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Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (PlayStation 2) artwork

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (PlayStation 2) review


"In Zone of Enders 2, you beat up robots. The game gives you as many robot beating options you could ever want, so naturally, there’s a lot to like about this game. However, the game ultimately suffers from a lack of content. The gameplay doesn’t get time to develop and the storyline suffers for it too. But if you’re a fan of beat-‘em-ups and you’re a fan of the anime that ZOE2 is so clearly inspired by, you’ll probably be able to see past these issues and have a good time with the game. "



In Zone of Enders 2, you beat up robots. The game gives you as many robot beating options you could ever want, so naturally, there’s a lot to like about this game. However, the game ultimately suffers from a lack of content. The gameplay doesn’t get time to develop and the storyline suffers for it too. But if you’re a fan of beat-‘em-ups and you’re a fan of the anime that ZOE2 is so clearly inspired by, you’ll probably be able to see past these issues and have a good time with the game.

It wouldn’t be a Kojima game if the storyline wasn’t a big deal. ZOE2 makes a valiant effort to be the next big anime epic, but it doesn’t really work for a couple of reasons. First off, this isn’t MGS. MGS has a more methodical pace to it that lends itself to a plot-heavy design. ZOE2, on the other hand, is in the genre of (according to the game’s opening movie) “High Speed Robot Action”. ZOE2 could have had the best narrative of all time and you wouldn’t care because that’s not why you’re playing the game. You’re playing this game for the action. You’re playing this game to beat up robots. Whenever your adrenaline begins to pump in ZOE2, the rush is suddenly cut short by a long-winded (and obviously MGS-inspired) radio conversation. Obnoxious? You bet.

Second off, the plot is awfully convoluted for something that can be summed up in two sentences: The bad guy wants to destroy Mars. You get in a robot and go beat the bad guy. Simple enough? Not for ZOE2, It would seem. Instead, characters talk and talk and throw around proper nouns with reckless abandon: BAHRAM, Aumaan, Metatron, Jehuty, Anubis, Viola, Callisto, Vascillia, blah blah, hand me a bottle of pills, and of course a ton of references to the first game, which are pointless if (like 98% of the gaming population) you haven’t played the first game. The game does include a video that “summarizes” the plot of ZOE1, but I watched it for fifteen minutes (my eyes glazed over after about five) and there was no end in sight.

There are betrayals. There are tragic backstories. There are elaborately-directed cutscenes. There is a dramatic and often boisterous soundtrack accompanying the whole affair. There is even a scene where two of the robots have an emotional hug in outer space. ZOE2 tries hard, but outside of one cool twist after the first level, I found it difficult to even raise an eyebrow at the game’s most harrowing developments.

So, the storyline isn’t that great. Where does that leave us, then? Beating up robots. ZOE2’s combat is entertaining simply because it’s fast and things blow up. The game gives you a ton of options: grab them! Throw them! Knock them up! Knock them down! Charge up an energy ball! Press R1 to guard! Dash around! Fire homing missiles! Use a subweapon! Do a bunch of other crap!

Like its storyline, ZOE2 likes to pretend that its combat system is deeper than it really is. I used the “dash-‘n-slash” maneuver for about 90% of the game and never had any problems (on normal difficulty.) With this technique, you literally run circles around your enemies while taking potshots at them with your sword. They can’t touch you and you kick their ass in the span of about two seconds.

The game offers a boss battle every now and then, and these tend to rely on very specific parts of the control scheme; for instance, grabbing and throwing projectiles at an enemy’s shield until it breaks, and then hitting its weak point until it blows up. These are a nice change from the usual setup, but there just isn’t that many of them.

The shortage of bosses leads into another part of the problem, which is that ZOE2 is extremely short. My final time upon first finishing the game read 5 hours, 18 minutes. When you exclude all that time spent watching cutscenes, there’s only 2-3 hours of game here. When was the last time you played a PS2 game that had only 2-3 hours of gameplay? Granted, this isn’t the first Kojima game to have extremely limited gameplay time--just look at the whole MGS series--but it’s still ridiculous how little content there is here. With only a few types of enemies and environments, ZOE2 really doesn’t get much time to spread its wings. The multitude of combat options at your disposal feel largely wasted, as if they were intended for a much longer and more complex quest. Considering that it’s feasible to see everything the game has to offer in one sitting, it’s difficult to justify buying ZOE2, even at a budget price.

In its defense, ZOE2 does do a lot of things right. The action is so fast that it’s entertaining regardless of how little strategy is actually involved. There are a few scenarios which are quite cool (an assault against a fleet of huge battleships comes to mind.) The game’s presentation is well-done and effective throughout; everything has a semi-cel-shaded look that gives the whole game an interesting anime-ish atmosphere. The in-game cutscenes are directed lavishly and are certainly a cut above most other games (the MGS influence is definitely noticeable here.) The voice acting is solid, too.

ZOE2 is an enjoyable game. It’s just that the storyline is rather pretentious and the game is over in a wink. If you like beating up robots, you will like this game. If you like animes about giant robots, you will like this game. If you liked the first ZOE, you will (I’m assuming) like this game. If you’re a big fan of MGS, you might even be able to get into the game’s storyline, too. If you’re not a fan of any of the aforementioned but beating up anime robots still sounds like your thing, you will like this game. In general, you’re probably going to like ZOE2: just don’t expect too much from it beyond, well, beating up robots.

Rating: 7/10

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Featured community review by phediuk (February 06, 2007)

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