Slave Zero X Review (PS5)


Slave Zero X serves as prequel to the cult hit Dreamcast game Slave Zero, but while their stories and universe are connected, they couldn’t be more different. Set five years before the third-person shooter original, this new title is a 2.5D beat-’em-up, in which you don a biomechanical super suit as the vengeful warrior Shou is out to kill the city’s corrupt leader.

While it retains the gritty, neo-noir nature of the first game, you blitz through each stage in fast-paced hack and slash combat that’s surprisingly technical. You don’t have an enormous number of moves, but with practice you’re able to combine them by cancelling animations with jumps, juggling enemies in the air to extend combos, and so on. With a dodge, parry, and a meter you can use to regain health by hitting enemies, there’s a fair amount to consider — and you’ll need to do so at breakneck speed.

Combat encounters get tough very quickly; some overwhelm with the number of baddies you’re dealing with, while others are simply challenging bosses. What really drives up the difficulty, though, is how punishing it can be. The parry window is incredibly strict, and with enemies swarming from both sides, dodging back can just land you in more hot water. There’s certainly fun to be found in the combat here, as it’s very satisfying when you’re in the zone, but you’ll need some patience and practice to get there.

At least it’ll look good while you get to grips. The presentation is wonderful, with huge sprites populating a lo-fi, 3D-modelled world that looks straight out of the late 90s — only in crisp 4K, and a flawless 60 frames-per-second. It’s an effective style, and the music and somewhat hammy voice acting add to the illusion that this is a long lost PS1 brawler.

It’s a shame the combat is quite so tough, because it can be discouragingly unforgiving, and there are no difficulty settings to toy with either. However, we definitely get the sense this is a game that masochistic players will love to master. From where we’re sitting, Slave Zero X is slightly too hard-edged for its own good, but there’s undoubtedly depth to be plumbed if you’re so willing.

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