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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Star Fox Zero.

Transcript Edit

Nintendo, you’re making this way too fucking easy for me. What shall we go with, Star Fox: Zero Interest? Star Fox: Zero Gameplay? Ooh, Star Fox: Zero Punctuation, that’s the thing we’re currently doing, isn’t it?

Nintendo have done it again! Ooh, sorry, wrong emphasis. Nintendo have done it again. They’ve made one of their layabout children, who hasn’t worked in decades, come up from the basement and sit at the dinner table with their new stepfather, Hardware Gimmicks, whom Nintendo hastily married in a Vegas shotgun wedding during a time when they were feeling low and vulnerable.

Perhaps Nintendo still imagines that they can find some happy middleground where both the hardcore retro fans and the casual motion control twatbadgers can all play together in harmony. Blissful, highly lucrative harmony. Unfortunately Nintendo are fucking kidding themselves if they think they can please everyone at once. You can try, but you’ll just end up with very sore wrists and a very dry face.

But we get ahead of ourselves. Star Fox Zero is a reboot of a franchise that hasn’t shown its face in over ten years, in which science fiction space battles are enacted by characters in theme park mascot costumes who inspire varying degrees of irritation. Sort of like the logical place George Lucas would’ve taken Star Wars to if he hadn’t been given the restraining order.

You are Fox McCloud, fearless cardboard cut-out protagonist type and only fox in the rather narcissistically named Star Fox squadron, which also consists of a frog, a rabbit and a bird, presumably in case Fox gets hungry during a long space mission, because he certainly doesn’t keep them around for their combat skill. They’re out to save the universe from the evil armies of a giant monkey from another dimension. For you see, all great science fiction has at heart a relevant contemporary message, in this case, make sure not to run out of tasty bananas.

The game is an arcade space shooter with the emphasis on ‘arcade’. Some of the levels are on rails, demanding that you dodge incoming obstacles while not knowing what direction the rails are going to move in, so that’s an adventure in blunt force trauma to the face. And some of them are free roam, to use the phrase generously, as the free roam area is about the size of a cruise ship en-suite bathroom. And you’ll only know that you’ve flown out of bounds when the game wrestles control from you and makes you U-turn directly into the missile you were trying to escape from.

So about those motion controls, just to bring us back to the subject of sore wrists. “Aim your lasers by tilting the screen controller,” went the game’s tutorial. “Press the target button to - hey, what the fuck are you doing in the options menu? Did you really think you could turn off the tilting controls? I’m afraid we’re trapped in this hell together, matey." Sorry, for one blindly optimistic moment I thought Nintendo might have realised that insisting on a single control scheme is unhelpful in our wonderful world of all kinds of people with varied preferences and levels of flexibility. Can I at least adjust the sensitivity, as my elbows are still sore from stabbing a policeman to death and I’d prefer not to have to make large movements? “No you can’t you uppity sod. Here’s your options: you can turn a thing that makes aiming controls somehow even worse. Or you can soak up your little vagina spillage and come and join us in the real world. Now here’s how the fucking targeting controls work.“ Um, sorry to be picky again, but do you have any other targeting systems available? Like, say for example, one that fucking helps? One that could maybe target the enemy ship that’s closest or that my aiming reticule is pointing at, rather than the one wearing the prettiest dress?

Just when I think the Wii U might have finally accepted that human beings aren’t going to evolve chameleon eyes that can independently swivel anytime soon, we have a game that tries to make the screen controller and the TV work together. The screen controller is the cockpit view which has the peripheral vision of a one-eyed horse on a subway train, and the TV has the third-person camera, so you have to use the TV to find the thing to shoot at and the controller to actually aim at the thing. And what bothers me is that there really doesn’t seem to be a reason for it except to invent a purpose for the hardware gimmick. It’s like the game really, really wanted to justify its purchase of a seeing-eye dog, so it gouged its own eyes out.

Going back and forth between the screen and a much smaller, shittier one covered in dusty fingermarks and blood is annoying enough even when you’re not expected to do it throughout a pitched high-octane laser battle. But even if you do get bitten by a radioactive switchboard operator and the controls become halfway decent, the learning process is severely hampered by the constant switching of gameplay style and vehicles throughout the campaign, all of which have shitty controls in subtly different ways.

You could almost justify using the screen controller to aim from a spaceship because moving and aiming in three dimensional space is a pretty complicated business it turns out, but not from a tank. There’s a perfectly good right analogue stick I could be using to aim with, but the game would prefer I use that to make the tank perform gymnastics.

Of course, there’s plenty besides the control to pick on. The controls would have been entirely moot if my cartoon-voiced sidekicks had made just one more unhelpful comment, because I wouldn’t have been able to reach my controller after I’d shoved it up their arse. And I should mention that when the campaign proper began and I saw the map of eight or nine planets representing upcoming levels, I assumed that this was world 1, Super Mario 3-style. Imagine my surprise to discover that this was in fact the entire game. And it was all over in about two and a half hours. But I suppose that works in its favour, because I remember thinking that if the game went on much longer after that fucking robot gorilla boss fight then I was going to kick it down a flight of stairs. Perhaps it should have aspired to be even shorter. Hell, if it had melted as soon as I opened the box it might even have gotten five stars.

Still, seventy bucks for two and a half hours would bring tears to the eyes of an investment banker as surely as a kick in the trust fund.

Normally at this point I’d get my nark on about the modern games industry’s on-going habit of reducing the actual meat and potatoes of the games for the sake of a shinier plate, but Star Fox Zero’s graphics look like fried shite. The models and level design look like something from two or three generations ago with the textures buffed up a bit. I can’t think how this game could possibly be taking up the whole disc. Maybe this is all part of some sinister master plan to smuggle illegally downloaded episodes of Keeping up Appearances into the country. No that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but then neither does the publisher's thinking the game held up alright.

The only positive I have is that the final dogfight with the evil animal flying squad across the across the surface of totally-not-the-Death star was alright, otherwise the broad impression of Star Fox Zero Effort is that it’s just not trying hard enough where it counts and too hard where it doesn’t. And I’m only asking to be met halfway, Star Fox, ‘cause I’m trying not to punt you off a bridge.

Addenda Edit

  • Small woodland creature: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • So why is Fox's first name the animal he is but everyone else uses it for a last name
  • I thought they banned foxhunting
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe

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