Review by Underdogs (2010-03-11)
A Command & Conquer clone that was much less successful than it deserved, Z is as notable for being the only real-time strategy game from action game masters at Bitmap Brothers as being a very innovative title – and very funny to boot.
Z was advertised as “the first game in the combat strategy genre to feature an advanced artificial intelligence system that reacts to the player's moves in real-time, not to a pre-set mission strategy”. This means that the computer supposedly actually responds to the player's moves and changes its strategy accordingly. In reality, unfortunately, the game's AI is not that advanced, and often even makes silly mistakes. The game also contains some bugs, although none of which is game-stopping.
What sets Z apart from other C&C clones, though, is the great sense of humor that adds a lot of personality to the game. Featuring an army of crude cyborg soldiers, led by the order-barking Commander Zod, Z puts players on the front lines of a futuristic battle with an army of undisciplined, beer drinking robots with attitudes. You will dodge earth-shattering explosions, complete with shrapnel and flying debris, and forge through 20 levels of gameplay on five deadly planets while capturing the arms, factories and radar installations of your enemies.
Z includes a good number of multiplayer options, including serial or modem link, or with up to four players using the network-play feature. The single-player campaign is excellent, and features a lot of hilarious cutscenes and voices. Although the robots do not have distinct personalities as the mercenaries in Jagged Alliance do, they nevertheless are well-caricatured and always funny to watch in action. Overall, if you enjoy Cannon Fodder 2 or want a not-so-serious version of Command & Conquer, Z is a must-have. The game may not be the best real-time strategy game on the market, or the most challenging in terms of AI, but it's got more than enough personality and charm to keep you entertained. Recommended!
This review has been taken from the original Home of the Underdogs (http://www.the-underdogs.info)
Review by Tapuak (2001-02-19)
Is it just a cheap “Command&Conquer” clone or a game with new ideas? Both is right because Z is obviously a part of the past wave of real-time strategy games but it is also far better than similar games.
The basic game concept should be clear: You control battle units which - unlike to turn-based strategy games - are moved across the battlefield simultaneously by both players. You get a little help by the computer as units are defending themselves when enemies enter their fire range.
The most obvious difference (luckily) between Z and similar games is the not so strict seriousness and the missing of an otherwise regular feature 'mining resources'. There´s also no background story.
In Z your goal in every mission is of course to defeat your opponent which means to conquer his fort or destroy it. The road to success on the other hand is somewhat different: The battlefield is parted into several sectors which are conquered by touching a flag. Control over a sector will mostly also give you possession of a factory which is in that sector and which will let you produce new units whereas the production speed depends on the number of sectors you´re in charge of. And keep in mind that whenever the enemy touches a flag just once the whole sector is back in his hands. So imperialistic expansionism (occupating sectors) and capitalism (control over production facilities) is required to win.
The units system is quite simplified: Basically there are just robots, vehicles and guns, but of course various types of each. Vehicles are getting better straightforward; from the jeep to the mobile rocket launcher their destruction power is ever increasing but they´re getting ever slower. The robots on the other hand have their special abilities (look into the manual for further details). Because of the longer production time of 'better' units the player always has to find a compromise between quality and quantity. The unit-producing factories are sorted by units (vehicle-/robot-factory) and by levels (of production capabilities) which slowly improve during the game and thus make new models available.
The 20 levels are divided into 5 surroundings (planets) with 4 levels each which apart from other graphics only bear minimal differences.
In which way these hard facts affect the fun is to everyone´s liking. For my part the relatively small number of units is - concerning the hectic gameplay - surely advantageous. Basically speed is more important than tactics. Luck is also a major factor in this game.
But you can´t deny that Z is well suited for beginners because you can start instantly without having to work your way into it. Unlike in other games of this genre the player has to deal with some kind of 'artificial intelligence' which tries to react intuitively to different situations and not to fall into certain routines of placing units always the same way. Besides that the graphics and also the interface are very convincing. Saving is possible at any time.
A negative aspect is the lack of options. Instead of just a gamma setup other options would have been desirable. Also the concept of sectors has one downside: It´s almost impossible to turn the tide when one side owns a majority of them for some time because the doubled advantage - more facilities and faster production speed - will make one´s superiority unsurmountable.
All in all a puristic game without unnecessary gimmicks - very well made indeed!