Gaming

Zero Tolerance Collection Overview (Switch Online Store)

Shot on Nintendo Switch (handheld/without dock)

Thanks to raycasting, an early form of graphics processing that allowed a 2D map to be rendered as a pseudo-3D environment, Zero tolerancea real first-person shooter, appeared on the Sega Mega Drive in 1994.

What makes the Zero Tolerance Collection significant, especially for fans of the original, is that it boasts additional lore elements: an unreleased sequel, Zero tolerance undergroundand the name of the prototype Beyond Zero Tolerance. As it turns out, Zero Tolerance Underground is being falsely advertised and not a true sequel at all. Its nine stages (as opposed to the original game’s 40) were actually designed as bonus features for the Mega CD port of Zero Tolerance, which never saw the light of day. Beyond Zero Tolerance, an unfinished prototype meant to be a true sequel, would have been more compelling if it hadn’t already been officially released online as free software.

Zero Tolerance is a sci-fi first-person shooter where a team of five Marines infiltrate Planet Defense Corporation to rid it of invading soldiers and aliens. Each of your squad has a number of abilities, some of which are better at shooting, others are better at handling explosives and tracking down enemies. When one Marine dies right away, they disappear forever, which leads to some strategy in how you try to complete the game. Keeping characters with firearms skills for the hordes towards the end is probably a brilliant move, in our estimation, although you could just as strategically place mines in the center of the crowd.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (handheld/without dock)

The action takes up a third of the screen, but it is quite possible to play even in portable mode; while the new screen filters do their best to sharpen or smooth images with a lot of pixels, with varying degrees of success. The CRT option eschews traditional RGB scanlines for a curved display that mimics ancient RF connections: noise interference, wavy lines, and muted colors. It’s stylish content nostalgia, but we love it.

For its time, the detail of Zero Tolerance was impressive. The goal is simple: travel from floor to floor and destroy everything that moves. There are no keycards or items to collect other than ample medkits and ammo, but you do need to figure out your route through the grid, clearing rooms in sequence and using the map view on the pause screen as a guide. The number of enemies left is displayed on the HUD to help you track down the remnants, as well as equipment slots and a useful mini-tracker that displays incoming enemies.

Interestingly, you don’t have to clear each floor if you don’t want to, but neglecting your duties robs you of the password that allows you to return to the progress point. This is mitigated a bit by the new quick save feature, but not entirely, as loading the game doesn’t bring back those members of your team that have previously died.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (pinned)

Moving freely in elevators and up and down stairwells was something special for the Mega Drive, as were the various effects created by the flashlight and night vision goggles. Weapons are also a good mix, including everything from pistols and uzis to flamethrowers and pulse lasers. The Shotgun is a reliable standard with excellent range, furiously blowing enemies apart and splattering their brains against nearby walls with a well-placed touch. Surprisingly, all the corpses remain in place for the duration of the action, helping to visually mark the areas that you previously visited.

While Zero Tolerance was once an impressive technical achievement, unfortunately it hasn’t aged so well. The controls are cumbersome, with your turn starting out slow and then speeding up – sometimes too fast – requiring you to take precise shots in the middle of your heel rotation. The weapons make up for it with increased range, the shotgun is especially good, but the enemy AI just rushes at you blindly and every time you get hit you get disoriented.

You can only hold five items at a time, meaning that one must be used up if you want to collect anything else; and some tools, like night vision, reduce already slow framerates as much as a room full of enemies. While the graphics have a sci-fi feel and the smart panorama windows are often too dark to see anything, it requires constant switching to the map to pinpoint your position. It’s much easier to see in well lit areas like the engineering level, but since every wall has virtually the same pattern, it’s rarely easy to get your bearings. The music only changes three times for each of the game’s three chapters and is a woefully bad, boring series of rare, cool beats and metallic clanks.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (handheld/without dock)

Even for those who have fond memories of him, Zero Tolerance tries to connect with today. Getting your team through three chapters is no small feat, and surviving boredom that lasts a whopping ten hours is arguably the biggest challenge. While seek and destroy is a fun premise, once you’ve killed a few floors, it becomes an excruciatingly repetitive chore. With the number of enemies in the last chapter’s alien-infested basement regularly at 99, getting through it takes more patience than most will want to muster.

Zero Tolerance Underground, the “sequel”, pleasantly surprises the first few minutes: smoother, visually sharper and with more precise controls. But with only nine stages, it is the complete opposite of the original’s weighty request, and several times more difficult in terms of survival. It has some nice graphical enhancements, including a moving subway train and ads pasted on the walls, but it’s a sleeker reskin than the sequel and doesn’t go beyond the basic routines of the original.

After unlocking Beyond Zero Tolerance, you’ll receive a prototype set in the alien scourge’s home world. Existing fans have no doubt gotten the ROM and already played it, but for everyone else, it’s essentially the same in an unfinished but playable state – with more aliens.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (pinned)

The most annoying aspect of the Zero Tolerance Collection is not so much the games themselves, which are products of their time, but the lack of effort on the part of publishers Qubyte Interactive and Piko Games. The selection screen is lifeless, the new options are frustratingly simple. We didn’t even realize that strafe was possible until we were lucky enough to hold down a button dedicated to jumping, crouching and interacting. For inexplicable reasons, it’s not marked as “strafe” on the controller remapping screen, and even then it’s terribly difficult to use. Our first thought was to remap the strafe to the shoulder buttons, but you can’t, and there’s no way to use dual counterparts anywhere. To make matters worse, Zero Tolerance Underground uses shoulder-button firing by default – so why not allow that option elsewhere?

In addition, the original Mega Drive was a pioneer in allowing co-op play through a patch cable, two cars, and two televisions. This is an important game-enhancing feature that should be present in some form locally or online, but is nowhere to be found.

Conclusion

The Zero Tolerance Collection, once a technical marvel, is now outdated. Fans who live to relive the days gone by can enjoy diving into the Planetary Defense Corps facility, and the new set of underground levels is a nice, albeit limited, added bonus. But tweaks that provide updated graphics, improved frame rates, soundtracks, and true button remapping would be very reassuring to both existing fans and newcomers alike. Whatever the case, this collection is basically just a bunch of ROMs tossed into a lackluster zip file with a frustrating level of effortlessness.




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