Everybody feels something, whether it be physical, or mental. Happiness, pain, warmth, stress, excitement- the list is infinite. When it comes to the entertainment industry, for video-games: if one can make you feel something, then it has truly succeeded in immersing you.
“Zeno Clash” defines this kind of immersion. Whether you had your hands on your mouse and keyboard, or your Xbox controller, you’ll genuinely feel like your fists have been up and punching hard. There isn’t a game quite like “Zeno Clash” on the market, and that’s impressive, as it is nearly 14 years old.
“Zeno Clash” has created its own universe in the world of Zenozoik. It has its own wildlife, plant-life, governmental laws, and life science. You play as Ghat, a man with a bone to pick with his parental figure, “Father-Mother,” who has raised him and other humans/humanoid creatures alike, but also harbors a dark secret that roughly angers Ghat. All of his brothers and sisters of all species hunt him while he hunts Father-Mother. However, during the period of time when you’re playing, Ghat has already accomplished his task. Thus, you’re being told two different parts of the story: flashbacks to when Ghat went to kill Father-Mother, and the present day where he and his companion, Deadra, are fleeing due to Ghat’s banishment.
If anything catches your eye in this game, it’s the beautifully weird world of Zenozoik. Running on the Source Engine that powers games like “Half-Life 2” and “Left 4 Dead 2”, the developers have crafted a colorful place to waltz through and pick your battles in.
Cities in “Zeno Clash” are primitive yet technologically advanced to an absurd degree. A seemingly self-aware door was able to speak to me with only the use of gears built into its system. Huge gates are opened with small manpowered cranks. About every house has a humongous furnace inside of it for cooking, heat, and a light source.
This is a stark contrast to the huge stretches of nature. The deserts are filled to the brim with tangerine-colored dunes, yet have large patches of water for tall elephant-giraffe-like creatures to extend their necks into and drink from. As for the more wilder areas, rock and stone border trenches where the tall grass doesn’t grow, and are also home to a motley crew of bohemians.
“Zeno Clash” is a game with a breathtaking yet eyebrow-raising tint of flair. The set pieces, like a beach where a whale-like creature was washed ashore would normally be distracting. Luckily, “Zeno Clash” greatly reminds you that while its looks can make you gawk in awe, it’s the fist-fights that will make you feel god-like.
Very rarely do you ever stumble upon a video-game in the brawler genre that’s in the first-person perspective. “Zeno Clash” has a deep fighting system. Through flashbacks with Ghat and his mentor, you will learn the moves you must utilize in combat. Sure, you can run in and start beating up whomever, but sometimes you have to study the opposition. You can lock onto a specific opponent in order to keep track of who’s the priority for the next painful beatdown you unleash. Doing so, you need to mind the enemies that may be strafing around you. That’s because most of “Zeno Clash’s” fights aren’t between a singular opponent.
When you finally are up-close and personal with your opponent, you need to know when to strike or block. If you strike an enemy that’s blocking, you might drain your stamina and leave yourself vulnerable. As for you, if an opponent strikes you while you’re on guard, a small window of opportunity is up for you to kick them several feet away. When it is time for you to start punching your problems away, that’s when the real fun begins.
Punching on its own never got old. The real strength of combat came from every other move. If you’ve memorized the moves you were taught, then you will be able to ram into opponents, slam their faces into your knee, and stomp on them when they’re down. Outstanding use of sound design and visible reactions of the characters bring the impact of every blow to life.
As you progress through “Zeno Clash,” you’ll also be able to wield ranged and melee weapons in order to preserve the impact of fist-fights. For people expecting them to be easy to use, as well as overpowered in a fist-fight, you’re not exactly correct. Here, there’s a time and a place to use them.
Ranged weapons always require you to hold the aim button, and have unlimited ammunition. There’s sections of the game dedicated to their use, like when Ghat goes hunting for squirrels, or when he has to prevent monsters from sinking a rowboat.
If you’re in the middle of a fight, the last thing you want is for your opponents to wield a gun, because it’s easy for them to knock you off your feet, and chip away at your health bar. At that point, you’ll have two decisions: either race your opponent for the gun, or stop them from touching it. Even when you do have the gun, you need to use it quickly, because your opponents will try everything in their might to take it from you.
Melee weapons, on the other hand, aren’t complex to use. Some boss fights require the use of melee weapons, as fists or ranged weapons won’t do the trick. These weapons definitely do more damage than fists, but don’t quite measure up as fun to swing. Like guns, when it comes to a regular fight, you don’t want melee weapons to land in your opponents’ hands.
The last few fights of the game test your knowledge on all accounts: fisticuffs, ranged weapons, and melee weapons. Meanwhile, to make the fights more chaotic, the hostile wildlife joins in and becomes a threat to you and your enemies.
One of the game’s weaknesses is the length. “Zeno Clash” does pack an arena mode and more difficulties, but for its outlandish and fist-pumping main story, I was sad that it ended as soon as it did.
“Zeno Clash” is still an experience worth having. Nothing like it has ever been released, rather than its sequel, and it’s awesome for being as different as it is.
In real life, you probably would never want to get into a fight. Once you begin playing “Zeno Clash,” you’ll be demanding fights with your dukes held high, face covered in scrapes and bruises, and veins pumping adrenaline.