While we originally covered Ace Team’s Zeno Clash back in November thanks to Guy Desmarais’ glowing review of the PC version, the title is looking to come back in a big way thanks to an upcoming Ultimate Edition title. This update will be making its way to another global stage on Xbox LIVE Arcade and will be published by Atlus to bring players all new modes, multiplayer, new moves and weapons, new interfaces, and other gameplay tweaks and enhancements. Anxious to show off what this new entry has running under the hood, Aram Jabbari, manager of Public Relations and Sales at Atlus, and Carlos Bordeu of Ace Team invited us to check out some streams of the title via a Web demonstration.
After being able to see the original Zeno Clash packed with more content, it might be safe to say the title just may raise the bar on the Xbox LIVE Arcade experience. Slated for a release on March 31, Zeno Clash is a first-person title where the main focus is in-your-face first-person melee fighting. In order to set the stage for the game’s premise, here is Guy Desmarais’ synopsis of the story:
“The game takes place in a unique setting which the developers describe as ‘fantasy punk.’ You play as Ghat, a member of a tribe that consists of the children of a hermaphrodite figure called Father-Mother. The game starts as Ghat regains consciousness after killing Father-Mother, effectively making all of his siblings angry. As he goes on the run with the help of a female companion called Deadra, he must constantly fight for his life against his brothers and sisters, assassins hired by his siblings and many other hostile creatures that populate the world of Zenozoik.”
Both Jabbari and Bordeu confirmed that no story elements have changed in Zeno Clash in its port over to the Xbox 360; however, given the Ultimate Edition features new enemies and weapons, the game will play a bit differently thanks to these elements mixed with Ghat’s new attacks. According to Bordeu, the transition to the console was a natural fit, stating the switch from keyboard and mouse to Xbox 360 controller was hardly a challenge. Given the pedigree of many first-person shooters on the system, this doesn’t seem too farfetched to believe.
Jabbari covered a controller layout that seemed standard for any first-person title: the left trigger zooms when Ghat is holding a firearm, the right trigger fires or swings a weapon or fists, the X button reloads weapons, the B button throws skull bombs, Y picks up items off the ground, the left bumper sprints, and the A button discards weapons or blocks for example. There are more mechanics available to players such as being able to lock-on to select enemies to engage them in fisticuffs, and players can also grapple dazed enemies. This range of attacks of moves present different strategies necessary to survive in the game. Heavy tank enemies will need to be tackled in a hit-and-run manner, while out-of-reach opponents will need to be gunned down from cover, and some weapons will have secondary features that allow players to take down enemies much easier, so there is a lot to experiment with in the title.
In the demonstration, Jabbari showed off a level mid-way through the game, taking place after Ghat is in exile. On the run with Deadra, Ghat is stuck in a desolate environment ripe with detail including a wavering skyline and native creatures that resemble dinosaurs. In an example of keeping the gameplay fresh, Ghat is tasked with hunting down three rabbits so the pair can have some food. The quest showcased the contextual icons on the in-game HUD that displayed the player’s progress and allowed the player to explore the environment a little (if the player goes outside of a “boundary,” they are attacked by sand worms). After bagging three rabbits, Ghat returns to Deadra to see a bounty hunter aiming a gun at her and making demands. Ghat gives himself up in order to spare Deadra and finds himself in a boss battle that shows exactly how unique and deranged the world of Zenozoik can be. The bounty takes refuge on top of one of the towering, native beasts and beings parachuting squirrels with powder kegs strapped to their back down on top of Ghat. The player has to fend off the suicide squirrel squad while aiming a firearm up high in order to tackle the boss.
Another environment, taking place before the player’s exile, sees Ghat enter a bar to receive more information about Father-Mother. After negotiating a deal with one of the inhabitants, Ghat is led to Father-Mother’s location and is called out as a threat. In response, the player then has to fend off a towering enemy and waves of other fighters that close in on the position. During this time, Jabbari was able to show off the lock-on feature and the player’s defensive abilities – by holding block and moving the analog stick left or right, players can sway in that direction, and by timing a sway exactly with an attack, time will slow down shortly and allow for a brutal counterattack. Players can also press block at the exact moment of a strike to parry an attack and also deal out a nasty blow.
The last story environment showcased allowed us see some of the unique weaponry, notably, the “torch.” The torch is a staff that doubles as a firearm when ignited, which came in handy as Ghat had to navigate a marsh-like environment with enemies attacking from the ground and sky. The last bit of gameplay we saw featured the tower challenges, which are essentially tests of endurance that has players taking on a wave of enemies to move on to the next floor where more enemies await.
New to the Xbox 360 version of the title is the ability to call on a second player for backup on these challenges. The multiplayer allows one other person to join in on Xbox LIVE or even locally via split screen to provide backup. It even seems the companies aren’t finished adding additional mode content to the title, as we were alerted to future announcements of even more exclusives to the Ultimate Edition. This edition also features a few cosmetic changes, such as a new voice actor for Deadra, and the companies plan to have the title running at 720p in order to take advantage of the impressive visuals.
Right now the game will likely weigh in at more than 1 GB, giving players quite the experience compared to other games on the service. When you further consider the companies are keeping the game at 1,200 Microsoft Points (or possibly less), both Atlus and Ace Team are proposing quite a value, considering the single-player story alone ranks in at 19 chapters or roughly 6-8 hours of play. The original Zeno Clash was one of our nominees for 2009 Fighting Game of the Year, so we’re definitely keeping an eye on this one to see if it can capture the same magic twice. If so, players will have an experience that rivals some retail games, stored directly in their Xbox 360 hard drive.