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Zeno Clash Ultimate Edition Review (XBLA)

Posted by Jim Cook, May 09, 2010 23:52

The first-person perspective is usually reserved for shooting-focused games or Wizardry-style dungeon crawls, with only a few noteworthy ’close combat’ oriented games like the Jedi Knight series. While Zeno Clash is a first-person perspective game with a few long range weapons, it is primarily a brawler that merges the overall flow of Final Fight or Dynasty Warriors with first person controls and the result is consistently fun. Set in a bizarre world where human-animal hybrids live right alongside normal people, your job is to pummel through anyone that gets in the way.

Zeno Clash’s world is a strange one, with character designs that wouldn’t be out of place in Star Wars and a rather primitive, twisted geography; stone and wood structures are made in all kinds of exaggerated and bizarre shapes, a motif the technology (what little there is) shares. A roughly four to six hour main story takes place within this world, where you’re on the run from virtually everyone. A few characters are there to help you, but for the most part anyone or anything you see is itching for a fight.

These fights are Zeno Clash’s strongest aspect, using a mix of basic weaponry alongside brawling techniques... and since weapons are slow and built to fill very specific roles, you will spend most of your time slugging it out up close and personal. This is where the Final Fight aspect comes in, as you have a small variety of combos and attacks that you must use to defeat several foes in a row. You can also block, deflect, and dodge incoming attacks to give yourself an edge, something that will often be necessary when you’re fighting several enemies at the same time. They generally won’t take turns, so it’s up to you to keep up your footwork so you don’t get surrounded while also keeping your eyes on distant foes; they tend to enjoy picking up the game’s primitive guns and blasting you.

One of the better things about the brawling in this game is that each move has a distinct purpose. Your basic jabs and combos will do most of your fighting, but heavy attacks will be necessary to break past some defenses and it’s usually a good idea to stomp on an enemy once you’ve thrown them to the ground. The only real oddity is your running elbow strike, which seems to be universally useful; enemies rarely defend against it and when they do it’s easy to go into a guard-breaking attack afterward. It’s so effective that I recommend not using it outside of emergency situations, as Zeno Clash is much more fun if you don’t abuse the elbow strike.

Long-range weapons usually become more relevant in special fights, where some bosses may sit atop a high location while flinging explosives at you or only being vulnerable if they’re hit in a certain location. But these weapons tend to be slow to aim, fire, and reload, so you have to be careful in using them. Guns and crossbows definitely have their place, but they’re used for specific niche purposes and brawling will be the order of the day; it’s an interesting change of pace from most first person games.

The main story levels will take around four to six hours to complete, though doing so unlocks some interesting cheat modes that can be fun for a little while. There are also a set of ’speed run’ modes; Zeno Rush, and Tower Challenge. Zeno Rush sends you through stages that are similar to the normal levels, but arms you with a heavy hammer and rewards you for each blow you land with the clumsy weapon so it’s up to you whether to use it or opt for faster unarmed strikes. Tower Challenge is similar, but puts you in small arenas and offers a variety of weapons, though in both cases any given stage from these modes can be cleared in just a few minutes.

Encouragingly, Zeno Clash is consistently enjoyable. It rarely rises to being an amazing experience at any one point, but it is almost always fun and over what amounted to about seven to eight hours of play time I spent no more than five minutes unhappy or annoyed; everything else went fine and I had fun with it throughout. In some ways I would rather play a consistently above average game like this than one full of extreme high and low points, so Zeno Clash does well for itself.

Is it worth your 1200 MS Points/$15? I think so. It has reasonable length for the cost, and if you have someone handy to play it with co-op modes might add a little more to that length; I say ’might’ because unfortunately I was unable to find anyone to play it with throughout a weekend of trying and cannot verify how enjoyable these modes would be. But even without that, I enjoyed Zeno Clash and felt my time with it was well spent. If the prospect of a first-person brawler in the vein of Final Fight with more depth to the controls sounds interesting, give this game a try.

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Our Rating for Zeno Clash Ultimate Edition Review (XBLA)
6.5 Replay
Challenge modes and some amusing unlockable cheats may bring you back for a little more action after the main story is complete.
6.5 Graphics
Technologically unimpressive, only a good visual layout and truly bizarre yet interesting design keep it from looking bad.
7.0 Sound
Decent sound effects, music, and voice acting do their job of conveying Zeno Clash’s strange world.
8.5 Gameplay
A flexible but simple combat system makes brawling with several foes at once work well. The controls will take a little getting used to, but are functional once you come to terms with them.
0.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
Technical placeholder for N/A; Zeno Clash offers multiplayer modes, but reviewer was unable unable to test them due to lack of players.
8.0 Overall
First person brawling is an interesting idea, and Zeno Clash carries it out quite well.

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0


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