Zheros is one of this months Games With Gold offerings. Set in a galaxy that is distant and apparently unknown, Dr Vendetta is plotting to take over the universe with his trusted minions. It is the Zheros squad’s job to stop him. This is where you come in, playing as either Mike or Captain Dorian you must fight your way through this unknown galaxy to defeat Dr Vendetta in this 3d beat’em up from Rimlight Studios.
This is a visually splendid take on the traditional beat’em up style of game and has the feel of some of the classics of the genre. The graphics and animations ae stunning, making this truly a game made for the new generation of consoles. Zheros has just the right balance between cartoon and sudo-realism. It is almost the Streets of Rage for a modern age. Almost but not quite.
After what feels like a ridiculously long cutscene for what you get out of it you are thrown straight into the action. Zheros gives you very few hints about the controls so you are really left to figure things out for yourself. A helpful tip is to look at the control layout early on in the game (this can be found in the settings menu) as this will help you with the combos that are available. And Zheros is all about combos. At the end of each level you are given a score card that gives you a few stats like how long the level took, how many evades you managed and what your biggest combo was. The time factor involved means that this could be a fun game for those of you who like to try speed running games.
The controls are fairly simple although at the start there is a lot of button mashing happening as you try to learn and remember the different combos. As well as been equipped with melee combinations you also have a gun and shield which have a slow charge so should be used sparingly. Knowing when to use each of these things can save your life and in Zheros that is important. This is made all the more important due to the fact that there are no checkpoints on the levels, meaning that when you die you have to restart at the beginning of the level. This is probably the single most frustrating aspect to the game and on occasion caused me more than a little anger.
The levels are linear meaning that there is no exploration, occasionally you make a choice about which path to take but the outcome is always the same. As you progress through the level you face waves of enemies. There are quite a few different variants of enemies each with their own attributes. Some will try to shoot you, some will drop bombs and others will try to bite you, it turns out alien robots are a little bit weird. Some of the enemy attacks can be turned to your advantage, one of my favorite little tricks is to kick one of the bombs dropped into a crowd of minions and hope they don’t move before it goes off.
The enemies come thick and fast and sometimes it can feel like you are getting a little overrun, on occasions like this you might find that someone has left a handy mech lying around for you to jump into. These are awesome machines that come equipped with ferocious smashing power, charges, guns and rockets, all that you need to take on the oncoming hordes. The only problem is that these mechs have limited battery power so the fun always seems to come to an end far too soon.
You could say that there is a slight RPG element in that after each level you earn RP points that can be used to upgrade your abilities. You can choose which of the three slots, melee, gun or shield is your priority to upgrade although you will quickly fill the slots available.
Zheros also has something else in common with the likes of Streets of Rage and other games of the old school beat’em up genre, this game is hard. You may be able to stroll through most of the earlier levels on the easiest difficulty setting but Zheros has three difficulties, easy, normal and hard. On the normal setting things can become something of a struggle quite early on and some of the levels are quite the challenge. The lack of checkpoints adds to this difficulty and gives you more of an appreciation for the value of your life.
The background music is a cliche of old style electronic music that quickly gets drowned out by the sounds of combat. It is however ever present and it does give a sense of urgency to what you are doing with its upbeat tempo. It does become quite repetitive though and as it plays on the load screens it can get quite annoying.Z
Zheros is a great fun game that gets even better when you play it in local coop mode, although confusion can often arise in the chaos of both of you destroying minions all over the screen. Normally costing £15.99 in the Xbox store this could be a little pricey unless you are a true fan of the genre. But as this is currently free for Gold members through the Games With Gold scheme I would definitely recommend downloading it and giving it a go, even if it’s just for a few hours fun with a friend.
Check out my first play below.
Let us know in the comments below what you think.
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