Multiple tons of metal, enough guns to fuel a revolution, and a mean right hook do not a kick-ass release make, as Slave Zero proves, although I’m sure most of us probably would have been inclined to disagree with that statement on general principle. More often than not, you’ll find that play consists of lumbering about, eyeing rather imbecilic enemies and deciding just how crispy you’d like them before pulling the trigger. Making matters worse is the fact that it starts out rather slow, although the visuals do a decent job of diluting the pain for newcomers. For all of the game’s charisma, due mainly to the fact that an entire city is going about its daily routine around your Slave unit, it’s hard to suspend disbelief long enough to really get into the experience.
Perhaps the reason for this is that it’s somewhat hard to discern any truly intriguing features of the skyscrapers that tower above you or the tiny vehicles that drive beneath. Then again, perhaps it is the result of a lack of interactivity on the title’s part, as although you can fling the little buggers about, it serves no useful purpose whatsoever. Of course, we could always focus on the slowdown effects that seem to plague the frame rates with disturbing frequency. Little touches such as the ability to destroy some of the buildings or sizzle away parts of the terrain with your plasma guns helps to salvage a little dignity for this one, but it’s hardly enough to grant Slave Zero the right to hold its head up high.
All is not lost, however, because for all of the game’s failings, there are a few moments of glory that shine through and help save it from being consigned to collecting dust on the shelf. Take, for instance, the boss encounters, which are incredible battles between your Slave unit, the occasional horde of minor enemies that appear, and yet another massive biomechanical creation that has it in its head to ruin your day. Each boss encounter is truly unique, featuring environmental challenges, reflex-intensive timed sequences, and beautifully designed monsters heavily inspired by anime programs. To call the need to play through hours of tedium in order to view brief moments of inspiration anything less than a travesty would be criminal, so it’s a shame things didn’t stack up better for Slave Zero in the end.
Sadly, we’re faced with yet another game that just doesn’t live up to the level of quality most of us had assigned to it in our heads. On the one hand, there is something to be said for taking a chance on this particular theme, which is about as far out of Infogrames North America’s standard area of operations as they come. On the other, there’s something to be said for a little quality control, although I’m afraid this knowledge comes too late to soothe the pain of disgruntled gamers, who’d been preaching the coming of Slave Zero for months. Truthfully, Slave Zero is not a poor offering when looked at from an overall standpoint, but there are a number of issues that hold the title back from realizing its full potential.