‘Zero Tolerance’ was ahead of it’s time when I was a kid. I’d also like to point out that I was BEHIND the times when I was a kid. First person shooters just weren’t a thing for us console players. While my friends were playing ‘Doom’, ‘Quake’, and ‘Blood’ on their PCs, the rest of us had to play ‘Mortal Kombat 3’ to get our violence kick, and that one didn’t even have Scorpion in it!
While ‘Maximum Carnage’ was the first to suck me into the marketing, ‘Zero Tolerance’ came in a close second. I’m trying really hard to remember the TV spot since it had an impact on me (you all should know me and my memory by now), but I do remember it showing off the violence prominently. At the time, even Mortal Kombat was trying to downplay its violent content in it’s marketing, but ‘Zero Tolerance’ flat out gave zero fucks. The commercial for the game even showed off blood splattering against the wall and told us “don’t forget the ketchup”.
Obviously I HAD to play this game.
HERE’S WHAT I REMEMBER:
While I didn’t own ‘Doom’ when I was young, I certainly still played it. The concept of a first person shooter wasn’t a foreign concept and I still had my expectations. What I expected from ‘Zero Tolerance’ was that it would look just like the PC shooters with their colorful and robust sprites filling the entire screen. Did I get that?
I remember the actual game area taking up only a little more than a quarter of the screen with the rest being taken up by a map and…uh…
Okay, so I can’t remember what exactly took up the rest of the screen, but that’s not nearly as important as most of the other shit I’ve forgotten! I think maybe there’s a ‘Zero Tolerance’ logo constantly sitting there as if you forgot what game you were playing, but that doesn’t matter! I still remember the basics of the game!
You walked through corridors, went into rooms, and killed everything. That’s all. Maybe there was some other side objective in the later levels, but from what I remember playing, all you had to do to progress to the next level was kill everything on that floor and find the elevator. No keys, no characters to escort to open a door, no bullshit. Kill everything, get in elevator. That’s it.
In the beginning of the game, I remember shooting hundreds of people (I think it was around 60 per level, so the math checks out), and true to the commercial’s promise, “ketchup” was splattered everywhere. That might have been a selling point back then. Blood splattering onto the environment was practically unheard of. There was a sort of morbid glee that went through you when you blasted someone and saw their red matter sprayed on the wall behind them. Truth be told, there still it.
Eventually the enemies became weird crab beasts as well as other aliens and this is where I started to get bored. Not that the only thing keeping me interested was shooting the life juices out of human beings, it just happened to correlate with the eventual monotony. Floor after floor, shoot, shoot, shoot, elevator, cheesy music that lost its novelty after the first few levels, new floor, shoot, shoot, shoot. Occasionally this pattern is broken up by long stretches of exploring the level for the ONE enemy you didn’t kill. I remember having my fun, and I came back to this game multiple times, but in the end I always got bored and put it down.
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
I can certainly say with 100% accuracy that younger me had a lot more patience than older me. It’s not that ‘Zero Tolerance’ is bad, it’s just that it has quirks, and I don’t have the patience to make my own lunch (I’m on day 3 of eating instant mac n’ cheese and slim jims) let alone get used to the mechanics of a 23 year old FPS.
I want you to try something. Pick up something that throws off your center of mass. It could be a chair, a box full of nails, a baby, whatever, but pick it up and hold it straight out in front of you. Now try to turn quickly with it. Feel how the momentum makes it tough to start and end your movement quickly? That’s what the movement feels like.
I wasn’t expecting the speed of ‘Doom’, or the full control of modern shooters, but I was expecting something a little more fluid. As I mentioned above, movement doesn’t feel like walking as much as maneuvering. Because of this I found that I couldn’t simply walk into a room guns blazing. As you enter each area, every baddie rushes you and unloads everything they have into you. Keep in mind, there can be ten or more enemies in a room and since you move as gracefully as a drunk teenager trying to convince their parents that they “totally didn’t drink at that party”, I died in the first room.
There are five characters you can choose from, and once they’re dead, that’s it. I got three of them killed before I reached the second floor. Based on how poorly I played, you’d think that I never played a video game before, but I’d attest to my last dying breath that it’s just the learning curve. I spent the first part of my run hugging doorways and scanning for the suicidal, shotgun wielding space people since they were bound to the room and I could make a quick exit when I felt I was in danger/became a pussy. By the time I got to my last life/character, I had enough balls to run into a room and gun down a few baddies before retreating. Hell, I even dared to use the strafe button which involves grinding to a near halt when using! It got me killed, but I tried something different goddamn it!
‘Zero Tolerance’ isn’t a terrible game, but it’s a primitive one. I’ll go one step further and say that it was outdated when it came out. At the time it was trying to emulate a top tier experience on inefficient hardware. While I may not have noticed it back in the 90s, it’s become very obvious after so many years.
That being said, it’s still kinda fun to shoot a guy in the face and watch the 16 bit blood run down the wall.