Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS Review

Zone of the Enders

Already remastered once for the Zone of the Enders HD Collection, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner has been given yet another makeover for PS4 and PC.

Now featuring 4K and VR support, fans of the game who can make use of such frivolities may find Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS, as it’s now called, a decent pickup. Everyone else, however, is probably better going about their business as usual, oblivious to its release.

Decent graphics, dated gameplay

As remasters go, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS isn’t a bad one. The nature of its graphics means that it’s fairly nice looking running at higher resolutions. Character and enemy models look clean and crisp, their bold lines and colours making them stand out amidst the chaos. It’s only the environments that sometimes remind you that this is an old game, with outdoor locations being particularly bland at times. But throw in lasers and other flashy attacks and you have a game that looks like a comic book in motion.

The problem with Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS is that the game itself hasn’t aged all that well. Its controls are now clunky, and its camera system is simply unbearable. It constantly fails to give you a decent view of the action, though that’s also partly due to the game’s awkward lock on system. When you’re doing battle with only a few enemies it works quite well, but when there’s a screen full of them, choosing specific targets becomes a bit of a nightmare.

You can, of course, choose to not lock onto any enemies, but then you’re left to deal with your mech’s sluggish manual aiming. Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS is one of those games where your targeting reticule moves at a decent pace when moving it left or right, but a hell of a lot slower when you’re moving it up or down. It’s very frustrating. Oh, and without locking on, pulling off melee attacks becomes pretty much impossible.

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Short yet still tedious

Mission design is also dated, and quite simply dull. A lot of the time you’ll be moving from one bland room to another, with not much difference between them. You’ll battle the same enemies over and over again with the same moves. You do unlock some sub weapons along the way to give the action some variety, but it’s just not quite enough to break the tedium that eventually sets in. And that tedium does rear its head in a game that has three or four hours of actual gameplay at best is pretty bad.

You’ll spend nearly as much time watching the story of Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS unravel before you as you do play it, and unfortunately, it’s just not that riveting. It’s a Hideo Kojima game through and through, with scenes of pointless exposition being shoved in your face one after another. It all boils down to some bad people in control of bad mechs doing bad things, and it’s up to you to stop them. And if you’ve never played the original Zone of the Enders, there’ll be a lot of things discussed that will have you scratching your head.

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Saved by VR

What saves this release is that if you’ve got a VR headset, playing Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS in VR mode really does change the experience. Playing the game looking out of a cockpit adds to the immersion, and also makes it more intuitive. The camera and controls become a little less clunky and awkward, and while playing in VR adds to the difficulty, there is a new “Very Easy” mode for those struggling to adjust. It’s quite easy to get disoriented while playing in VR mode though, thanks to the need to dash around quite often.

Make no mistake about it, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS is a game that will only really be appreciated by fans of the series. Even with its VR mode, there’s nothing here that newcomers will find particularly impressive. Time hasn’t been kind to the gameplay of Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, and without any work being put in to remedy its now dated mechanics, this remaster feels pointless and defunct.

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS is available on PS4 and PC. We reviewed the PS4 version.