Remember back in middle school, there was that one weird kid who tried to be strange just to get attention? Well, if that kid was a video game, he would be Zeno Clash.
Billed as a first-person brawler, Zeno Clash‘s single-player campaign follows Ghat, a man who has committed a crime against his tribe and is being hunted for it. Joined by his female companion Deadra, Ghat must venture across the various unique landscapes of Zenozoik in search of peace. Weirded out yet? You will be.
When I say unique, that’s an understatement. Zenozoik is full of grotesque animal-human hybrids and environments that resembles the Caribbean on acid. For example, at one point there is a boss fight on a beach. The boss, who has a spider for a face, is standing on a beached whale/shark hybrid and throws chipmunk bombs at you. If that isn’t weird enough for you, you have to fight him off using fish-guns.
The way Zeno Clash plays out is a mix of Punch-Out and Condemned: Criminal Origins. Right trigger is quick punch, left trigger is strong punch, and the A button blocks/dodges/counter attacks. All these actions are governed by a stamina meter. If you are blocking too much or attacking a blocking enemy, your stamina goes down. Once your stamina is depleted, you react slowly and are forced to retreat.
While these controls sound basic on paper, they are anything but. There is a delay from when you hit the button to when the action takes place, making the game a button mashing nightmare.
Even though it is a “brawler,” there are several weapons you can find. Some examples include: fish guns, skull grenades, makeshift rifles and various melee weapons. One thing I really liked about the guns in Zeno Clash is that they have a low ammo capacity, making for hectic combat.
Aside from the campaign mode there is a challenge mode. Here you fight your way up a tower, going toe to toe with a variety of of bad guys. Each level of the tower has an assortment of enemies and weapons scattered around it making for some chaotic combat.
While Zeno Clash is vividly striking and a unique game, there are several major flaws with it. The most upsetting of them is the repetitiveness. All you do is walk along a path and deal with animals, until a real enemy shows up. When you get into a real fight, you’ll soon realize that there is very little variation in combat. In total there are about five different combos you can do, all of which are overly complex and do little damage.
This is a real shame. Had the combat been fleshed out into something like a first-person Street Fighter, Zeno Clash would have been a blast. Instead it plays out like a first-person Double Dragon.
Another thing that really bothered me was that the story never really goes into the various parts of Zenozoik. ACE Team created a fantastically unique world, but they never gave it any life. Each level just glances over these lush environments rather than actually delving into them.
Ultimately, Zeno Clash is a short (5-6 hours), clunky game that offers little in terms of replayablity. If you are looking for something that you’ve never seen before, then check it out. Personally, I’ll wait for a sequel where ACE Team can hopefully flesh out the Zenozoik world and make the combat more responsive.
Zeno Clash has one of the most visually unique and stimulating worlds; it's a shame ACE Team never really delves into it.
|How does our scoring system work?|
Zeno Clash could have been a fantastic first-person brawler had ACE Team made the controls more responsive and added more variety in combat.
While the punches give off satisfying bone crunching snaps, the poor voice acting holds the game back.
With a single-player campaign that you can beat over a weekend and a challenge mode that offers little in terms of replayability, Zeno Clash won't keep you interested that long.
Zeno Clash is an ambitious title that ultimately fails due to an underdeveloped story and weak combat mechanics.