Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid, Okami on the Playstation Network, Devil May Cry, Jak and Daxter, and Ratchet and Clank have all seen re-releases this year, bringing together a collection of old games with an added layer of graphical sheen for a single price Ė and now, the latest to join their ranks is Zone of the Enders HD.
Following a similar format to the other HD collections, Zone of the Enders HD is a compilation of both Zone of the Enders games on one disc, with spruced up graphics, achievements/trophy support, and a few other tweaks here and there. Originally released on the Playstation 2 between 2001-2003, and produced by Hideo Kojima, the man behind Metal Gear Solid Zone of the Enders (or Z.O.E.), Zone of the Enders is a sci-fi themed game that revolves around giant robots, and the things they destroy.
The first game, simply called Zone of the Enders, follows the story of a young child named Leo, as the colony he calls his home on Jupiter comes under attack by a group of militants. After watching his friends be killed, Leo flees, and somehow manages to accidentally fall into the cockpit of a giant robot, or in the series parlance, an Orbital Frame known as Jehuty. Kind of like a more anime-themed transformer, itís up to Leo to make use of the giant, and heavily armed mech he just so happened to fall into in order to save his remaining friends, and defend the colony from the invasion.
Luckily for you, Jehuty is a lot more manoeuvrable than youíd imagine a giant robot would be. With the ability to move up and down by pressing Y or A (X or Triangle on the PS3), as well as moving forwards, backwards, left and right by moving the left stick, controlling the mech is initially a rather confusing experience, which isn't made any easier by the awkward camera controls. Rather than letting you control the camera freely with the right analogue stick (you can move it, but only very slowly, and only when you're not targeting anything), the game instead prefers to snap the camera to face nearby enemies, meaning you're never really looking where you want to...
Spending most of its time flying rather than walking, the gameís levels are mostly little more than an excuse to beat some more robots up, while trying to collect a password thatíll let you hack a device, find a new weapon, or destroy some sort of core. Fairly small in size, youíll see random groups of enemies patrolling around the various levels, and can choose to either avoid them, or get up close and personal. Luckily, the combat here is fairly straightforward, as the attack you use will automatically vary depending on your distance from the enemy. Press attack when youíre close, and youíll whack it with a giant energy sword; press it while youíre further away, and youíll fire at it with a laser. You can modify your attacks by trying to attack by holding a button to dash, too, which lets you either swoop around your opponent and hit them while they donít expect it, or fire a collection of homing lasers thatíll chase them down.
For the most part, the levels consist of little more than simply whacking a few enemy robots around, and collecting an item, before moving onto the next level, but every now and then, a slightly more unusual objective gets thrown in to try and keep things fresh. Whether youíre having to follow a tunnel into a hill in order to take out the power source for a shield, or trying to snipe various bolts off a rotating drum in order to disable a relay, one of the more common mission types asks you to rescue a number of civilians whoíve found themselves caught in a combat zone. Rather than having to swoop down and help them up into the cockpit yourself, in these missions, all you have to do is defeat all the enemies in the area, without dishing out any damage to the surrounding buildings. Which, when youíre in a giant robot, and are chucking other giant robots around, is easier said than done...
Sadly, though, itís the difficulty level thatís ZOEís greatest problem. While the missions are rather repetitive, and the main character's annoying, itís the intermittent boss battles that are likely to put most off. With a boss fight coming as early as the second mission, the bosses have seemingly been designed using every trick from the ďannoying gameĒ cupboard - with a boss that dishes out tonnes of damage should you even so much as clip it; that you can fire at, and hit, yet it mysteriously takes no damage; and that can fire homing rockets at you, which always seem to track you a lot better than yours do, itís an incredibly frustrating experience Ė especially as he has a move thatís basically a two hit kill.
Happily, though, Zone of the Enders 2 is by far the better game, although much of the same problems still apply. With a more robust storyline, and larger, more complex, and more varied levels, Zone of the Enders 2 has aged a heck of a lot better than the ropey ZOE 1 - although the boss fights are still frustrating. On the surface, the differences are few and far between - although, brilliantly, you can now grab your opponents and chuck them into other enemies - but itís the little things that count - the addition of health bars on your enemies, the ability to target dozens of enemies at once with your homing lasers, and the more substantial levels all come together to help the game feel that much more complete than ZOE 1.
In all, much like many of the other HD collections, how much fun you get out of this will depend entirely on how much you enjoyed the original games. If youíve never played either before, itís probably worth skipping straight to ZOE 2 rather than gritting your teeth in frustration on the original, although how much fun you have will depend entirely on how many times youíre willing to attempt a boss fight before giving up. If you owned, and loved both Zone of the Endersí, however, youíll likely be well catered for here Ė although as you already own both games, all you'll really be paying for is the privilege of seeing them both in high definition.
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360
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- Combat is simpler than you'd expect.
- Zone of the Enders 2 has aged rather well.
- Budget RRP
- Frustrating boss fights
- Dodgy camera
- Annoying main character in ZOE 1
Recommended for: 9 and up
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Needs a reboot.