Friday, January 4, 2013

Zero Tolerance [1994] (FPS)

Developer: Technopop
Publisher: Accolade
Designer: Thomas Gjørup
Composer: Dezso Molnar
Platform: Sega Genesis
Release year: 1994
Genre: FPS
System requirements: A live or emulated Sega Genesis :)


From the dawn of gaming, first person shooters were commonly considered to be a genre exclusive to the PC, even despite the console ports of Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM. The PC's rivals - in this case, Sega Genesis - were still more responsible for sidescrollers, puzzles, action-RPGs, racing games and such. Even funnier was that all exclusive PC games that utilized the genres listed above seemed just as alien, outside of some notable exceptions, such as Tyrian or Duke Nukem. Nobody took the technical specs of 16-bit systems seriously enough, so what it all came down to - there wasn't a more unlikely thing than a console first person shooter, especially back in 1994, when DOOM was getting all the geeks and chicks.

But then such a thing came out.

The title screen just screams 'badass'.

Nobody knows if Technopop were aware of the micro-revolution they started up, or they did it all just for giggles, but here it goes: before Halo and Killzone, Zero Tolerance was one of the first console exclusive FPS games, if not the one. It actually was a smash hit on its initial release, and I swear that it's interesting and fun to play even to this day. Personally I got familiarized with this game after watching its review in a TV show, and then witnessing it myself in a shopping mall, where they made a custom arcade cab with Genny (well, technically, Megadrive) inside. It was just like Wolfenstein 3D that I was playing a lot at my Mom's workplace, only darker and more menacing in looks. After all, in my opinion, when it comes to dark cyberpunk action games, Genesis easily outshines both SNES and PCE, and Zero Tolerance is a prime example.

Gotta love this over-the-top HUD.

The story is pretty simplistic, revolving around the team of space mercs assigned to investigation of a sudden alien attack on Europe-1 space station - this is where the first episode takes place. Then, they'll have to travel to several other locations, mostly urban cityscapes on Earth. There are little to no puzzles on their way, as the main objective of each level, or floor, is to eliminate all enemies and reach the elevator (sometimes, a staircase). You can do the latter without killing everything though, but you will not receive password (no battery backup, unfortunately) for the next stage. This is actually not a fatal penalty, as you can backtrack to the floor above and fix things up.

The second episode takes place in a cool Blade Runner-ish skyscraper.

The arsenal consists of your usual fists, handguns, shotguns, blasters and so on, and the initial armament is different for each character. There are also additional gadgets to aid on your warpath - of them all, the most vital is Bio-Scanner, as it shows the enemy location on your map screen. The combat may seem sluggish at first, but once you get into the rhythm of the game, it's not that bad. It's just a bit slower than Wolfenstein 3D and feels more like Doom without running.

The gunplay and violence are still there, thankfully.

The levels are still sort of like Wolfenstein, but some walls are placed at 45 degrees. When you shoot an enemy near one, its blood will stain and slowly slide down the surface, which makes this game even a bit more violent than its competitors. Other interesting features include the momentum you gain while moving, then there's ability to jump and duck, though the usefulness of these features is debatable. In addition, Zero Tolerance also introduced the inventory system pretty similar to Quake 2, as well as five protagonists with slightly different traits. There's even a multiplayer support - however, the connection cable was never officially distributed by Technopop. They still offer the schematics on their site (see below), so if you are good with soldering iron, you can try and make one by yourself.

Now that's epic!

Zero Tolerance is a great game, but unfortunately, not a perfect one. Some can be irritated by slow gameplay, as I've pointed above, or the constant '%ITEM% collected!' voice playing each time you pick something up. The difficulty is pretty high, too, so make sure to think twice and plan your strategy each time you enter an unexplored room - don't use medkits if your health is not really low, and grab the Bio-Scanners as frequently as you can.

The sequel.

Overall, this game is a real treat - stylish, fun to play, with great atmosphere and high addiction value. There were some other FPS games on Genesis, such as mediocre Battle Frenzy or atrocious Cyber Cop, and an unfinished sequel, Beyond Zero Tolerance, which never came out officially; however in recent years, both Zero Tolerance games were re-released as freeware, so make sure to check Technopop website and grab the ROMs:

There is also a good site for the Russian-speaking fans: