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So, the Japanese think games should consist of androgyny and slightly wonky cameras. Americans, on the other hand, prefer explosions and men with beards. The British? They’ll largely go with whatever the Americans want. But have you ever stopped to wonder what the South American republic of Chile makes of it all?
Probably not, but once you experience this wonderfully off-kilter brawler, you’ll want to scatter your remaining Microsoft Points across the globe in the hope that something as bold and imaginative as Zeno Clash gets snared in your net. Just as most of the world’s most innovative films are born outside of the Hollywood system, Santiago-based ACE Team have crafted an eerie otherworldy scrapper that will live long in the memory of all who play it.
Zeno Clash’s central remit is to disorientate and disrupt. The storyline is rich with narrative but bankrupt in structure. The lead character, Ghat, universally reviled for committing patricide, has no sense of belonging to the world he travels through, longing for nothing more than a place where his pursuers might not follow. Instead of a haven, he finds only hostility, as the storyline is broken up with a succession of closed-arena brawls. First-person beat-’em-ups are a rarity and on this evidence you’d have to question why. The trigger-to-punch controls are elegant yet physical, and the perspective serves to reinforce the brutality of the fights, with strong blows leaving you on the floor, unable to distinguish between up and down.
It isn’t without its flaws, mind. ACE have a PC modding background and it shows in the ‘earthy’ visuals, plus the first-person viewpoint causes obvious problems, with enemies all too eager to spawn behind you and get a few licks in before you know it. Finally, the main storyline is crazy short, although the Challenge Rooms give the player a chance to explore the nuances hidden within the fighting system. It’s an expensive indulgence, but those 1200 points will give you an experience you’ll carry with you… to your grave.
May 26, 2010