Just In Case Any Readers Out There haven't been paying attention I'll introduce the facts: Absolute Zero is a new space-shooty thing from Domark. And as with all space-shooty things, it's got a convoluted storyline involving all sorts of hi-tech hoo-hah, alien races, age-old mysteries, and a band of unlikely heroes with foreign names.
Now perhaps you couldn't really give a fiddler's pluck what the storyline's about... but hell. I'm going to tell you anyway. You see, what I want you to do is this: I want you to carefully cut out the following plot summary with a pair of scissors, and stash it away safely in a handy desk drawer. Then I want you to buy every issue of PC for the next three years (and go through the back issues too, while you're about it), clipping out any similar 'sci-fi game plot summaries' that you come across. And when you've got a decent pile of these summaries together, I want you to flush the lot of them straight down the toilet. Because that's where they belong.
Sci-fi game plot summary: apply scissors here
It's 2734, and we, the people of Earth, have been mining the very innards out of Europa (an ice moon that orbits the planet Jupiter) for quite some number of years. We're not mining for gold, or diamonds, or anything like that, oh no. We're on the lookout for ice, because we need it for the fusion drives on our spaceships. Anyway, after a while we managed to drill all the way into Europa's core, waking a mysterious race of hibernating aliens in the process. And then - just because we woke them up (accidentally, might I add), the aliens started attacking us with great enthusiasm and before we knew it there was a full-scale all-out war going down. Cue the game.
Actually, there's a bit more to it than that (after all, those aliens were hiding for a good reason), but I'm not going to stretch your attention span any further at this point. It's just that Domark seem to be extremely proud of the storyline -so much so, in fact, that they have bunged in loads and bloody loads of superflous background detail, which is accessible from the main menu. You can read through character profiles, diaries and e-mail, and even catch up with the latest news reports from the surrounding area. In fact, you can read until you're blue in the face - they've gone really anal on this one - but it doesn't really make the game any more exciting. It's there for the anoraks, basically.
The game itself
Absolute Zero contains about thirty levels, split roughly fifty-fifty between cockpit missions (where you pilot a spacecraft and shoot things), and "turret" missions (where someone else, ie the computer, does the driving while you concentrate on the shooting and perhaps necking a few beers to keep you going). As you might expect, the turret missions tend to be slightly easier, though overall the game itself is a bit on the difficult side. Somewhat unusually for a game of this type, instead of choosing a heroic name for yourself at the start and then fighting through to the bitter end like some kind of indestructible deity, you will find yourself taking charge of seven different characters: the person you 'are' depending on which particular mission you're playing. Again, this is something Domark are very proud of (though, once again, it's something that makes minimum impact on the gameplay).
As you can see from the screenshots, it all looks pretty sparse. (Well, it is an ice moon after all, not exactly the most exciting location in the universe.) There are bland, Gouraud-shaded mountains and valleys all over the place. The sheer number of spacecraft and vehicles zipping about livens things up a bit, but also makes the action extremely hard to follow - and since the entire thing is designed to run in SVGA it chugs rather badly on anything other than a P90. In low-res bargain-bucket vga mode it looks pretty unintelligible. At full speed, on a fancy machine, it's certainly playable but also ever so faintly dull.
So you didn't like it then?
Not so fast. While I can appreciate the time and effort that's gone into Absolute Zero, I can't shake the suspicion that rather too much of it has been applied to the wrong aspects. Apart from the aforementioned storyline detail, there's the game's main menu, or as Domark would have it, the 'Virtual Tunnel'. The Virtual Tunnel is a horribly garish sgi-rendered spinny-round animated nightmare. For "maximum Virtual Tunnel performance" the installation routine recommends that you provide an extra 20MB of disk space... Yes, I kid you not -that's 20MB of hard drive space just so the bloody menu will run at optimum performance. Christ on a bike! Run it on a 486 and the Virtual Tunnel grinds along like a mangy diseased dog with two legs missing.
It's a shame: Absolute Zero could have been an entertaining twist on the Wing Commander/Elite genre: there are loads of ground-based missions, plenty of different characters, fairly complex mission objectives, SVGA spaceships, alien monsties, a big plot twist... but it's also got bland scenery, pointless tinsel, and a disappointing frame rate. If you hang on in there, you may well get into it - but why bother when there's other, more accessible stuff around?
Download Absolute Zero
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP