I played about 5 hours of Star Fox Zero today and I’m just so excited that I have to write out these impressions and clear up some things about this game immediately. There’s a lot of confusion going around about the controls and quite frankly, it’s all fucking bullshit. Game journalists spinning this propaganda are a bunch of IDIOTS who can not be trusted to form an opinion, let alone provide one to the masses. Kotaku, IGN, Polygon, the usual clusterfucks that everybody should know to avoid by now have all given this game bad reviews because it threatens their 2 dimensional way of thinking. It’s the same fucking bullshit ZombiU and The Wonderful 101 endured, they see this game as a threat because it’s another heavy hitter on the Wii U that threatens to take their normal games away. I want to throw that mindset in the bin and fucking burn it. There is room for every game to be beautiful. The controls in Star Fox Zero are outstanding, and this game is absolute quality.
The first thing I will address are the motion controls. If they stop you from playing this game, then it’s your own fault. Firstly, they are very good. Secondly, they are just ONE part of this game’s robust control scheme and nowhere near as integral as I thought they would be (or hoped for). It’s basically just AIMING. That’s it. The sensitivity is a bit lower than what I’m used to on Splatoon and it’s incredibly easy. You can still guide it with the stick too. Motion controls are about 1 / 12 of this game’s control scheme and in my opinion they actually make the game easier and more intuitive, like the glue holding the rest together.
Motion controls are better for aiming, this is a fact every single Splatoon player has learned by now. In Star Fox Zero they don’t just provide accuracy, but additional function. Without motion controls, you wouldn’t be able to aim to the side while moving. It basically frees up the stick to allow you to do more things. You can choose to play normally and slowly, but motion controls are there and they are great.
The most overwhelming “new” thing about this game is how it uses the GamePad as a second gameplay screen. It provides a first-person view for perfect aiming, while you get an outside view of your craft on the TV. This is a far bigger part of the game than motion controls and the element that every new player should focus on. You can see the aiming cursor on both screens, but the GamePad provides perfect accuracy with a straight shot, whereas the top screen’s angle makes it difficult to judge the depth of the cursor. So far I have been using the main TV just to fly around, get a scope of things and position my Arwing, and the GamePad for all aiming and shooting. So what are the benefits? Well check this out. The following screenshot is during live gameplay.
There’s your craft flying into the screen, and you still have full control over it in this moment.
Cockpit view continues at 60 fps on the bottom screen and your movements are still reflected on the top one. The game DOESN’T STOP. It might seem pointless to even look at the TOP if you need to see where you’re going, because how can you look at both anyway? Obviously you can’t, but I still find myself looking up at it even during these escape moments. You can do MANY things when something’s about to explode, it’s like a gut reaction to turn sharply the other way. If you’re sitting in something that’s about to explode, you’re probably not going to see much. You can angle away, activate boosters, then look down to the bottom screen to make sure you’re not going to crash into anything. I absolutely love the intensity cockpit view brings to moments like these.
This is all just a side point, since cinematic changes never really happen during intense gameplay. You can however, lock on to things with ZL and create that view yourself. The dual perspective in live gameplay demands an incredible intensity that I have never felt before in a game. It’s like you’re in the Arwing, looking at your controls and out the side windows. The main point I’m trying to make is that there’s nothing jarring in this game, it just keeps going. The only stop-start motion is in your brain. I’m hardly even thinking about the fact that I can do these things, I’m just doing them. All these new elements add to the experience, giving you more control options and more things to look at.
I’m only about halfway through the game (well, I’ve played 9 levels) and I’ve handled quite a few different vehicles. I loved the stealth mission with the Gyrowing, it feels completely different to the Arwing with very slow, controlled adjustments and you can take as long as you want. You can drop a robot and see through that robot’s eyes on the GamePad screen, moving it through tight spaces. Dangling that robot and hacking a computer in midair is one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had on a game console. It felt real, like I was performing all these actions inside the Gyrowing with a camera feed and controls. The GamePad speaker really helps moments like these. I’m in the habit of having it off, but this game really woke up my GamePad. It’s the first time I’ve noticed that the speakers on the controller are actually stereo, and during transmissions it sounds like there’s someone on your left and right, and in front of you on the TV. This might be normal for people with advanced setups and 5 speakers in their room, but I found it impressive.
