In the ancient days of humankind a line of God-Kings watched over the people, guiding the actions of nations, kings, and priests to plant the first seeds of civilization. Legends say that these God-Kings were the descendents of an alien god and that they possessed incredible psionic powers far beyond those of normal men. These Kings were loved and revered by the people and all were capable of incredible acts of creation or destruction, but each fourth generation a Warrior-Messiah was born, endowed with the power to transform deserts into gardens or unleash destructive powers unimagined even during the Atomic Age. Alongside these Kings a society of warrior monks known as the Templars, also endowed with psionic powers, worked to bring peace and plenty to all.
But like so many who are spoiled and protected, there were those who became jealous of the royal line and hungered after their power. From these malcontents emerged a society known as the Black Brethren. At first they posed no threat to the crown, as they lacked the psionic powers that protected the land, but the king grew old and weak and his son, the young Arman, was still a child, unable to assume the throne. At this time of unrest the Black Brethren stormed the palace, killing the king and taking the boy hostage, demanding that the Templars surrender.
Unable to risk the life of the last heir to the royal line, the Templars surrendered and Arman was banished into deep space to spend eternity in cryogenic sleep. Thus began the Age of Despair -- four hundred years of cruel subjugation at the hands of the Black Brethren. But as ZPC begins, Arman has been rescued by the last of the Templars and the fight to restore the rightful king is beginning.
In ZPC, which stands for Zero Population Count, you are Arman, fighting to regain your throne from the Black Brethren. Based on the Marathon II engine, ZPC sticks to tried-and-true Doom-style gameplay: Find the ammo, run down the corridors, and blast your enemies.
Where ZPC is different is the look and feel of the game. Rather than a realistic 3D world, -ZPC_ gives you graphics reminiscent of a comic book -- most of the scenery is stark black-and-white, with splashes of color highlighting the artwork. The effect is well done and hides most of the limitations of the older 3D engine used in the game.
Where ZPC fails to come up to par is in the game controls. One example is the run command -- rather than using the Shift key like other first person shooters, ZPC uses the Caps Lock for run, and you can't reconfigure it. You also can't save the game whenever you want -- you must find a "Save Gem" first -- and these gems are rare enough that I spent a lot of time replaying areas I'd completed while searching for one.
Most annoying is the lack of a simple jump command, as the level design in ZPC requires you to "jump" often and the only way you can is to look at the ground and punch. Getting to a ledge involves switching to the punch command, looking down, punching, controlling your direction while in the air, and then looking back up and reselecting your weapon (often while the bad guys blast away at you). Add to this the general unresponsiveness of the game controls, and you get a game that is more frustrating than fun.
ZPC does include multiplayer support -- up to eight players can connect over an IPX or TCP/IP network. The TCP/IP support only works for local networks; Internet play is not supported. ZPC includes some unique multiplayer options like "Kill the guy with the ball" and "King of the Hill" in addition to the usual kill-fest.
Graphics and Audio
The comic book atmosphere created by artist Aidan Hughes and musicians Roland and Paul Barker is the best feature in ZPC. The graphics elements blend together with the soundtrack to give a wonderful gothic feel to the game. If the game engine matched the quality of the art and music ZPC would score much higher, but as is it the display is clunky on most systems. Even on a high-end Pentium the game feels sluggish and the display often jumps and skips. I get better display performance from Doom on a 486/66 than from ZPC on a Pentium 200. The game is designed to play best in high-color mode -- on many systems the graphics are scrambled or the screen is blank if you try to play in 256 colors.
Like most first-person shooters, ZPC's documentation gives you an overview of the storyline; the available weapons, ammunition, and powerups; and the enemies you will meet in the game. Apart from reviewing the non-standard controls for the game, you probably won't need to look at it.
Windows: Windows 95, 486/66, 8 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive
Recommended: Pentium 90 or faster, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 16-bit sound card, high-color PCI video card.
Macintosh: : 68040 Macintosh, 8 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive
Recommended: PowerMac, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, high-color video display
ZPC is yet another game with great promise that falls short due to poor design of the user interface. The comic book style graphics are great and the plot behind the game is well designed, but the slow gameplay and awkward controls make the game frustrating. I give ZPC a score of 56 out of 100.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Unending variations on Doom's gameplay are popping up all over, but ZPC takes that familiar formula in a fresh direction. This corridor shooter sports an eerie, monochromatic visual style created by Aidan Hughes, the artist behind KMFDM's videos and album covers, while members of Ministry and Revolting Cocks supply the tunes. ZPC's plot offers less creativity, though: In a spooky postapocalyptic future, gamers play as a former assassin seeking to recover his past and save the world by blasting through 30 levels. An arsenal of weapons and psionic attacks prepares you for the carnage.
If ZPC had been released a few years ago. its eye-catching 2D visuals would have probably garnered more acclaim. When you factor in the standard Doom-style action, however, only gamers intrigued by its unique propaganda look will spend their time here.
In ZPC's grim future, you play as Arman, a messiah charged with saving humanity from a tyrannical government. In terms of game-play. that translates into blasting through hordes of enemy soldiers from a first-person perspective. Potent weapons--such as tesla guns, vaporizers, and chi punches--balance the equation.
For most players, the graphics will make or break the ZPC experience. Aidan Hughes, the artist behind KMFDM's videos, fashioned a stark, somber visual style that many will find extremely appealing. In these days of 3D flair, though, Duke Nukem and Quake pros will likely look upon ZPC's antiquated 2D style with little more than scorn. The excessive pixelization in close doesn't help, either.
The conventional gameplay falls squarely in line with all of Doom's hallowed canons: Spray out the ammo and watch the blood splatter. The controls handle fine throughout, supplying all the standard moves except jumping.
On the sound side, ZPC rocks with awesome, moody tunes by members of Ministry that set just the right eerie mood. Solid explosions, voices, weapon clatters, and other effects keep the combat moving.
In the end. enjoying ZPC boils down to the quirky but cool graphics. If you like 'em, the decent gameplay comes alive. Otherwise, Quake awaits....
- Keep an eye on how many rounds are left in your clip. The delay in reloading leaves you vulnerable.
- If your health meter's full, leave the tear-shaped health-ups behind for now. They don't disappear, and on the later levels, you'll need to return for them.