2009 Reviews

Zeno Clash

  • Review Date: 2013-12
  • Release Date: 2009-04
  • Developer: ACE Team
  • Rating: 5.5

What a strange game. The story takes place in a fictional fantasy world where you play as Ghat. You're on the run after after killing Father-Mother, a hermaphroditic creature that's raised a large family of odd creatures, of which you are one. But the family is coming after you and you're partner Deadra (large boobs, not much clothing, you know the drill) for revenge.

Zeno Clash's best feature are the imaginative and exotic lands you play through. Just look at the screenshots at the bottom and you'll see how bizarre it is. The game is build using Valve's Source engine, so naturally in 2009 it's not going to be quite as good as some of other engines on the market. Let's face it, Source engine has been around a while. So the levels themselves are all very small, confined to horrendously clipped areas. But you've got to realise this is the equivalent of a Half-Life 2 mod, in which case it's really quite good. But even then, the levels are just a bit too small.

The characters in the game have also been a big focal point, featuring some truely bizarre models. It's almost Painkiller-like, where the models are just random crazy creations without any thought for their surroundings or realism. Or like someone else said, they just found some great, but random, models throughout the net and bundled them into a game. While they're not perfect, they're certainly interesting.

The gameplay of Zeno Clash is very unique as well. You play with a few guns throughout, which seem to have unlimited ammo, but 50% of the game is melee combat with your fists. This is a first person fighting game! From blocking, standard and power hits, and various combos, the developers were going for something different here. Unfortunately, I didn't like it that much. When you do get weapons they're slow and frustrating. You need to reload often, which slows the character down usually enough for an opponent to knock you and drop your weapon. Over and over again. Some battles can be quite tough, especially in the early stages. By later in the game I found myself cleaning up enemies a bit easier, knowing the best combos and most effective strategy for killing. But there were some quite difficult fights in Zeno Clash, I died more than I do in most games, and some battles I got through by the skin of my teeth. But once you know the strategy (and bugs) it's easier.

However, Zeno Clash is a short game. I finished it in a single sitting, probably around 3-4 hours max. But, I purchased it for only $5 (christmas sale reduced from $10), so at that price it's worth it. But not much more, so I have to wonder at what price Zeno Clash was initially released for in 2009.

Another niggle is that the same enemies appear over and over again, despite supposedly killing them. Even in the same battle two characters you've defeated suddenly return! This game would be over a lot sooner if the protaganist would simply kill the enemies instead of allowing them to get away and attack in the next level.

Overall, the fusion of first person fighting game with some shooting didn't work that well. But it's a nice change of scenery, I guess. The game excels at its exotic art direction, but I just wish the levels pushed the limits a bit more. They're far too small and linear for a commercial game.

The critics scored this game a bit higher than I have, I imagine due to the bringing something different with it's combat. But this is no 8/10 game. Fortunately it's done well enough to spawn a sequel, and with the power of Unreal Engine 3.0 I'm hoping the levels are a bit more epic, like they deserve.

Zeno Clash