|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Atlus||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 16, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2, 2-4 (Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Another quirk is the assist system. If you attack an enemy with one machine, and another of your machines also has a shot, he'll take it, and it won't cost a turn. This encourages players to keep their machines together to gang up on enemies.
Then there's the EMP system. Your EMP bar fills as you wear down the enemy, and each third of the bar represents one charge. Any of your machines can use a charge at any turn. This will attack all the enemies in range and jam their systems so they can't respond. It's important to use these wisely, because the bar fills slowly; try to have your most powerful Zoid attack as many enemies as possible.
In each battle, you'll also level up your Zoids and earn special abilities (like evasion) and new weapons. Installing these abilities is more tedious than it needs to be (you have to go through each area, like weapon, armor, and ability, for each character, separately), but the tinkering will likely appeal to fans of the toys.
Ingenious as these mechanics are, they rest on basic math: the vehicles sit on certain grid squares facing certain directions, each weapon does a certain amount of damage and has a certain chance of missing. The player controls nothing in real time. It doesn't exactly tax the Xbox 360 hardware or push the limits of disc capacity. The graphics are a bit dull, as well, with cool-looking but not very detailed robots clonking around the screen.
Here's the only reason, it seems, that Zoids Assault is a traditional Xbox 360 release: Whenever there's an attack, the game presents the fight as a fairly elaborate cutscene, with the Zoids duking it out in high definition to aggressive sound effects. This can be mildly amusing at first, but the cutscenes are repetitive enough and far enough from a graphical accomplishment, to warrant constant (and passive) viewing. You can skip the cutscenes with the start button (an option to forgo them without prompt would be much welcomed), and that's what usually happens.
Kill these scenes and you have a $10 or $15 download with a great battle system. It would remain a niche product, though, because everything about the game takes forever. There's minute upon minute of cutscenes and text before the game even starts, and the battles can easily take half an hour, even skipping the fighting cutscenes. There's nothing more frustrating than losing half an hour's worth of work when you lose (though you can withdraw from a battle and keep the experience points you earned), which starts happening around the third of 14 missions. Add in the aforementioned updates to your Zoids between battles, and the whole experience just feels burdensome.
Another bizarre decision on the developer's part resulted in the game having no multiplayer, online or locally. Such a feature should have been ridiculously easy to add; take the battle arenas from the single-player campaign and let another player take the place of the A.I. enemies. Given that nothing happens in real time, the game could allow any number of players to pass around any number of controllers, and online multiplayer wouldn't suffer from lag. That would have made for some epic, strategy-focused battles. Not to mention adding replayability, something the game sorely lacks.
Finally, there's the free downloadable content, which somehow manages to feel like a rip-off. When adjusting your monsters' attributes, one notices that it would be nice to have a few more paint colors to choose from; this is possible, but only if you buy your copy from GameStop or Amazon.com. These games come with downloadable-content codes for more "skins," which in addition to changing colors, also improve a Zoid's performance. This feels not like a bonus, but like something that should have been included with the overpriced game to begin with and should not have been used to favor some retailers over others.
In its battle system, Zoids Assault has the germ of a great game. The idea is executed so half-heartedly, however, that it's hard to imagine what the developers were thinking. So, many minor tweaks could have made this so much better. Factor in a price that's at least quadruple what it should be, and it's not just a bad game, it's an insult.
CCC Freelance Writer