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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.

Remember back in middle school there was that one weird kid. You know, the guy who tried to be as strange as possible just to get attention. Well, if that kid were to be a videogame, he would be Zeno Clash.

Billed as a first-person brawler, Zeno Clash’s single-player campaign sees gamers take control of Ghat, a man who has committed some crime against his tribe and is being hunted down for it. Joined by his female companion Deadra, Ghat must venture across the various unique landscapes of Zenozoik (the world where Zeno Clash takes place).

When I say unique, that is actually an understatement. Zenozoik is full of grotesque animal-human hybrids and environments that looks like the Caribbean on acid. For example, half way though the game there is a boss fight on a beach. The boss, who has what appears to be a spider for a face, is standing on a beached whale/shark hybrid and throws chipmunk bombs (which are exactly what they sound like) at you. If that isn’t weird enough for you, you have to fight him off using fish-guns, which are just fish that shoot spines.

The way Zeno Clash plays out is a mix of Punch-Out and Condemned: Criminal Origins. Right trigger is your quick punch and left trigger is your strong punch. The A button acts as a block/dodge/counter attack. All these actions are governed by a stamina meter. If you are blocking too much, or are having your attacked blocked your stamina goes down. If you stamina becomes depleted you will react slowly and be forced to retreat until it regenerates. By experimenting with these three buttons and having various levels of stamina, you will discover new combos.

While these controls sound basic on paper, in the heat of battle they can be somewhat confusing. To make matters worse, there is a slight delay from when you hit the button to when the action takes place. What should the “sweet science” turns into a button mashing nightmare.

As the single-player campaign progresses, you will discover new environments. Each new environment serves as its own level. In each level you will walk along a strictly linear path, solve puzzles, and fight off bad guys. One cool thing I liked is that before each fight a screen appears saying “Ghet vs.” and then a list of bad guys. This screen brought me back to the old days of arcade fighting games, where someone would walk up, put in a quarter and the “A New Challenger has Entered the Ring!” would sound.

Even though it is “brawler” there are several weapons you can find. The weapons include: fish guns, skull grenades, a makeshift rifle, a double action cross bow, a homemade shotgun, a grenade launcher, and various melee weapons. One thing I really liked about the guns in Zeno Clash, aside from their ridiculous appearances, is that they all have low ammo capacity. I found my self unloading on one bad guy, only to throw the gun at another before going in all karate style.

In terms of enemies, Zeno Clash really only features four genres. There are basic wild animals, like giant frogs that spit acid, standard human(ish?) opponents, large human(ish?) opponents, and bosses. Wild animals can be taken down with just a punch or two. The standard human opponents are essentially clones of you. They can take the same amount of damage and they have access to all the same moves and weapons as you. Large opponents can only be damaged by weapons. Finally, bosses have a weak point you need to find out before you can do any damage to them.

Aside from the campaign mode there is a challenge mode. This mode, which is essentially a survival mode, sees you fighting your way up a tower, going toe to toe with various combinations of bad guys. After you finish one wave, you climb up to the next level of the tower, facing more difficult opponents. Each level of the tower has an assortment of weapons scattered around it, as well as different lay outs. This changing mix makes for some chaotic combat.

While Zeno Clash is a vividly striking and unique game, there are several major flaws with it. The most upsetting of these flaws is that the game is just too repetitive. All you are doing is walking along a path, dealing 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, I think there are something like five different combos you can do, all of which are overly complex and do little to no damage. I found myself just using the quick attack combo until the enemy was on the ground, after which I proceeded to kick his head in until the fight was over.

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 put so much work into creating a fantastically unique world but they never give it any life. Each level just glances over these lush environments rather than actually delving into the world of Zenozoik.

Along the same lines, the story and characters are never given any life. Ghet is a flat protagonist that never experiences any growth or change. For someone who has just been kicked out of his home by his friends and family, Ghet never really shows any emotion or insight.

Ultimately, Zeno Clash is a short (5-6 hours), clunky game that offers little in terms of replayablity. In all honesty I have a hard time recommend this game to anyone for the $15 price tag. If you are looking for something that you’ve never seen before, you may want to check out Zeno Clash. Personally, I’ll wait for a sequel where ACE Team can hopefully flesh out the Zenozoik world and make the combat more responsive.

Rating Category
8.0 Presentation
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?
6.5 Gameplay
Zeno Clash could have been a fantastic first-person brawler had ACE Team made the controls more responsive and added more variety in combat.
7.0 Sound
While the punches give off satisfying bone crunching snaps, the poor voice acting holds the game back.
5.0 Longevity
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.
6.5 Overall
Zeno Clash is an ambitious title that ultimately fails due to an underdeveloped story and weak combat mechanics.

  1. This game was like an existential acid trip.

  2. avatar D. Hume

    Great review brutha!

  3. Totally agreed – the imagery was fantastic (definitely in line with Chris here, lol), but the gameplay was just too similar from one area to the next.

    In the end, I kinda felt like I had played Double Dragon, but in 3D, while eating a fistful of narcotics.

    • avatar renata

      I may have commented on this berfoe, but as a fan of multiplayer in the MW games I have 144 hrs of multiplayer in Black Ops, probably more in MW2. Plus the time I’ve spend in campaign, spec ops and zombies, I feel I’ve more than got my money’s worth out of both $60 games. I think you just have to understand what your interests are in the game. If you know you’re not into the multiplayer and the campaign is only 5-6 hrs, you have decide whether you’re willing to pay the premium price or wait for price drop. And there is nothing wrong with that, just don’t expect publishers to price a game a $30 or $40 at launch because you’re only interested in single player. I’m having the same debate internally with LA Noire. The game looks great, but I know I won’t play it after the first run through. Is it worth $60 to me? Maybe, but I can also defer playing it until a price drop comes along.

  4. This game is definitely out of the ordinary, but I actually really liked it.

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