Well… I can say this much, Zheros is a game. I understand that doesn’t sound like high praise and, for the most part it, unfortunately, isn’t. There are times when a certain title comes along that’s so, for lack of a better term, passable that it’s really hard to describe it at all. The 3D sci-fi brawler Zheros (And it's DLC) developed by Rimlight Studios is, quite bluntly, a title that exists. It’s a game that’s just kinda out there in the community. It does what it does decently and even excels in a few spots, especially with the co-op focus and the well-constructed environments. When looking at things through a larger scope, though, Zheros is just another title for the library. Which is really disheartening, cause’ I do enjoy multiplayer in a brawler type setting. However, when it’s pretty much the only thing keeping a game afloat, there’s not much to boast about it.
All that being said, Zheros is a fairly 'okay' addition to the brawler genre. The thing that truly made it distant for me was the amount of pieces that the game was lacking in its entirety. Simply put, there are a couple of common features in gaming that one will find absent from Zheros. I’d chalk this up to, not a lack of effort by any means, but more so along the lines of time constraints. I can’t personally speak on behalf of the developers, of course, but I feel as though a little extra time wouldn’t have gone amiss here. Moving on from that and into the actual analyses, however, here’s the breakdown of Zheros.
Zheros is available on PSN now for $9.99
In terms of story, the plot is pretty straightforward. An evil mastermind decides that he is going to invade a planet that’s not specifically Earth. Then, as fate would have it, two heroes are on said ‘Not Earth’ planet to destroy the mastermind’s army of robots and bring peace back to the world. Now, from the sounds of it, the story kind of comes off as a bit basic. Honestly, though, it’s as effective as it needs to be. I actually applaud the game for being as direct as it is. Other titles of this nature may try to sell you with a big budget opening or an ‘epic build-up’, but luckily Zheros doesn’t fall into that category. Instead, it features a quick intro, establishing the villain right off the bat and, boom, you’re into the story. A story that’s fairly solid all in all. Solid, but not perfect…
Unfortunately, there are a few cons that the come with the positives. The main one being the non-existent of voice acting. This may be a bit nitpicky but the absence of any voices during cutscenes really takes away from what could have created more dynamic and interesting characters. Mike, the male hero, is given a name, a personality based on strength and a couple of emotional traits seen through actions. With the added use of vocals, although not a necessity, certainly could have flushed out a lot more of Mike’s personality and made him a more significant hero in the eyes of players.
With that in mind, there isn’t a whole lot to complain about in regards to Zheros campaign. It may miss a few beats but frankly, it’s all standard, basic stuff that fills in the cracks to its actual seller. The gameplay. Now, very quickly, sometimes gameplay can complement a story in interesting ways. It can make a unique experience for gamers and fans of the genre alike. Zheros story and gameplay don’t really complement each other, as much as they just help each other along, allowing one to move ahead of the other and vice versa. I only bring this up because, for a brawler, Zheros gameplay misses the mark in terms of driving the story forward.
Moving away from comparisons, though. Overall, Zheros is pretty generic on a lot of levels, yet entertaining on others. Let me say right now that this is a two-player based game. There is a single-player, yes, but the focus is set firmly on co-op. Not that this is negative in any way. As I mentioned at the start, I do enjoy cooperative games and Zheros does an excellent job with its co-op oriented style. The issue here is that the game has the same problem that F.E.A.R 3 had, which is an awkward comparison, granted. In F.E.A.R 3, a solo attempt at the campaign was a frustrating endeavor, especially considering that a lot of the balancing issues weren’t adjusted for during the final project. Zheros, itself, does have a somewhat better adjustment between the single-player and multiplayer modes, but in regards to the single player, it still ends up being a lackluster ‘fight robots for the next couple of hours’ feel. Bland and not all that compelling.
Combat during robot fights is, at the very least, doable. Giving the player numerous ways to dispose of enemies while being easy enough to perform that it never feels like a chore. Honestly, there isn’t too much to mention when it comes to the combat. My personal favorite thing about it was the use of colour in several different areas when fights occurred. Little details like that really bring out the best in Zheros, allowing the game to present it’s best foot forward. The combat, although samey throughout most of the game, is presented and structured really well. It never feels like you’re overpowered, well at the same time not feeling as though a challenge is too tasking to overcome. Now, for veterans of the brawler genre, this may come as disappointing news cause’ I realize challenge was a big part of the games themselves. That’s what Zheros offers for the most part, though, not so much a challenge, but a well-presented experience.
If there’s anything past the combat that’s interesting about Zheros, it’s definitely the graphics. It doesn’t use a lot, but it has enough going on to a point where you’re never really bored. Frankly, the locations do as much work as the combat does to keep the player engaged. Kind of like how Destiny had to work as both a grinding area and story mission location. It really goes back to what I mentioned about the story in terms of effectiveness. That it’s effective as it needs to be, not doing a lot different, but not really having to when all's said and done. As far as frame rate goes, there wasn’t a point during my playthrough that I found my PS4 was struggling, so that’s always a plus. Basically, graphics wise, Zheros does a good job through and through
Sound-wise, however, there was a bit of stumbling. So, the pieces used during cutscenes and battle sections were fine and nicely orchestrated. The actual fighting sounds, on the other hand, felt like they had something off about them. I realize it’s not very professional to say “I just can’t put my finger on it.”, but I legitimately can’t. Perhaps I was expecting a more 60’s comic vibe from it, but there was more that could have been done in this department. The sounds overall are decent, in the end though, their nothing I’d write home about.
Proudly wearing the hat of sci-fi, this is where the budget went for Zheros. The presentation for this title was so well done on several levels, from the backdrop, to the music and the enemies themselves. You can really see that the developers were dedicated to getting the feel down first and foremost, which makes sense when thinking in regards to story, gameplay and design. On more of a negative note, however, Zheros presentation felt like it was the first thing on the board before anything else was even considered. That does show dedication to getting the overall look down, but anything that’s made after that (gameplay and story) kind of winds up as an afterthought. Regardless, the presentation is good, but it’s not something I’d give the game a pass on.
So, with all the above taken into account, where does Zheros fall on the ranking scale? Well if it weren’t already clear, I personally wouldn’t recommend this title. Not because it’s bad, but more because it’s just ‘another one’. It doesn’t do anything new nor does it try to be the best in its genre. Zheros is simply a game that performs as it’s supposed to and, with the possible exception of the co-op mode and overall presentation, doesn’t really excel in any department on its own.
|+ Co-op||– No voice acting|
|+ Well-constructed environments||– Lackluster single player|
|+ Fairly solid story||– Not challenging|
|+ Gorgeous graphics||– Nothing impressive|