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November 27, 2003
Zone of Enders: The 2nd Runner - Review
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Two mechs go at it!
The original Zone of the Enders was bundled with the much anticipated Metal Gear Solid 2 demo, something that worked both for and against it. Many critics claimed that a fair proportion of the people that bought it did so for the demo alone, and hence criticized its sales figures. Funny thing is, many people did buy it just for the demo! But don’t let this reflect on the quality of the original Zone of the Enders, which was a great game in its own right when it released. It had great graphics and sound, and a meaningful storyline courtesy of Hideo Kojima to boot. It wasn’t without its flaws however, with a rather repetitive cutscene, fight, cutscene, fight style of gameplay, and was quite a short game without much incentive to be replayed. Since then, Konami have been working on the sequel, and fortunately Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner excels over it’s predecessor.

You begin Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner as Dingo, a scruff guy with a rebellious streak who works for a mining group responsible for harvesting Metatron (the energy source of the future). When out mining one day, Dingo uncovers a large structure which contains the Orbital Frame Jehuty (orbital frame = mecha). His colleagues are then attacked by rogue Bahram forces, and Dingo has no choice but to pilot Jehuty and fight back. And so the story begins...

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Some fantastic art from the game!
The story is told effectively by a combination of anime cutscenes and in-game conversations. You could be mistaken for thinking that the anime cutscenes throughout the game were taken from a recent full budget Japanese anime; they are high quality, with much effort put into the finer details, as well as the quality of the animation and cinematography behind it. The in-game cutscenes and conversations are nicely spliced in with the gameplay and anime sections, such that they are informative and helpful, without lasting too long and becoming boring (like those tedious SOCOM conversations present in some other Konami games…). And for those who came in late and didn’t experience the original Zone of the Enders, there is also a lengthy (albeit enjoyable) full motion video playable in the game which contains the entire story from the first game! A simple, yet valuable solution to filling the extra space wasted on many PS2 DVD-based sequels today.

The gameplay Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner is similar to that in the first game; the Orbital Frame is controlled using virtually the whole controller in a 3rd person fashion. Not only can you move/fly in the directions of the three axes, but also target enemies, and select and fire both primary and secondary weapons. The control scheme is very daunting at first, but Konami has made learning the controls for Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner an easy transition for beginners and pros alike. There is a dedicated training section to the game which outlines all the moves and techniques needed to survive in the game, which is accessible from the main menu (as well as being incorporated into the main game itself). Furthermore, as more advanced techniques and sub-weapons are unlocked throughout the game, the training section expands to compensate!

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That's getting pretty hot.
The main gripe that people had with Zone of the Enders was that the missions were all similar and because monotonous rather quickly. Fortunately this has been addressed in the sequel, where the standard kill-all-the-enemies missions are jumbled up nicely with other styles of missions, such as searching for items and protecting allies. There is a diverse range of enemies now too, with small mosquito-like robots which form huge swarms of many dozen, to the larger heavily-armored frames which require different tactics to be defeated.

There is very little wrong with Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner, and it is evident that Konami have had their testers go over the game with a fine-toothed comb. The game is a magnificent feast for the eyes and ears, and also plays as well and as easily as it looks. If I had to pinpoint any specific problem with the game, it would have to be that (very rarely) it suffers slightly from some niggly 3rd-person camera issues. This only happens though in the most cramped action-packed fights, and didn’t impede my gameplay much at all at the time (there is also manual camera controls which can bring the camera out of a corner in an instant).

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Destruction central.
In the words of Neo in the Matrix, the graphics in Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner can be summed up in one word; “Whoa…”. Even the most anti-PS2, Xbox-loving gamer would have to be impressed by the graphics found in this game. There are animated shimmers on all the high-poly-count frames, with smoke and haze effects that are rendered in a semi-cel shaded fashion that gives the game an anime feel. Firefights are even more spectacular, with dozens of individual missiles and bullets screaming around the screen at many more enemies with detailed explosions galore. And for the icing on the cake, the frame rate never misses a beat, staying slick and smooth even in the toughest battles. The first Zone of the Enders looked unbelievable when it was released; Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner makes it’s prequel look bad in comparison, it’s that pretty.

An upbeat, futuristic techno score provides the backing soundtrack to Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner, and sets the scene and atmosphere behind the game. Rather than being a fixed track-by-track play list for the game, the music changes depending on the current mood and stage in the storyline so that the general ambience isn’t spoilt. Couple this with the large variety of explosions, missile trails and metal-crunching combat sound effects, and you have an aural banquet to listen to which simply must be heard on something better than standard television speakers.

Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner is a well executed game, which builds well on it’s predecessor (even including the story if you need to jog your memory on it). With a gripping single-player storyline, a multiplayer versus mode, plenty extras to find and varying difficulty levels, there’s more than enough to keep this game in your PS2 for several weeks to come.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICS1 word; “Whoa…”
SOUNDIt’s not often that you here an upbeat techno score like this.
GAMEPLAYAn enjoyable blend of storyline and gameplay.
VALUEVarying difficulties plus lots of extras; couldn’t ask for more!
OVERALLZone of the Enders: The Second Runner is an enjoyable adventure from start to finish, which raises the bar for all future games. If there’s even a hint of action gaming in you, at least hire or play this game without disregarding it as ‘another giant robot game’, because it’s about as far from being just ‘another’ game as you can get.

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