In 2003 Konami and the infallible Hideo Kojima gave us an incredible 3rd person hack and slash experience for the PlayStation 2. Now 2018 sees its return, this time with some notable upgrades including virtual reality support. Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS is out now for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS Details
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: Third-person shooter, Hack and slash
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Mech of a game
In Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS you are a freedom fighter controlling a giant orbital frame. Otherwise known as “Jehuty”, this mech is a powerful weapon for taking down scores of enemies. Players will put its immense firepower through its paces as they take on the sinister military organization “BAHRAM”.
As a sequel, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS intends to provide a more powerful combat experience for gamers. It certainly hits the mark in this regard. With advanced combat mechanics and sub-weapon systems, you’ll feel the firepower both in melee combat and from a distance.
Time for an upgrade
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS receives a shiny new coat of paint for its debut on PlayStation 4 and Playstation VR. First off, the game now supports enhanced graphics and full 4K resolution. Obviously 4K does not come through when playing in VR mode, but it looks great running on a PlayStation 4 Pro.
Secondly Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS features brand new control schemes, such as “Pro Mode”. This layout is a bit busier, but offers the ultimate level of control over Jehuty. Players with experience will find these controls optimal for high-speed battles.
Great for new players too
Perhaps more importantly, another control scheme new to the game is “Very Easy Mode”. This is a great addition for all the new players experiencing Zone of the Enders for the first time. It boils down the controls the the point where players can execute powerful attacks with simple button presses.
Playing in very easy mode is a great jumping off point for newer gamers who may not be as familiar with control patterns more common in the PlayStation 2 era. Furthermore, a number of new additions to the tutorial and training modes make Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS even more amenable to modern audiences.
Finally, a brand new mini-map HUD makes it easier to maneuver through the world of Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS without getting lost or disoriented.
The leap to virtual reality
Mech-based combat games enjoy a long history, and many gamers have surely thought about what it would feel like to sit inside one for real. Climbing into the cockpit with PlayStation VR is a cool experience to be sure. I felt quite a rush flying Jehuty through an icy landscape upon entering the game in VR for the first time.
Unfortunately not everything is perfect about Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS’ transformation to VR. For example, the graphics are already very fast and blurry when in close melee combat. The fact that VR mode brings the screen even closer to your eyes means that they become almost impossible to follow. My close-up melee battles were mostly just button mashing, hoping for the best until the view became clear.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS also only supports the traditional Dualshock 4 controller. Due to the complex nature of the controls, it would likely be difficult to use dedicated VR controllers. Regardless, it’s a bit of a bummer to enjoy such an immersive mech experience visually, but with hands still tied to a traditional controller.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS’ cutscenes can be viewed in a special cinematic theatre mode, which is a cool feature especially for those who love the story and lore of the series. Some event cutscenes in theatre mode even feature fully integrated VR support.
Sadly, cutscenes also revert to a similar theatre-style view when in game however. They occur so frequently that bouncing between the immersion of VR gameplay and the separate non-immersive cutscenes does ruin the experience to an extent. It’s somewhat understandable when you consider that this is not built from the ground up in VR. Nevertheless it’s always disappointing when the illusion of VR flickers back and forth.
New world of sound
One of the best features of the original release was its awesome sound and amazing music. With original music composed to match the fast-paced action, including the main theme “Beyond the Bounds”, its soundtrack is fondly remembered among fans of the game.
For Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS the entire audio design receives a revamp. This remastering accommodates for modern technology and surround sound. With the standard set by other amazing VR remasters such as Rez Infinite, it’s great to see that Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS takes the same level of care in updating its sound design for the current generation.
Climb into the cockpit with Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS
The Zone of the Enders series was born in an exciting time for gaming. The realisation of 3D movement in gaming really opened up in the PlayStation 2 generation. For this reason, pioneering games like these still hold fairly well today. A fresh graphical makeover and updated controls are just all the more reason to give Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS a go.
The idea of jumping into the cockpit of a giant mech is probably at the top of the list for many former VR dreamers. Now that the technology is here, Zone of the Enders is just a logical choice to bring to VR. While it may not be a full-blown VR experience from the ground up, the atmosphere of piloting a giant mech in VR is nevertheless completely thrilling.
+ 4K resolution
+ New control schemes
+ Updated audio design
+ Control a mech in VR
– Not fully optimized for VR
– Lack of variety in controller support
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF ZONE OF THE ENDERS: THE 2nd RUNNER – MARS
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3.5/5
Overall Rating 3.9/5 (79%)