The idea of piloting a giant robot has a certain amount of appeal, and it’s also something that has started gaining ground in virtual reality (VR) recently. It certainly seems like a perfect fit for VR, in much the same way as spaceship shooters or racing titles are. Zone of the Enders is a bit of an unexpected choice, though one that works very well.
The Zone of the Enders series began back on the PlayStation 2, bringing its sci-fi and Anime stylings to middling sales, but enough to get it a sequel, Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner, of which the new PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR version is a remake.
Unlike many titles which dole out the VR content in miserly chunks, Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner – Mars is fully playable in VR from start to end. The Anime cut-scenes are fully intact, and are viewed TV-style as a box in front of you. Otherwise, you take a position inside the cockpit of the Jehuty warframe.
There is a fairly comprehensive tutorial which goes through how to control your mech, which should be very handy for those new to VR or new to the Zone of the Enders series. However, unlike previous entries in the Zone of the enders series, you are in first-person mode, not third-person.
The title uses the Dual Shock 4, and controls are a little awkward, especially at first. The ‘VeRy Easy’ mode might be useful for a few mins to get your bearings. Enemies come in fast, and you will soon be either slashing away in melee or raining beam spam down upon swarms of foes. While the laser-like burst attack is efficient, the melee combat is by far the most satisfying, with the enemies right up in your face before you punt them over the horizon.
The graphics look great, the cockpit interior looks wonderful, and the little holographic model of Jehuty off to the side mirroring the actions you take is a great touch. The landscapes are sweeping, showing off some amazing environments, though you might not see as much of them as you might like due to the somewhat restricted cockpit view.
The Anime cut scenes still look pretty good, though the lip flaps are often off and the voice performances are occasionally ropey, though it gives it a sense of late 80s/early 90s authenticity, which might provide a nostalgic buzz.
The music is also very good, a nice electronic sound that matches the feel of the action perfectly, though perhaps could use some additional effort in terms of making the sound design a bit more spatial.
Once you get used to how the combat works, there is a great deal of satisfaction and entertainment to be found, and some pulse-pounding moments as well, especially when you find yourself facing other powerful mechs like Anubis. Those prone to simulation sickness might need to spend some time messing with the comfort options, as you will feel jolted around on occasion, which could prove a problem for some players.
If you can master the somewhat difficult controls, there is a great deal of enjoyment to be found in Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner – Mars. Fans of the series should buy this immediately, and giant mech fans will also want to add it to their libraries. For others, it is certainly worth investigating, though the challenging controls might prove off-putting for some.