Name: Zoids Assault
Genre: Tactical RPG
Platform: Xbox 360
The Zoids franchise is built off of the premise that eventually we will ditch our aerodynamic war-machines in favor of large metal cats with rocket launchers strapped to their backs and EMP cannons mounted to their bellies. Going into Zoids Assault expecting a dramatic, Shakespearean story might be asking too much, and despite being referred to as a tactical RPG, it’s very light on the Role-Playing-Game elements. The game’s story is told through awful cut scenes, comprised of still frame anime images and blocks of text. It feels like a low-budget Nintendo DS game, despite having a $60 price tag. Luckily they are skippable, and you will soon be hitting every button on the controller instead of combing through the melodramatic and cliché plot synopsis.
Zoids Assault’s high point is its graphics, which don’t look much better than a gussied-up PlayStation 2 title. To hide the low-resolution textures and repetitive environments TOMY added several feet of fuzz and grain, which covers the virtual battlefield like a digital fog. In other games this generation, most notably Battlefield: Bad Company, film grain was used attain a darker, grittier, and more realistic style. In Zoids Assault, it’s used in such excess to make up for the title’s visual inadequacies that it actually manages to get in the way of the gameplay.
The gameplay is that of a cut-and-dry tactical RPG with a heavy focus on unit placement. When a Zoid is told to attack or use a combat ability, every other unit with a lock on that enemy also fires, and every enemy within range of the attacker launches a counter-attack. Since each unit has a unique firing pattern, it’s up to the commander to decide where everyone should be placed in order to have a numerical advantage over the enemy. It’s the very definition of tactical gameplay, and can lead to deep and intense battles. Sadly, just about every one of the game’s 14 nearly identical missions will eventually throw a curve-ball at you by adding several more enemy units to the fray. If it were done once or twice I could see it as an interesting surprise, but it’s overdone to no end and ruins any sense of strategy the game built in the first place.
The Zoids are customizable and can be modified to add and replace weapons, armor, and skills, which are gained through leveling. It’s an entirely linear affair, and the missions are all nearly identical, with the enemies just being harder and more plentiful. There aren't any more unlockable units aside from the five you begin with; which is almost a blessing since the characters inside the Zoids aren’t developed enough to justify characterization as an excuse, and since there isn't an online mode, replayability is completely nonexistent. The customization adds a little bit of depth to the different units, but there is definitely a lot to be desired in terms of just about every aspect of this game.
The only thing more unbelievable than the fact that Zoids Assault is a full-priced title is that they advertise downloadable content on the back of the box. Apparently delivering an incomplete package at the same price as Grand Theft Auto IV and Metal Gear Solid 4 isn’t enough, and Atlus thinks that they can get away with demanding more money for content that, in all honesty, still wouldn’t make this a complete experience. Even fans of the genre will quickly grow bored and regret a purchase, despite the interesting support system. Even when compared to the past few Atlus Xbox 360 titles, which landed with a decisive thud, Assault is a disappointment worth ignoring. Fans of tactical RPGs have plenty of other options, most far better, to explore, and even games that we have recommended you trash in the past are much more worthy of a rental than this.