"No Flesh Shall Be Spared"
Doesn't it seem like everyone is jumping on the 3D action genre bandwagon these days? Every company has noticed the public admiration (and profits) from games such as Doom, Duke Nukem, and Quake, and all of them have some guy in the back room attempting to design and sell the next innovation. ZPC is very much like its predecessors, from promotion of weapon power to advancement of levels, and even to the area-by-area progression of enemy strength, abilities, and terror-inducing appearance.
As the story goes... you are Arman, an extremely violent hippie who must liberate an entire world from the clutches of an evil imperial empire that has destroyed a once prosperous Republic. During Arman's early childhood, the Black Brethren (the bad guys) killed the old king, exiled the boy prince (you) to deep space, and then proceeded to transform the landscape into something resembling North Korea on a bad day. Your job, as the now returned adult Arman, is to walk through this world of devastation, pitiful souls, and loudspeakers blaring propaganda, literally blasting everything in your sight and leaving destruction in your wake. These enemies include the often seen "foot soldier", the "cowardly bureaucrat" skulking in the shadows, and the more powerful representatives of the Black Brethren itself.
This game's slogan, "Vengeance Is His, Revolution, Mayhem, Destruction," pretty much sums it up.
The main weapon on this mission of violence is the "Johnny 7", a combination machine pistol, shotgun, grenade launcher, electromagnetic rail gun, and vaporizer. Each of these weapons enhancements is a step above the previous one in both performance and blast effect. Anyone remember the old BFG-9000?
ZPC does have some innovations worth mentioning. The graphic artwork, along with the concept, is a product of underground artist Aidan Hughes. Both the characters and game scenery are animated and cartoonish, though not of the Disney-esque quality as characterized by the Don Bluth "Dragons Lair" and "Space Ace" titles. If anything, they resemble characters along the lines of MTV's Aeon Flux (also soon to be a video game).
As for the music, the soundtrack is by Roland Barker of Revolting Cocks and his brother Paul from Ministry. Admittedly, this game has a rather odd feel to it, a sort of haunting quality that seems to envelope the gamer. The fine combination of graphics and sound (though there really is no music except at the beginning) gives a very tangible feeling of bleak coldness. This is not a warm, friendly game. I must admit that walking along the streets, hearing the phrase "No Flesh Shall Be Spared" with its carefully crafted echo effect coming out of the corner propaganda loudspeakers, sent chills up my spine.
Nevertheless, this game has a few problems. The game lacks true originality, for example you must use the 'chi force', which is just the Star Wars 'force' with the word chi in front. The characters are extremely stiff and look more like moving mannequins than real characters. They seem to talk but their faces do not change. Perhaps this is an effect that the game's designers were trying to create, but fighting off hordes of frozen looking, human monolith foot soldiers does not really terrify. When you run out of ammunition, you must use the Johnny 7 as a large club, but the foot soldiers just stand there and take it. The game just needs more animation.
If you are the type to save your game often, you may find ZPC irritating. To save the game, the character must pick up "memory orbs" spread across the levels. Each time the player saves his or her game, one of these orbs is exhausted. When these orbs run out, saving the game is impossible until a new one is found. This make the game quite a bit more difficult and forces you to commit to playing for a while instead of just for a few minutes at a time.
Another problem is the so-called "Chi Punch" which allows the player to move objects, flip switches, and open doors with Arman's mind. Apparently Arman has no legs, because he must also use this chi force to jump. To jump, the player must look backwards, down at the ground, and then chi punch the pavement. He or she will then fly over the obstacle to the front. This does not sound overly complicated, but it is extremely tedious and can be quite frustrating, particularly if enemies on one side are already attacking Arman.
Other than these few flaws, this game is a good one, with a fairly good plot and background story. The dark imagery gave me the willies, and playing ZPC did give me the delightful sensation of being on a one-man crusade of sorts, attempting to liberate an oppressed land and restore an ancient world order.