‘Zheros’ Review: Futuristic Fighting

out of 5

Zheros was originally released for PC and Xbox One in early 2016 from developer Rimlight Studios. Now on PlayStation 4, Zheros is a side scrolling 3D beat ’em up game, full of fast combat combos, big robot vehicles, and spray-and-pray gun action, all rolled up in a comical, futuristic, cartoonish setting. Players choose from two different characters, the bulky machismo Mike, and his glorious ponytail, or quick and flexible Dorian. Two player co-op is available and recommended for optimal enjoyment and maximum robot destruction.

Opening with catchy dubstep intro music, I selected Mike first and after waiting a good two minutes looking at a loading screen, the intro movie finally started up. Players are introduced to the big bad in Zheros, Dr. Vendetta; we know he is the bad guy because he is wearing a top hat and growling rather than speaking. Our heroes or rather, zheros, then show up and start destroying his robot henchmen to his dismay. After another long load time, the first level started up and some of the basic gameplay is explained. There are two attacks, light and hard, and a gun attack as well. Players must also dodge, use a shield to block damage, and if timed just right, reflect projectiles back at opponents. Players can also run if they press down the left joystick. I’m still not sure the point of this, as the standard walking speed is so abysmal, running should have just been the standard speed.

The combos and combat in Zheros gets more in-depth as players acquire points to upgrade attacks, shield, and gun power. Some of the combos are very cool looking and quite necessary to get big multipliers and point scores. Mike attacks slower, but hits harder, while Dorian, who I found much more enjoyable to play as, is speedy and agile. The gun attacks are, in my opinion, pointless unless part of a combo, they drain your much needed shield energy and with no targeting, it’s just spraying a bit of ranged damage and not worth it. Enemies are very repetitive, and there are lots of them, just the same bots marching to their deaths. The vehicles are very fun to control, but there are way too few of them around. The level design is fitting, futuristic and shiny, but also repetitive. Paths are, at times, blocked by “force fields” causing you to backtrack, and stages are littered with annoying electric floors. Crates and barrels are also everywhere, for health and energy refills, orange crates contain points that go toward your level score and then, in-turn, skill upgrades.

Also released along with the main title, is the DLC expansion, Zheros: The Forgotten Land. With a futuristic Asian design, eight new levels, new enemies and adding a new character, Thione. Thione is by far my favorite character, she uses speed like Dorian but with kung fu animations and fiery explosive combos. She even floats instead of runs. The rest of Zheros: The Forgotten Land was unfortunately not working at this time. I spoke with the developers via social media a bit to solve the first issues, but even after they patched I was unable to play beyond the first level of the expansion. This review score is based on just the main title, Zheros, because of this. I honestly wish that this expansion was just added to the original game for PS4 players and the price reflected this combination. The new character is fantastic and based on what I was able to play, the new levels were very well designed with better enemies.

Zheros is a fun beat ‘em up game; the combat is engaging and it is even more enjoyable with two players. With 18 long levels and checkpoints spread too far out, deaths are huge setback at times. It takes a good 6 hours to complete Zheros’ base campaign solo, even on the easiest setting. Long load times were also a big irritation. For some reason there is no character swapping and a second player cannot be added once a game has begun, making for a huge investment if two people want to finish the game. The expansion DLC, Zheros: The Forgotten Land, is definitely an upgrade, with its added powerful character and better design overall, I just wish it worked. Hopefully the issues will be resolved soon. Overall, if you are a huge fan of brawler games, you should give Zheros a shot, it’s a good value for the amount of content, and fun mindless entertainment with a friend.

Zheros is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. This review is based on a PS4 copy provided for that purpose. 

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