ZPC / Zombie Entertainment (1996)

The English Professor Who Looked Like a Cadaver's Verdict: Robb, Robb, Robb... you can barely handle text games. Quit writing about games with graphics and focus, damn you!

Adam Hughes' Verdict: Robb is constantly confusing me and Aidan Hughes. This is because he is convinced I was not as good as Kevin Maguire.

My Verdict: I honestly wish that there were more games created by true artists with something to say.


Game Information

Game Type: Marathon Engine

Author Info: Zombie Entertainment can be found at www.zombie.com

Other Games By These Authors:  Spec Ops, Spec Ops II, Ice & Fire, Locus

Download Link: NA


The Review...

ZPC asked the question -- long ago before it became fab for every awful comic storyline to have a millenium, Armageddon theme -- what would it be like if Jesus came back... and started shooting people in the face with a grenade launcher?

The back-story to ZPC is as follows: a boy Warrior Messiah was exiled into deep space by a bunch of evil cretins called the Black Brethren. See, you know they are evil because they use the color black to describe themselves. Everything that is evil is black, and anyone, anything or anyplace that is black is evil.  The deal is, the Royalists (who had to protect their messiah until he grew up) had to pledge no vengeance against the Black Brethren or else the kid (Arman) would die.

The Royalists were pretty good to their word. Even though the world as they know it turned into a complete dystopia they held up their end of the bargain. They and their people were rounded up and set into camps, separating them into castes and slaughtering them for the sheer, unadulterated hell of it. They were given scraps of human meat to eat... the Brethren ate quite better. Yes, they still ate people, but they got all the good bits, you see. 

Eventually an underground formed to rebel against the Black Brethren. They created a craft capable of bringing back Arman. Now, after 400 years, he's returned. And he's fucking pissed.

The game features graphics adapted from the artwork of Aidan Hughes (who is also credited with the game's design). Hughes' particular style featured heavy black inking in a sort of nazi-meets-amateur-80's-comic- book fashion. To see a video game take such a style and use it for its own is refreshing. The guys at Zombie were not trying to display reality. They wanted to use the symbolism Hughes provides to help tell their story. Even now, four years later, the game is quite surreal to look at and play.

The weapons are OK, but nothing to write home to mom about. Arman innately possesses a "chi punch" that allows him to throw concussive blasts of force against his enemies. It's also used to get him around the map when he needs to jump. The other weapons have become pretty much standard fare in shooters -- tesla gun, grenade launcher, rail gun, etc. The enemies are well-designed. Everything from a bureaucrat to a dominatrix to a "crazie." They represent a certain type of lost soul in the dystopia and come off, intentionally, symbols.

Although essentially a first-person shooter, ZPC gives its user a chance, in places, to create his or her own story. What I feel that the strength of interactive fiction is, is the genre's ability to create an environment probably wholly unfamiliar to its player and then allow that player to interact, according to personal wishes and desire, within it. ZPC is all about that. One scene has the player entering a room with about a half-dozen of his starving, withered worshipers begging for help. There is a foreign machine that has buttons for the player to manipulate. When I came across this, I dived right in and starting pushing things. What happened is that machine started its descent to the poor bastards and crushed them into slurry. Apparently it was a human food processing machine. The feeling of horror that I was overcome with literally made me shake. These people... they had begged for me to help them, to save them, and because of my recklessness I killed them. It was gruesome. It was awful. I was affected. I got just a small sense of what it must be like to see a particular people enslaved and treated as scum, as food. This is the type of thing that computer games are able to offer their players so much better than other forms of entertainment -- the sense of being there, the ability to choose. When I had first played this game I had, possibly naively, that others would follow this mold. I hope still...

Most computer games never attempt anything along the lines of displaying the grisly reality of genocide. ZPC does, and portrays it quite effectively. Other games have ripped off the idea of a warrior angel (Requiem, Messiah) but were, in my opinion, staffed by designers with really nothing to say. ZPC can be recommended on that alone -- this is the future of entertainment software.


Simple Rating: 9.1 / 10

Complicated Rating:

Story: 8.0 / 10

Graphics: 9.4 / 10

Playability: 8.7 / 10

Puzzle Quality: 8.5 / 10

Parser Responsiveness: NA


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