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Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition: First-Person Fists

Company: Atlus

Last week, we had the chance to join Atlus for an online demo of their upcoming XBLA brawler, Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition.

Zeno Clash is a name that shouldn't be unfamiliar to PC players. Released last year via Steam, Zeno Clash brought a new twist to Source engine-developed shooters. Rather than adding tricked-out weapons, zombies or other features, Zeno Clash brought hand-to-hand combat into the FPS world. The game was an immediate hit among PC players and now Atlus is giving Xbox 360 players the opportunity to try out the first-person fisticuffs for themselves on March 31.

Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition is basically a straight-up port of the PC shooter, but Atlus has taken the time between releases to update parts of the game. The biggest change is, of course, controls. The controller versus mouse/ keyboard debate is one of those things that I imagine will never go away, so you can be sure it was a hot topic during our conference. The debate is sure to pick up once the game releases, but Atlus was quick to point out that Zeno Clash's brawler mechanics make it ideal for a controller.

Precision is still priority one, but guiding a fist into a mutant's mug takes a little less precision than a bullet. During the hour-long demo, our driver was able to perform attacks with relative ease. Attacks are mapped to the buttons and include basic punches and kicks, as well as a special 3-hit combo for when you're backed into a corner. Just to add a little more tension to combat, enemies will adapt to your fighting style. Repeated use of certain moves will lead to instant death, so making the most of your entire repertoire is important. Other attacks include grabs, tosses and even some weapons-based moves. You'll even get a chance to use a few firearms, like a set of fish-shaped pistols, though only in specific cases. One instance featured a boss fight with a blind sniper and his pack of explosive squirrels.

Yes, you read that right - explosive squirrels. Part prehistoric wasteland, part mutant-filled fantasy, Zeno Clash has a setting all its own. There as some really odd concepts moving about Zeno Clash, but the universe has such a nice unity that things like blind snipers hurling exploding squirrels from atop dinosaurs (I mentioned the dinosaurs, right?) seem commonplace. Even better, the exploding squirrels make complete and total sense in the grand scheme of things. The sniper can't see, but he can hear the exploding squirrels as they scurry towards you. Your only resort -- kick the squirrels before they blow up, hopefully throwing him off long enough to do a little sniping of your own.

The story holding all of this mayhem together is vague, but involves your character and his sister attempting to figure out why you were exiled from home. Story is told in a broken fashion, jumping between flashbacks, and includes everything from murder plots to larger conspiracies. I could try to explain it, but that would spoil some of the fun.

Although most of the core game remains unchanged, Zeno Clash will offer a few upgrades over the PC version. Atlus was reluctant to pull the wraps off on all the upgrades, but did show off the brand new co-op version of the PC version's Tower Challenges. Here, you and a buddy can fight off enemies in a timed challenge as you ascend a tower. The mode is nothing new, but the chance to duke it out with a friend in first-person should prove to be a fun ride.

As far as pricing goes, Atlus is still undecided on pricing, but did mention that it will be no more than 1200 MS points. Though the price may seem a little steep compared to the normal 800 MS point game, Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition looks like it will deliver a unique, top shelf quality experience.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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