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There's no need to worry about Star Fox Zero's strange controls

Video and impressions of Platinum's latest.

The Star Fox series has its own particular catchphrase, of course, but there's another line that's lingered with me a little longer. You'll know it, I'm sure; the crudely digitised bass bark of General Pepper as you shoot out into Corneria for the first time, full of hope, excitement and, if you're an 11-year-old just back from a Rumbelows in Chesham with a box-fresh SNES hastily plugged into your CRT, pure wide-eyed wonder at this dazzling new world of wireframes and polygons. 'Good luck!'

Star Fox Zero, Platinum's Wii U entry into Nintendo's series, may have lost some of the wide-eyed wonder of the new, but it leans so heavily on older entries that it's hard not to be whisked back to that more innocent time. You'll hear an all-new fully voiced take on General Pepper before each mission, barking out from the GamePad, and at the very outset that scratchy old sample is played out to brilliant effect (quite naturally you're also told to do a barrel roll early on in Star Fox Zero's tutorial mission).

This is an achingly familiar retread of what's gone before, then, but that's not to say it isn't peppered with its own sense of invention. Star Fox Zero's announcement came at a time when Nintendo placed fresh emphasis on the Wii U's GamePad, first with an early concept of this particular game as well as a series of Miyamoto's own experimental sketches (one of which finds its way to the Wii U alongside Star Fox Zero as an additional bonus or a standalone download).

You get the sense that Star Fox Zero's delay comes in part due to some reluctance around those controls, or at least a determination to get them right. They're firmly in the centre of the final version of Star Fox Zero, and are very much non-optional. What's great about them, though, is how quickly they fade into the background, and how quickly this strange control scheme becomes second nature.

The main screen shows you the traditional third-person view, where you can move your Arwing (or Walker, Gyrowing and Landmaster - there's a healthy amount of variety in Star Fox Zero's line-up) through levels that branch out across a lush star map. The GamePad, meanwhile, affords you a look through the cockpit of each vehicle, the gyro sensors allowing you to move the reticule across your field of view in order to take down enemies.

It's a neatly supple approach to the on-rails shooter, and there's a neat divide between the main screen that you use for manoeuvring and the GamePad that's called into play for more precision shooting. Perhaps it's all those hours spent playing Splatoon that have helped sell this particular brand of motion controls to me, but the accuracy you're afforded comes in pretty handy when you're negotiating the trickier levels Zero throws your way- this is a much more frenetic, more action-packed take on the Star Fox formula, as you might expect from Platinum Games.

What could have been a tangle works surprisingly well, and Star Fox Zero even has time to enjoy splintering its control method out in an enjoyable fashion. There's a co-op mode in which one player takes control of the vehicle while another takes the GamePad and takes point on the shooting. It's a slightly delirious solution that works brilliantly well - chalk it up as another knockabout multiplayer gem on the Wii U.

Is Star Fox Zero among the console's very best? I'm not too sure just yet, and there's a certain lack of consistency when it comes to the quality of the levels (some are spectacular, some sparse and some a little stupid - one extended stealth section in particular feels like it could benefit from a little longer in the oven). It's far from a disaster, though, and after a short delay it feels as if Star Fox Zero could have been worth the wait, especially for those with any affinity with the old classics.

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Martin Robinson avatar

Martin Robinson

Editor-in-chief

Martin is Eurogamer's editor-in-chief. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.

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