From Zero to Hero
It is 500 years into the future. The evil SovKhan is in control and is causing everyone to have a really, really bad day. How do you stop his reign of pure malevolent terror? Do you: A. Call him names, B. Phone his mother, or C. Call out a giant mech with a really big gun and blow stuff up. I bet all you folks out there in DC land know the final answer. Just call him Slave; Slave Zero.
Slave Zero is the latest action title brought to us by Infogrames. Players take on the role of Chan, a member of the ancient "Guardians," who controls a giant mech known as Slave Zero. Your mission is to infiltrate Megacity S1-9, headquarters of the SovKhan, defeat hordes of enemy forces, and save the day. The basic premise of the game is to run around and blow up everything that might (or might not) get in your way.
This is fine if you're having a bad day and you need some aggression therapy, but the simple nature of the game does some serious damage to the depth department. The gamelay just feels really repetitive. You run, you shoot. Repeat. This formula works for some other titles, like Quake and Duke Nukem, since they immediately seize your attention and engross you in a whole new world. While Slave Zero is a solid game, it fails to do justice to the high standard set forth by other classic action titles.
The graphics, for example, are run of the mill. Nothing special in this department. The environment, however, is really disappointing. Slave Zero is supposed to be this gargantuan robot, able to stomp on cars without a care and knock down buildings with a single blow. The PC version makes great use of Slave Zero's size, giving you the ability to toss cars around and use unlucky people as fresh paint on a building canvas. This bigger-than-life feel of the PC version has vanished in the DC version. Many of the little cars have disappeared and all the people seem to be under house arrest. The buildings seem more like walls and the Slave could really be part of a Micro-Machines play set for all I know. Infogrames really rushed this port, turning a cool game into a shadow of its former PC self.
Control of the Slave is pretty good. I found the Slave to be very responsive, even while dodging multiple attacks in the many fire-fights that arise. A small problem with control, however, was the use of up on the D-pad for jumping. This configuration made strategic jumping a little tough to handle. It's a good thing there isn't a whole lot of precision jumping required.
Music turns out to be another piece of Slave Zero that didn't make it into the DC version. The added dimension that Slave Zero's PC soundtrack brought to the table is sorely missed. At least the sound effects are good. Gunfire, explosions, and great, vocal mission updates fill the game. Without music though, the constant pounding of the Slave's giant metal boots will annoy you faster than Fran Drescher's laugh.
In any action game, cool weapons are an important part of the fun factor. Luckily Infogrames was wise enough to include some hot pieces of hardware for our Slave to play with. You can't go wrong with weapons like the 'XGR-90 Hellspike Cannon' or the 'Valhalla Class Rocket Launcher'. On the downside, you can only carry three weapons at a time: one ballistic weapon, one energy weapon, and one missile launcher.
Thankfully, Slave Zero includes a multi-player mode. Here you and your friends can have a friendly romp in the game's mechs with nine different arenas to choose from. This mode is pretty much everything you'd expect in a multi-player game. The only problem I had was the first person view. There is no third person option the multi-player mode. When four players go at it, the field of view seems extremely small. A third person angle would have made moving your Slave and sighting your enemies much easier.
Now don't get me wrong. I love mech games. The Slave itself is really cool, but it just happened to star in the wrong game. Infogrames could have done a much better job on this title. In comparison with the PC version, the DC Slave Zero is just plain disappointing. Ah well, just another day in the life of a giant robotic slave.