Developer / Publisher –Konami Digital Entertainment
Price – US $29.99 / EU €29.99 / UK £24.99 / AU $42.95
Release date – September 4th, 2018
Control Method – DS4
Pro Enhanced – No
Digital only – Yes
Reviewed on – PS4 Pro
JEHUTY Lives!!!! If you have no idea what that means then you are reading the right review because before I played this game, I knew almost nothing about the Zone of the Enders franchise. Suffice to say this is an epic adventure with you playing as Dingo, a bad ass pilot that doesn’t mess around when it comes…well, anything really. The opening stage sets up the plot with you finding a JEHUTY mech, which you happily hop in and start your quest to save the universe from the militaristic BAHRAM group who aims to control the galaxy with an iron fist.
This plays like any classic 3rd person action shooter only with the catch that in VR, you are in 1st person. The controls are complicated and unless you are familiar with the franchise, I think it will take most people a while to feel comfortable with them. You control a flying mech and can travel in any direction with a press of the button or joystick making this kind of feel like REZ, but on a few more steroids. You have one main attack button that adjusts for your range from the targeted enemies. Far way, you will launch projectile attacks to take them out from a distance, get a little close and out pops your sword whereupon it’s time to slice and dice your way through the hordes of mechs that may be floating before you. There are shield options, boosts, more powerful attacks, unlockable abilities and even context sensitive areas where you can use the environment against your foes. There is a lot going on and remembering all of the mechanics and abilities will take time, but should you feel lost, you can visit the tutorial at any time to refresh your mind. There are also plenty of comfort options at play, though you may have to do some extra tinkering as the wording/translation of the options does not make it clear as to what they all do. Once you get your settings right though, there is no need to come back to that menu so that is a very minor issue at worst.
For those who may be unaware, The 2nd runner was originally released 15 years ago as a 3rd person action title. In VR, all the action is in 1st person making for some intense and sometimes confusing battles. The game looks great in VR…for a 15-year-old port. The mechs all look cool and have a tonne of animations, but the levels doesn’t quite fair as well with many of the stages repeating the same areas way too much, adding a feeling of ‘been here, done that’. The game is crystal clear and even filters on far away enemies circumvent the short comings of the headset. The stages look good from afar but get to close and it’s clear this is using some older gen models, just prettied up a bit. The auto-lock system that targets enemies for you can make what you are looking at quite jarring as the transition between switching targets is non-existent so when you are surrounded by enemies and smashing the attack button to get through them, you may have no idea what you are hitting or the direction you are facing. When it works, it great, but when you are just smashing a button unable to tell what is happening on screen, it’s confusing. Cut scenes are all over the map with many being cleaned up and given a 3D effect, which pops wonderfully in VR, but on a few occasions, it looks as if Konami did little to upgrade certain scenes, making them look like they ripped from the original game without much thought to clean them up. A bulk of the conversations are told in a similar fashion to the Metal Gear Series with you just watching two screens while minimally animated characters talk. Overall, the presentation here is pretty good, but it’s not without its shortcomings.
The campaign is around 8 hours long and it wasn’t until halfway through when the game began to ‘click’ for me. The onset of the 2nd Runner was just damned confusing as the game just throws story arc after story arc your way, all in the middle of combat missions through some less then stellar voice acting. Don’t get me wrong, the acting in here isn’t terrible, just spotty at times though the soundtrack does kick a fair amount of butt with some epic musical numbers.
Once I found my groove, the game flowed much better, but it always felt a bit clunky to me. As I said, the controls are insanely complex with every button having a function, and then you can pair up button presses for even more abilities. The cut scene and cinematic placements can also be a little off-putting, especially during the prologue, which on more then once occasion had me watching a scene, put back in control of my mech, fly for 5 seconds just to trigger the next scene. As far as 1st impressions go, I couldn’t believe I was playing such a lauded game with such a broken game design though thankfully, once you hit the campaign the game flows much better. Other minor issues like having to go to the start menu to view the stage map instead of just having it on my HUD and having to repeatedly revisit the control tutorials just to refresh how to use a specific ability all took away from the immersion, but when looked at as whole are minor gripes that don’t impact the game in a large way.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is a nostalgia trip in VR, but if you never played the original(s), like myself, you may be wondering what all the fuss was about. The transition from a 2D action title to a first-person VR title for the most part works great, but it’s not a perfect transition. Factor in the confusing and complex storyline, references to the 1st game in the series and the complicated controls and unless you have a love for this franchise, I feel like many may be let down by the game. That’s not say it’s awful. Despite my issues, it does offer a full campaign and once you do figure out the controls, they are intuitive and even though I still don’t get all the story, by the end of the game all the major bullet points were hit to make for a satisfying conclusion.
What would I pay? Considering the whole package, $30 would seem like a pretty decent deal, and I suppose for many people it is. For me personally, while I did enjoy my time in the game, I was never really invested in the story, characters or disjointed action. I’d be much happier with a $20 price tag on this but if you are looking for a “full” single player experience this checks all the right boxes.