Zero Gear is a cart combat multiplayer online party game. Its more than eight player racing, the maps have a variety of objectives such as three-on-three European and American football. There are battle modes such as using boxing gloves to knock other cars over the edge of a sumo ring into the abyss below. Other maps are skeeball and even a pachinko machine with your cars. Its a true party game for anyone that has seven other friends online with this budget game. The game does offer a four pack for the price of two, which is always incentive. If you have no friends, the real problem is that five years after its release, there is no one playing.
The game plays easy with an accelerator, a nitro boost, a mini jump for sharper turns. You can gain nitro by drafting behind other competitors or touching a floating dreidel. In fact almost touching it is good enough. The boost will put you at your top speed in an instant rather than slowly increasing speed or shooting you forward, so its just as useful to use the boost when you’ve got the minimum or maximum amount. In other words, just hold down that boost button. If you ever fall off a track or stray too far from the path, you can use a respawn button. There is optional full mouse camera support and even a free aim button so you can target another competitor.
Like all cart combat games you have weapons. In this case there are two buttons to use a weapon in front or behind you. Its shallow in term of weapon variety and you get them by driving through hovering boxes. There is a bubble shield, a boxing glove, a pink love robot that will follow and then hug on the nearest driver until it explodes. You can also get a mine to drop, and a tornado that will throw anyone caught in its winds. Ice blocks will freeze an enemy and send them gliding forward with no ability to turn. Even frozen in ice, their tires will spin, so that feels like an overlooked detail.
Perhaps the most context sensitive item to use is the spring that lets you jump. While the spring can be used to jump over things, I consider this to be more useful for doing backflips and barrel rolls to get more boost. When you’re in the air with any jump, you have full tilt control of your vehicle.
If you’re all alone you can play with bots, but victories feel hollow without a single player campaign or cup of any sort. You can setup quick matches and assign the fifteen events you want to play. With the quick matches its just you and three other bots playing the same even twice for whatever reason before you progress to the next map. You can always setup a more complex server, but it takes a bit longer.
In terms of customization, you have a lot to chose from. Your car, your gear, your helmet and your face wear. Everything is customization and adds a lot of silly character to the game to make you stand out from the pack online. You can be a hovering brain wearing a clown nose with blonde pig tails driving a boat car. A nice option is randomization, so you can end up with a pink squid wearing a moon helmet driving a bomb with spike tires. Speaking of spike tires, when you use them, you can tell if you let off the accelerator the tires stop completely even if you continue to move forward.
As for the tracks themselves, the races are all closed circuits with only two or three laps. The shortest course has eight laps, but it feels like a strict circle.The driving surfaces are needlessly wide so the focus is more on the weapons instead of the driving skill. Each course has a few ramps and jumps here and there. You’ll even go down a bumpy ski slope, a wavy slide and a water slide. Each course is bright and colorful. Its all very appealing to the eyes to make that quick fun joy ride feeling.
There’s a lot of creativity with the courses, a pool and water slide, driving on a billiard tapble that connects to an air hockey course. Even the standard race track circuit shows a lot of flair. The desert themed track has you racing outside and then through a crystal mine across wooden roads. The creativity and effort shows, but the thing that holds the design back in my eyes are the lack of hazards. There’s a dirt stadium that could use some slowing mud. These wide tracks just need something else on them like a shallow river. The water park has a lot of water, but it has no affect on you even if the water slide can rotate you backward as you go down..
Then there are quirky events such as the basketball, American and European football events that have you trying to score a goal with a gigantic sports ball. While I like the idea, the practice of it in Zero Gear is lacking, its dull and imprecise. Speaking of dull, nothing can trump the tag chase event in terms of boredom. The tag chase has a timer where only one person’s time increases. The one that fills their meter first wins the event. Well this takes forever, because everyone else’s meter goes down. To make things interesting, the mode will change where the one that is it will decrease in time, making a long mode even longer. These cars are so tiny on such an open wide map that its tough to tag anyone. If the person that’s it falls off the level, its up for grabs in the center again.
While a lot of the other events are fun and unique, they feel thrown together such as the pachinko and skeeball games. These are simple games based on points. You use your car to drive off a cliff or ramp and fall down into the pachinko or fly into the skeeball. The skeeball feels like skill, the pachinko feels like dumb luck. This is strictly filler content to flaunt as a frill.
There is controller support, just not in the menus. Default controls needed to be adjusted because some of the buttons were forgotten about. Even adjusting the controls, there is no menu button to adjust, so there’s no pause with a controller. In fact there is no pause, because an online game keeps going even with bots. Instead there’s a menu with no way to rebind the menu.
Zero Gear feels like it can benefit from from better events and a single player series of races against more intelligent opponents. There is something good here, but it needs to go deeper and bigger. More weapons, more races, more hazards. I’m sure it was fun when its multiplayer was still alive, but with such a small budget game, I wonder how alive it ever was. The game lives and dies on its multiplayer. Judging from the 25% of people with the first achievement, people went into the game, saw that its multiplayer only and went right back out.