What we have here is a prime example of why console FPSs were considered inferior to PC FPSs for so long. After playing Zero Tolerance one time, one wonders why developers even tried to fit FPS games into 16-bit cartridges in the first place. Wait, I know: Money. With the hyped-up Doom reigning as the controversy king and therefore selling by the billions, Accolade figured the little people who couldn't afford PCs would want in on all the gore. It's a shame that this low-rent knock-off was all they could come up with, because the scheme really could have worked with a decent concept. At the very least, a decent concept would have let people forget about the Genesis's lack of technology to sufficiently handle the genre.
As far as FPSs go, Zero Tolerance was there for one purpose and one purpose only: To let Genesis owners brag about owning a gory gun game. It may have been there to get a few people hooked on the genre, but that's doubtful seeing as how many Zero Tolerance owners started cursing out the game the second they plugged in Goldeneye 007. And it may have been there to make Accolade a few extra dollars, but I'm not sure how well it sold.
Zero Tolerance was everything that everyone who hadn't played an FPS considered the genre to be. That's about all it was. A guy running (and I use that term loosely) through a series of endless corridors blowing the heads off anything and everything in sight. Accolade even managed to redefine that cliche. Apparently, a bunch of aliens have taken over your ship. The only thing they have on their minds is killing. So your supreme commander comes up with a plan to stop them that's as intricate and precise as a well-played game of Chess. Kill them first! Never mind the fact that there was no evidence of them wanting to kill you. Hm, he sounds like President Bush.
Ah, forget the story. It's an FPS, so just run outside and start blasting. Zero Tolerance gave you the choice of five different commandoes to storm the space station, the main headquarters and the sub-basement of the main headquarters. Each commando would have different abilities based on their areas of specialty, but those abilities are only outlined in the manuel. You had the expert marksman, the demolition expert, a medic and a pair of hand-to-hand fighters. Turns out that the only the medic had a different ability than everybody else, if you can call the extra mileage he got out of the medical kits an ability.
So it really doesn't matter who you choose. Take one of the hand-to-hand experts. It won't matter because every enemy goes down in a single shot, whether our heroes are holding weapons or not. Take the demolitions expert. Every mine, every grenade goes off under the same conditions and injures you if you happen to be standing in the explosion radius when it goes off. Take the marksman (markswoman for the shrill feminists). Lot of good she'll do ya without a lock-on targeting mode. Each character has different starting items, but that doesn't count for a whole lot since the average item lasts about five minutes.
Zero Tolerance seemingly wasn't content with just being another Doom rip-off. It had to go and insult not only Doom, but the entire FPS genre by actually putting a preset number of enemies in every level. While Zero Tolerance probably wasn't the first FPS to put a limited number of enemies in a level, it WAS the only one I can think of that added what is basically a kill-meter: As you killed the enemies on a floor, the number went down. Once it reached zero (what else?), you were free to find the elevator or staircase and go to the next level. Unfortuneatly, one thing that brings down the fun factor is the fact that no matter how thoroughly you check every room, corridor and maze (and taking in a million bullets in the process), there's almost always that one last straggler you forgot to take out. Since the straggler decided not to follow you, you now have to journey back through the level, which can be perilous in later levels because the aliens like to start fires in narrow places. Finally, you may find the guy in one of the first rooms you swept, and could have sworn he wasn't there the first time. Occaisionally, the programmers made the kill-meter even more of a pain by splitting up a level so that the only way to get to part of it was to go down a few floors and then back up via another staircase or elevator.
While every level has a number of enemies that you can kill, it seems that Accolade made killing everything a mere suggestion. This is another big mistake. Imagine going through a difficult level, killing all the bad guys and just barely surviving the onslaught. You're feeling pretty good about yourself, but you don't hear the tiny voice telling you that it's alright to move on. Nor do you feel like navigating all the twists and turns in the level to track him down. Well, if you decide to grab the next elevator down before taking out the straggler, no one's gonna stop you. So, even despite Accolade's efforts to make it look otherwise, Zero Tolerance is just another kill-everything-between-you-and-the-exit FPS. I promise you won't be penalized. You can run through the entire game this way. Just run to the exit, killing out of necessity, and destroying the boss at the end of whatever world you're in. No item or health deductions, no different endings for half-cocking it, just wipe out the head aliens and that's it. End of game.
