game. There are some hitches here and there, and sometimes the game can get frustrating and downright boring. But, if you stick with it you will find a unique experience that was well crafted by the developers. If to play it for one reason, make sure it is for the visuals. The developer ACE Team has made an amazing looking game that stands on its own in terms of visuals. At fifteen dollars, it is a little steep. The single player is short, but the multiplayer will keep you busy after this you are done brawling by yourself. Zeno Clash may have come out under the radar, but gamers looking for a one of a kind experience will want to check this one out.
Review copy provided by publisher.