Zero Tolerance (Genesis) review
"The new enemy introduced here, a bug-like humanoid, followed the same pattern as the skittering aliens and attack dogs (running straight at me), but seemed even more inept. Countless times, these critters would run right by me and freeze. Iíd turn around, see it suspended in place and get a quick and lethal shot off before it would start moving again. Now thatís some quality programming! "
I hate this. I really do. When it comes to video games, I detest looking at myself as a ďquitterĒ. Maybe Iíll lose interest in a game. Maybe Iíll simply decide itís just not clicking with me. But I NEVER, EVER throw in the towel and meekly surrender.
That has changed, as Zero Tolerance has sapped every last ounce of my will and left me emotionally drained and disgusted with myself. Well, most of that disgust is actually focused on Accolade for putting this game on the Genesis back in 1994, but when it comes to negative emotions, I have plenty to go around at this time.
When I started playing this first-person shooter, I had no idea things would get as ugly as they did. I was binging on these games, playing assorted versions of Doom and Medal of Honor constantly and loving life. Zero Tolerance seemed the perfect console game for me to pick up and take for a ride. Released after Doom, it promised well over 30 levels with the requisite slew of weapons and alien critters just waiting to be victimized by all those pretty guns.
At the onset, I was given a choice between a number of space marines, each with their own fields of expertise (at least according to their descriptions). One was a master of hand-to-hand combat for those situations where you have no better form of attack; while another was an expert with electronic gizmos, so tools like radar and night-vision goggles would last longer. However, since I possess a brain, I picked the one whose description stated she was a sharpshooting ace with all sorts of weapons (figuring that skill might come in handy in a first-person SHOOTER).
And so, I was dropped off at a station that had been taken over by evil aliens. My mission: to kill every single living organism on each floor of the structure and then duel their leader, who was secreted away deep in the bowels of the building. I readied my handgun and stepped into the first level....and things started to falter.
The majority of the opposition in these levels consisted of fast-moving (and crudely-animated) soldiers who erratically charged me, often getting an accurate shot or two off before I could get them in my sights. Fortunately, there were plenty of health items laying around, but I found these foes to be quite difficult for early-game adversaries -- definitely a step up from Doomís slow-moving, non-aggressive zombie soldiers. Well, I found them difficult until I realized how shoddy this gameís hit detection system was.
At the bottom of the screen, there is a radar. As enemies approach, they appear as red dots. To quickly kill each foe, all I had to do was make sure I was lined up with its dot and pull the trigger. Now, by looking at the screen while doing this, it was obvious there was a difference between the radarís concept of an enemy being in the line of fire and what my eyes were telling me. I found myself effortlessly killing foes that my gun wasnít even close to being pointed at SOLELY because the gameís radar indicated they were in range. Suddenly, those fast-moving gunmen werenít much of a challenge.
As I progressed through the station, Accolade found ways to make things even easier for me. Those gunmen gradually vanished and were replaced by skittering insect-like aliens that only could attack by running into me. Instead of trying to squeeze off a couple of rounds before I was filled with lead, I could leisurely shoot these non-threatening foes. Also, each level tended to be designed the same as the previous ones, with the focus being on going through a series of large rooms with plenty of narrow corridors within each one. Most of the foes would be lurking inside those corridors waiting for me to approach them before making their move.
Which was a decent (if repetitive) idea in theory. Sadly, the A.I. of these monsters tended to be even more pathetic than the hit detection. It seemed like many foes wouldnít move UNTIL I turned to face them. I could walk into a hallway and nothing would happen. Iíd turn to the left and a monster would charge me. Iíd shoot it and turn around.....and another monster would pick that very moment to make its move. While I appreciated the way Accolade attempted to put me in claustrophobic situations, a lot of the effect was dispelled when enemies werenít triggered to move until I got in a position to easily dispatch them.
Sadly, as I progressed through the game, these problems just got worse. The second episode started out promisingly, as I found myself going through a high-rise building contending with a very efficient alarm system. Iíd be walking down a hallway, a buzzer would go off and the next thing Iíd know, a couple of rooms would open up, releasing hordes of aggressive soldiers. Of course, after completing a couple of floors along those lines, things changed and I found myself walking through wide-open areas with my main opposition being easy-to-kill attack dogs and guard robots who tended not to do much of anything.
And then I reached the third episode -- the one that finally destroyed any remaining desire to play Zero Tolerance. I quickly discovered this multi-level basement would be a nightmare to navigate. Hordes of enemies were packed into levels that were nothing more than a maze-like collection of narrow hallways thrown together with no rhyme or reason. The new enemy introduced here, a bug-like humanoid, followed the same pattern as the skittering aliens and attack dogs (running straight at me), but seemed even more inept. Countless times, these critters would run right by me and freeze. Iíd turn around, see it suspended in place and get a quick and lethal shot off before it would start moving again. Now thatís some quality programming!
Simply put, these levels were agony to complete. To kill every foe, I had to painstakingly walk down each and every one of the multitude of tiny hallways, just in case one stupid alien simply would not be triggered to move unless I was right next to it. Iíd negotiate an entire level, only to realize Iíd missed one monster, forcing me to retrace my steps until I found where the damn thing was hiding. However, no matter how annoying any of this was, I soldiered on....until I reached the fifth basement level and my spirit finally was crushed.
Accolade added a new trick for this level. Not only did I have to face the usual gigantic horde of weak enemies in the same situations Iíd been fighting them in for the previous 20-some levels, but I also was confronted by the realization that I was facing a severe ammo shortage. Hardly any goodies were scattered throughout this stage, causing me to expend virtually every last bullet for every single gun just to make it to the sixth level. And then a horrible thought came to me....as I mentioned before, one of the character choices is regarded as a superior hand-to-hand combatant....was I expected to punch your way through large numbers of foes in these basement levels?
Now, I donít know about you, but when I play a first-person shooter, I donít like resorting to using fists (with the exception of the berserk power-up in Doom, of course). So, was the fact I had a total of about seven bullets left after clearing the fifth level a sign that I was expected to start trying to go Mike Tyson on the alien menace? Or was it simply another screw-up on the part of the programmers, whoíd shown a stunning amount of ineptitude on a regular basis throughout the remainder of the game? I have my guesses, but the truth may never be known. I was finally pushed to my breaking point, causing me to slump my shoulders in resignation, turn my system off and admit defeat. Just like the mighty Casey, I have struck out....
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 28, 2005)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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