Mutant Road Zero: Road to Eden – PS4 Review
Platform : Playstation 4
Release Date : 4th December
Publisher : Funcom
Developer : The Bearded Ladies Consulting
What first looks like a standard X-COM rip-off quickly becomes an oddly compelling strategy game. Mutant Road Zero crafts a unique experience which sets it apart from it’s competitors by not just focusing on action but also preparation and strategy. There’s a refreshing emphasis on tactical combat fundamentals which forces the player to think through each potentially lethal encounter. Through each stage there’s a satisfying sense that your patience is rewarded and that each decision made on the battlefield is potentially disastrous making wise decisions a priority.
It also stars a talking duck and a pig.
Set decades after a series of apocalyptic disasters, including Nuclear wars, plagues and environmental devastation. The planet is torn asunder with only small pockets of survivors still existing. One such community of survivors, called the Ark sends out ‘stalkers’ into the zone to find supplies to keep their group alive. This area is crawling with bandits, robots and insane mutants, in an interesting twist to common sci-fi tropes in gaming the Ark survivors are also mutated, hence the talking pig and duck.
This initially unique narrative quickly dissolves into a series of post-apocalyptic cliches. One of the most disappointing aspects of the game is the lack of storytelling mechanic. Exposition is handled through non-animated scenes peppered with the occasional line of dialogue. However while you will not stay for the game’s lackluster story, you will be entranced by it’s gameplay featuring an interesting core cast of characters.
Through the course of the game you will play as the half-man half-duck Dux, the half-man half-pig Bromin and the mostly human Selma. Their character designs seem to enhance the dystopia which surrounds them rather than making it absurd. You will feel attachment to these characters as they wonder about the past of the planet and why things are the way they are. I did find that the lack of storytelling left them underdeveloped and I would have liked to have seen them rounded out to their full potential.
Propelling the game forward is the mix of exploration and tactical combat, the player roams through an interconnected environment that contains scrap for upgrades and vicious enemies to fight. These areas can be explored in real time, however the pace of the characters is quite slow and I would have liked to have traversed through the areas quicker. There’s a great sense of permanence with regard to the game environment. Areas cleared of enemies will remain safe and any environmental damage will remain. This helps to build a cohesive world and atmosphere.
Visiting new areas into the zone are ended by trips back to the Ark. This has a rather limited feel as there are only 3 shops to visit. each of these are fairly unimaginative and offer a few upgrades and a small selection of items for purchase. Each visit is brief and after a major event story is progressed in the Ark with a visit from the colonies leader who provides exposition. The open-ended nature of the game establishes one of the best features – ambushes.
When you encounter a group of enemies, you can press one button to transition from real time to turn based combat. This means that you can take your time setting up the ambush, preparing your three man squad and setting up the perfect assault on your enemies. This mechanic makes it so very satisfying to prepare yourself and get involved in all aspects of the ensuing combat. You need to look carefully for environmental weaknesses and strengths to take advantage of, otherwise doing so would be a death sentence.
Mutant Year Zero encourages the player to pick off enemies one by one using a stealthy approach to help the odds before a big fight. This works incredibly well in the early stages of the game, however this mechanic flounders in the mid to late game stage when enemies have a greater number of hit points. One issue with the later stages combat mechanic that I encountered was the ‘bullet-sponge’ enemies making them difficult not due to their abilities but because of their number of hit points.
This is an interesting, if flawed tactical combat game. It’s a little short and I would have enjoyed more narrative exposition but it’s strategy elements helps make it stand out. At it’s best, Mutant Year Zero is an engaging and challenging title.
This game is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher