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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

JoWooD

 

Developer

Reflexive

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2001

 

 

- Reminds me of the old school action games

- Easy to start playing

- If you can find a multiplayer game, some good action

- Good-looking graphics

 

 

- Repetitive to a fault

 

 

Review: American McGee's Alice (PC)

Review: Shinobi (Playstation 2)

Review: Enclave (XBox)

 

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Zax: The Alien Hunter

Score: 6.0 / 10

 

After crash landing on an alien world, Zax (read: you) must collect enough ore and crystals so the ship can repair itself and he can be on his way. Unfortunately, you land in the middle of a tricky situation - the indigenous species, Zorbos, are being enslaved by the malicious entity known as Om. The Zorbo look to Zax as a savior of sorts, and he just canít bear to let them down - plus itís the only way he can collect enough ore and crystals to leave the planet. Itís a tried and true formula and, frankly, it gets old real fast.

 

zax-1.jpg (106113 bytes)          zax-2.jpg (56343 bytes)

Zax manages to repeat itself enough times that I often said, ďDidnít I do this already?Ē The majority of the action takes place in either lush surface landscape or underground caves that all manage to look the same. There are side-trips to dungeon-esque areas but the overall variation was not enough to hold my interest. The flora looks the same, the caves look the same. Over and over. The graphics themselves are actually good. Everything is crisply rendered - the killer spikes to giant boar to enemy units - but after youíve seen the same painted landscapes, villages, lava, and cells, again and again they lose whatever allure they might have had.

Not helping any of this is the action itself which boils down to shooting enemy generators (so more enemies canít teleport in), hitting switches, grabbing energy signatures left behind by destroyed robots, and saving Zorbos. Zax is more arcade action than anything else. Shoot this, hit this switch, avoid the spikes, shoot some more. As you can imagine, Zax is easy to get into. You never feel that an area is over your head, especially when your ship is constantly creating new equipment, weapons, and shield and energy upgrades. In fact sheíll usually radio you the moment before (or just after) you enter an enemy laden area. (ďIíve created a weapon and youíre absolutely going to need it before you go through that door!Ē) This usually necessitates a huge amount of backtracking to find a cluster of teleportation crystals to get beamed back to the ship so you can get the new weapon. Trading in your ore and crystals will generate the item of your choice (if itís available) like, medic kits, shield batteries, or mines. Thereís a pretty good spread of weapons to choose from but most of the weapons do the same amount of damage (I donít care what the stats say) so youíll go through most of the game using one weapon. Most useful is the grenade launcher that comes in handy blasting enemies around corners. Some items though are practically useless, such as the deployable sentry gun. Enemies will always ignore you and concentrate on the deployed gun(s). And since the gun is weak at the best of times, youíre better off trading your ore and crystals on something more useful.

 

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Thereís almost a complete lack of puzzles, unless you consider key hunts (ďYouíll need a key to get that other key to open the door so you can get the key that you really want.Ē) and ray deflection problems real puzzles. If you do, youíll be more than pleased with what Zax has to offer.

The control scheme is reminiscent of Smash TV. The keyboard controls his movement and the mouse aims. 

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The arrangement works well for circle-strafing and running one way and blasting the other. It took me a half hour or so to become comfortable with the setup.

Multiplayer, if you can find an active server, is okay. At the very least you face opponents smarter than the computer AI. The three multiplayer modes do offer quite a bit of enjoyment, but finding a decent server can be tough. To its credit, Zax has a very good integrated GameSpy feature so looking for servers is no problem.

Aurally, Zax lives up to the sci-fi setting with suitable soundtrack and laser beam noises. The sound effects seem to be a bit muted, but other than that I canít complain.

Even with all the problems Zax has, it has that charming "throw back to simpler console action games I grew up on" quality. Itís just unfortunate, that itís not enough to hold my attention now.

- Omni

 

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