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Gaming: Zeno Clash


This is the primary way in which you interact with the world's inhabitants.

First-person melee combat isn’t something that is often done well. Earlier shooters had a melee weapon that was more a last resort than weapon of choice (exceptions like Doom‘s chainsaw or beserk power-up aside), while nowadays the melee attack is more likely to be activated by the press of a button rather than having its own weapon slot (and is usually powerful but slow). Building a first-person game around melee combat is rare, with games like Dark Messiah of Might and Magic and The Chronicles of Riddick being the only major recent examples that come to mind.

These images are all from my own screenshots, but click any one of them to go to Steam's screenshot gallery.

Zeno Clash is a short indie game built around first-person brawls and for the most part it works, using a lock-on to keep you from losing your target and with a range of techniques like power attacks, blocking and dodging to try and ensure that it doesn’t feel like you’re just hammering the punch button. Repetition does become a factor though, especially later in the game when each fight escalates the challenge simply by adding more enemies rather than new ones.


As a big fan of pigs I had to include this screenshot. Adorable!

There are some guns in the game but they’re deliberately clunky to use and lock off most of your melee abilities while holding them, meaning they’re better left for special situations. It’s the enemies who get more use out of them,  grabbing them while you’re focused on somebody else so they can be used against you (and when enemies are going to shoot they call out to their allies and wait for them to move out of the way before firing, which is a nice touch).

With regards to fighting style enemies have little variety, but visually they vary a lot.

The game’s biggest strength is the way it looks. There are plenty of non-human characters (and the humans present are all quite distinctive too), using mixtures of animal parts or warped features and clothing to make each one stand out. That unique style extends to the flora, fauna and architecture in the game, creating a setting that is both unique and memorable, with likeable characters and a story that kept me interested to the end.

It’s pretty cheap on Steam as well as being available to buy at retail and on the Xbox Live Marketplace (with demos available on both the digital services), so there’s no reason not to at least give it a try.

(there are guns but they’re deliberately clunky to use)
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  1. April 15, 2011 at 15:30

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