Zero Tolerance was to my knowledge one of the few FPS games attempted on the Mega Drive/Genesis and my personal introduction to a genre I adore today. QUByte and Piko Interactive have chosen this title to give a new lease of life by adding it to the QUByte Classics collection, any good or does its name give off more than initially thought?.
Zero Tolerance puts you in the boots of several highly trained killing machines who fill out the roster of the Zero Tolerance team, tasked with clearing out a space station of aliens one by one and funnily enough showing “Zero Tolerance”. It’s not going to win any awards for story but remember this was a 90s title, on the Mega Drive and didn’t have Tom Hall on hand to write out a “bible” for the title.
Graphically Zero Tolerance is a bit of a technical masterpiece for the Mega Drive but isn’t one that has stood the test of time, most of the screen is HUD elements and the actual game is in quite a small letterbox, while I’m a far cry from a game developer I would imagine this is due to console restrictions much like the ill fated 32X port of Doom.
The scenery is very one note, character models are all kinds of blurry, weapon designs leave a lot to be desired and there is an out of control fog problem on the Space Station which works as a double edged sword, again you have to factor in that this was a game designed for a console that wasn’t known for the genre, at the time the genre was just starting to make waves and you can appreciate that it was a darn fine job the developers did with what they had to work against.
The gameplay in Zero Tolerance has you exploring maze like areas, killing every enemy in your way, initially when you cleared a floor out you were given a password so you could continue your progress which is now nullified by the ability to save and load at anytime thanks to the engine QByte use to port retro titles over as seen in our Jim Power review, instead this is just your core goal and will see you tracking down large numbers of aliens from the get-go.
You choose a character from the roster of five and these all have different stats and starting equipment, these also act as your lives and for the time created a unique permadeath feeling to the game.
Movement is quite clunky due to it being designed with the Sega pad in mind and involves you having to hold a button to strafe though you can map strafing to the shoulder buttons in the “sequel” designed for this package Zero Tolerance Underground, there is the ability to jump and crouch though seems mostly pointless but after a stage or two the controls will click with you though it’s not something i’d call intuitive by any stretch.
Due to the permadeath, the fog and clunky controls alongside quite a punishing difficulty Zero Tolerance manages to build up quite an atmosphere, one that wouldn’t go amiss in an “Aliens” video game, you’ll find yourself watching your radar and creeping around corners hoping you can get the jump on your foe before they force you to switch to another character.
While the game can feel like quite the grind as it doesn’t deviate from the “kill everything then find the elevator” format the atmosphere does carry it alot further than you would think, the save system also gives you the chance to chip away at the game rather than pushing yourself to get through it in one chunk without having write down pesky passwords.
As mentioned the package also contains the brand new “Zero Tolerance Underground” which while has the same gameplay does have a few new foes and some new locales which try to break things up the best they can, there is also a nice little bonus for anyone who completes either of these titles and is a must see for anyone who is a fan of the original title.
In terms of additions you have all the essentials, save states, button remapping and display tweaks, again as mentioned it’s the same engine that Jim Power was ported with and does the job just fine.
While it’s not a title I could easily suggest everyone picking up, there is some merit in just how atmospheric these titles can be especially considering where they were sourced from, it was great to go back and see where my FPS journey began though i’m not overly confident that someone who hadn’t originally played it would have the same endearment to it as I have.
A curious look into early console FPS titles
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