Barrel roll off a cliff and into a bunch of poison!
Developer: Nintendo EPD, Platinum Games
Format: Wii U
Released: April 22, 2016
Star Fox Zero is a dumpster game for people who want to have a garbage time, and it belongs in the toilet.
Masquerading as an innovative and all-new experience, Nintendo and Platinum Games’ miserable adventure is actually a bare-bones space shooter utilizing a deliberately obtuse control scheme in order to mask the fact it’s nowhere near as interesting as it pretends to be.
Robbed of its “inventive” little control scheme, Star Fox Zero is an unchallenging and rather humdrum continuation of the Star Fox series. If it didn’t handle like a wingless pigeon in a falling elevator it would’ve been an inoffensive way to spend a handful of hours – not exactly a remarkable or memorable experience, but at least tolerable.
Unfortunately, Star Fox Zero doesn’t control like a proper game, intent on shoveling a bunch of Wii U tech demo features down our throat as if the existence of motion controls has been enough to sell a game since 2008.
The GamePad is mandatory and you’ll need to constantly look at both the television and handheld screens in order to play with any degree of efficiency. The television displays Fox McCloud’s vehicle and the surrounding territory, while the GamePad gives a first-person view from the cockpit. The problem here is that neither view, on its own, is sufficient to play the game effectively.
The TV view is always seen from a skewed perspective that keeps the targeting reticule at an angle – an angle that will see the player frequently miss if they try to trust it with anything. In order to hit the game’s slow and unthreatening enemies, you’ll need to use the GamePad’s first-person view. Unfortunately, that cramped and restricted viewpoint leaves you unable to employ any spatial awareness, as you’ve no way of knowing what’s even directly around you.
So it is that Star Fox Zero expects its players to constantly look up and down, nodding along like crack-addled Jibber Jabbers, in order to play a game most developers can present decently with just one screen.
It’s a sly and rather pitiful attempt to make the GamePad feel more important than it ought to be, forcing players to utilize two screens when one would not only have sufficed, but would have served the user better. This is the real kicker with Star Fox Zero – its arrogant placement of faux-innovation above and beyond the comfort and usability of the audience.
Evasive maneuvers are unintuitive, with players needing to double tap the right analog stick and hold the left in order to do a barrel roll, while tilting the sticks up and down in opposite directions to somersault. Accelerating and braking are also performed with the right stick, which makes no sense whatsoever.
At least you actually fire with one of the trigger buttons. The fact I’m grateful this game does one thing normally is sad.
The gyroscope is, expectedly, used for aiming, which wouldn’t be a problem if one wasn’t constantly waggling the sticks around to steer and evade oncoming fire. In a game like Splatoon, the gameplay and interface were simple enough that motion-controlled aiming worked quite well. Here, it just contributes to the hot mess that is Zero‘s cluttered, unhelpful layout.
It also needs constant recalibration, because this game wants you to go fuck yourself.
With determination and time, you can force yourself to “get used” to the controls, but the very fact you have to when there are far superior, better established, and more user-friendly control schemes in the world is just baffling. Star Fox already had its gameplay down pat, and these unnecessary alterations make the experience notably lesser.
And it’s not innovative. Not really, no matter what Nintendo’s marketing department claims. I could rub paint on my dick and smear it all over the Mona Lisa, but that would be vandalism, not innovation. Taking something that works and ruining it on purpose isn’t clever, it’s the grubby domain of charlatans.
When you get right down to it, Star Fox Zero really is just another Star Fox game at heart. They stuck a screwdriver in its interface and waggled it around until everything was broken, but it’s a regular Star Fox game nonetheless. One that’s been turned into a load of shit because of some weird obsession with dressing mutton as lamb.
Even after you force yourself to get used to the controls, it’s still awkward and clumsy to play, and I don’t think anybody in their right mind would take this over any other Star Fox experience. I mean, I know some people have claimed Zero is the superior choice, but I’m talking about people in their right mind.
I haven’t even talked about the alternative vehicles, which is where things go from bad to GOP. At various times, the ship can be transformed into a chicken-like mech that runs around on the floor with fidgety manual movement controls that see the bloody thing careering off all over the place. There’s also a tank that just seems to do its own thing and fights the player over which direction to go.
The only vehicle that seems to be able to handle itself is the helicopter which actually does okay with Zero‘s monstrous controls. Sadly, the helicopter stages are also incredibly boring and sluggish, so even when the game is more usable, it refuses to be more fun.
Star Fox Zero is just plain rotten. An otherwise run-of-the-mill space shooter that couldn’t be content with its own mediocrity and subsequently mutilated itself in a desperate attempt to stand out. It’s certainly stood out alright – by being somehow even more obnoxious than Kid Icarus Uprising.
And don’t kid yourself – Kid Icarus Uprising was total shite.
At least Star Fox Zero looks nice. Not the most gorgeous game around, but by Wii U standards it’s a pretty little sewer explosion.