Ah, the aliens, the aliens, the silly, weak little aliens. If you're making an FPS that pits you against a bunch of creatures that don't really exist, you're supposed to make them challenging. This is yet another crime on Accolade's part. The aliens in Zero Tolerance are about as dog-dumb as they could get. They come at you in droves, practically lining up just so you can gun them down. But the Genesis is a 16-bit console, let's remember, so we can forgive that little crime. The bigger crime here is a serious lack of variety-every enemy is either a human (?!), a human in a fancy red suit, a spider, a dog, a robot and on a couple of occasions I saw something that looked like a giant insect. But the biggest crime in enemy design is the fact that every enemy takes just one shot to go down. Except the three bosses and maybe a few aliens near the end (and those guys take two). So even if you find yourself out of ammo and reduced to using your fists, all it takes is for you to just get a little closer.
Since Zero Tolerance is an FPS, there are naturally lots of fun guns to choose from. But consider what I said in the last paragraph, and you'll realize that every weapon is nothing more than yet another way to creatively slaughter bad guys by the dozens. First, you do get a handgun and a shotgun to cover the typical genre weapons. And even then I use the word "typical" loosely because every weapon is basically a typical genre weapon. You have a rocket launcher, a flamethrower, some different lasers. One of the lasers is supposed to help you with aiming, but it doesn't work the way you probably think it would. The selection isn't actually bad, the problem here is that they all perform the same purpose, with the sole differences being only in range. And since you can only hold five items at a time, you may not have the ammo needed to finish up a killing spree. The items, on the other hand, do serve useful purposes. Among the items left by the alien legion are fire extinguishers, fire suits (for walking through the fires), bulletproof vests and night vision goggles. Most of these things are nice but wear off far sooner than they should. To use the fire extinguisher, you have to get too close to the flames for comfort, and the thing drains in rounds of ten. Flashlights barely make any difference. If you use the fire suit to walk through a narrow, fire-filled hall, you're not going back once it wears off because the game has the throwback syndrome-you get knocked back if you get hit.
The last real problem with Zero Tolerance is yet another password system that forgets the passwords it assigns to you.
The graphics are some of the worst the genre has ever produced. Forget looking ultra-pixelated when you get really close, these enemies are ultra-pixelated when their far away. The scenery is flat, uninspired and colorless. The enemies truly move in two dimensions-all you can see most of the time is the enemy rushing at you, rushing back and then rushing at you again. Sometimes an alien may switch its direction. Although the game does manage to produce two very nice backgrounds, one is a view of a planet in space and the other is the city you see when you look out the windows in a bulding. But that doesn't cancel out the biggest graphical errors: Less than half the screen is used to show the action, and the slowdown is horrible.
Given the poorness of the rest of the game, the audio department is fine by comparison. There's a tiny voice that informs you of whatever weapon you just picked up and if you cleared a level. The music is quiet and mood-settingly eerie, massaging the scenes and not trying to overwhelm you. You can hear your own footsteps, which also helps to set the mood. Every weapon and enemy has its own unique sound, and none of it is fuzzy.
Given the slowdown, the controls do just enough to get you by. You have a ire button, a switch item button, and a strafe button. The strafe button works poorly because the characters strfe slowly and don't turn fast enough. In a big shootout, this can be a big pain because getting hit knocks you back, and you'll die often as a very confused person. You can duck and jump, but those actions are delayed and useless when trying to dodge bullets.
Zero Tolerance was once a fine FPS for people new to the genre, but it paled in comparison to big brother Doom. It hasn't aged well, considering the vast playland of FPS games out there now, all of which would make better introductions than this thing. If you're still stuck with your 16-bit Genesis, Zero Tolerance won't even fill that void very well anymore, not if you know about Halo or Red Faction or Unreal Tournament. My advice would be to just skip it.