A cool dynamic I noticed in one mission, is that I could turn my Arwing into a Walker to take out some enemies who had landed on a ship’s surface and threatened to invade. HOWEVER, if you’re good (or short on time and have no choice like me) you can ALSO swoop above the ship in your Arwing and kill them with some real precise, tricky shots. The fact you can do it both ways is just awesome, and makes me think I’ve barely scratched the surface of Star Fox Zero’s game design.
What’s that, it’s too difficult? You’re just gonna give up? Fuck no, Fox is up for the challenge. I’ve died quite a few times, once or twice in the first few levels, and 3-5 times in other levels. That’s nowhere near enough for me to call it a hard game yet. I think some people will have one awkward moment in a game like this and just say “nope, can’t do it” and that’s a fucking bullshit attitude from anybody, let alone a professional game reviewer. When you are a regular person who just paid $80 AU for a videogame, it’s in your best interest to try and enjoy it.
Despite liking the controls, I’m not having a super smooth time with this game either. All the awkward moments and difficulty I’ve had in this game were from my perspective being off. The catch to having a lot of movement and camera options, is that you have a LOT to think about. You can get caught off-guard just by focusing on the wrong thing, and quite often I’d still be looking at the GamePad screen long after I had finished shooting that swarm of enemies. Luckily, there’s no head device stopping you from moving your eyes towards the TV. This is probably the new “skill” for this game you might need, switching your focus. I’m used to doing this in high-level Pikmin 3 play with the GamePad map and Wiimote being used at once, and a bit of that skill exists in Splatoon too when you can glance at the map without stopping. If you’ve played a lot of Wii U and DS games you should adapt pretty quickly. All you need to do is recognise where your focus should be. Positional changes, top screen. Shooting, bottom screen. It gets a bit more complex and refined than that, but everyone has their own way of connecting those dots and I’m still too early into the game to know where this will go.
I haven’t seen the later levels so I can’t elaborate on the difficulty too much until then. I’m not quite as smart as the Polygon writer who wrote a full review of Star Fox Zero after 3 hours. I’m not sure the details of that writeup anyway, I only read 30% of it. He said something about sniffing his cat’s arse. Anyway, something people need to accept is that these controls are new, and your brain is going to have moments where it doesn’t know what to do. This does not automatically mean the controls are bad, it’s a natural learning process you have had with every other game and activity in your life. It just hasn’t been seen in a while, especially not in 30-year-old Joe McJourno who subscribes to Dorito Daily. Despite these supposed struggles, I think the first level and tutorial of Star Fox Zero are very good. They’re well designed, smart and fun, and most people should get comfy pretty quickly as long as you sit in the cockpit and take it all in. You don’t really have to learn much, the complexity of the game comes down to how you use these tools.
To chill out about the controls for a bit, I’ll offer some other thoughts on the game in general. I think the music is awesome, especially the results screen and map menu. There’s a really optimistic, almost Wii Sports-like influence to the epic compositions, which makes it feel really welcoming. The graphics aren’t super detailed in every corner of the map, but they have a really slick feel to them. Beams that fire from the enemies have this tangible thickness and the framerate is beautiful. I don’t think it’s 60fps all the time but man it feels smooth. I’ve also fallen in love with the Star Fox universe again with this game. It’s just so cool seeing fluffy animals flying these technical machines and risking their lives. It puts a charming, cute spin on an incredibly dangerous activity to make it seem playable and inviting. I’m really enjoying the dialogue too, it’s not the most complex story in the world but there’s some good banter.
Star Fox Zero is a difficult game to understand unless you are playing, and I think some shady game journalists have taken that as an opportunity to bash the game, and take an easy potshot at Nintendo. It’s pathetic but not surprising. Just ignore those people. I think this is pretty likely to be the best Star Fox game we’ll ever get and if you’re a fan, don’t even hesitate. I can’t wait to explore more because this game is fucking great, intuitive, polished, insanely fun, and everything you’d expect from Nintendo and Platinum Games.