Zero Killed describes itself as a tactical shooter. Problem is there are rarely enough players on at any time to test tactics or have much to shoot. The early reality for Zero Killed is simply this, it's really hard to get a game going. At this point in it's lifecycle, you are probably not going to be able to just jump on whenever you like and play a few rounds. Thankfully, Zero Killed also has a relatively active Discord channel with devs very actively involved putting together Play Sessions. You can find the Discord link from the bottom of the official site and then head over to #announcements to see the next Play Sessions.
Once you do get in, what do you get? Well right now things are a bit basic. It's multiplayer only (a problem when no one's on). There is no tutorial (less of a problem when you can still jump solo into matches and use that time as your tutorial). There is no single-player option (nor concrete plans for one that I know of). There are no AI Bots (but there are plans to release them soon). There is no in-game voice chat (which is kinda critical to the tactical success the game strives for, devs say coming back soon).
There are 4 game modes across 3 game maps under the single umbrella of tactical online multiplayer. I'm ok with that if that's going to continue to be the case moving forward, but in that case those modes and maps need to be tight and polished. The maps seem pretty good. They are large, maybe even too large for 4v4. They sprawl both horizontally and vertically with so many corridors and doorways and so much cover. My worry here is that there is too much hunting and searching for something to shoot and not enough of the actual shooting.
The one thing the game does really well at this point though, is provide some real variety in the loadouts. When you enter a match you have your choice of 10 characters to pick. They range from Ghost - the sniper, to Big Foot - the heavy, to all rounders like Ox. Each has a different choice of weapon loadouts and special abilities. Everything is unlocked for them in Early Access but the full game promises to take some of the items off the utility belt and make players level up to obtain it.
Speaking of the utility belt, let's actually look at the game play. The first thing that stands out is the guns. Because when you load in your primary will be right there in your hand. It has a nice look and sound when firing off rounds, but as mentioned elsewhere the handling can get a little floaty. I'm OK with the weapons. I like the reloading mechanic. You have to grab a new clip and slide it in. No cocking or bolt loading required. Some complain about this but I've had more issues with games trying to implement that second level of immersion and getting it wrong than satisfaction from folks getting it right. Give me the shallow end of immersion with managing clips but don't bog me down in the minutiae of a VR world that doesn't actually provide any tactile feedback anyway.
But back to that utility belt, man is that thing busy. There is way too much going on in the waist area. Primaries and secondaries sit side by side and the difference between holstering and straight dropping your gun on the floor was way to hit and miss for my liking. not to mention your knife, grenades, ammo pouch for new clips, special abilities, and guns were all to mashed together. Tactical shooter is right because you have to have a detailed plan just to swap out weapons. Really ought to think about moving some things around. Maybe move grenades to the chest or slide the knife around to the rear, but at present very little save the ammo pouch is easy to reach for.
Next, let's talk about movement. All locomotion is mapped to the left controller's d-pad. No teleporting here because how could you in a multiplayer game? I'm not sure what my deal is personally, but I still don't fully have my VR legs. However, either Zero Killed was a little easier on the old inner ear, or I'm getting better because after some initial wooziness I found the game movement to be pretty light on my general disposition. At no point did I have to lay down and hope the room would stop spinning. So big thumbs up there. I also tended to creep more than run, so maybe that had something to do with it. I found movement to be largely responsive. Easy to delineate between a slow plod forward which muffles footsteps and an all out dash which really reverberates what must be the steel toes boots my character was sporting across the metal grates that compose every seeming inch of the game world. Of course that world is made up of more than just grates but it opens a real opportunity for tactical enhancements to this tactical shooter: let the actual composition of the terrain underfoot be an additional factor in the amount of sound a player in motion makes, not just their speed of travel. At the moment concrete, metal, any type of flooring seems to produce the exact same sounds.
Ultimately this game is early access with some way to go. While the mechanics of the gameplay are largely there, the pieces that actually tie it all together (communication, purpose, variety, ummm other players) largely aren't. The developers do seem to be extremely engaged via that Discord chat and it's actually a great way to get involved on the ground floor, however there needs to be either those Bots implemented or a player base installed before I could actually recommend diving in. And that's a real chicken and egg problem. With no other modes than online multiplayer there needs to be people to play against. But until there are people to play against there is no reason to jump in and give it a try. There's a joke somewhere about the title itself, Zero Killed, and the fact that the servers (or server, probably) are most often empty, but I'll let you make that one.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
First picked up a game controller when my mother bought an Atari 2600 for my brother and I one fateful Christmas.
Now I'm a Software Developer in my day job who is happy to be a part of the Gaming Nexus team so I can have at least a flimsy excuse for my wife as to why I need to get those 15 more minutes of game time in...