Zenless Zone Zero review

by on July 4, 2024
Reviewed On
Release Date

July 4, 2024


You could never accuse HoYoVerse of resting on its laurels. Having pretty much dominated the market in AAA Gacha titles with Genshin Impact, they could have just re-skinned that forever and probably still made a fortune from those who buy into that particular form of grindfest (like me, as it happens). But instead they first jumped genres for the turn-based JRPG-like Honkai Starrail, and have now jumped again for Zenless Zone Zero, an urban combat and social game that’s not a million miles from something like NEO: The World Ends With You in terms of structure.

Before we get too deep though, a disclaimer: having spent many, many hours with a review build of Zenless Zone Zero, there is a huge amount of “stuff” going on within this one. Fear ye not spoilers, as I’d need to understand it all to spoil it. It’s perhaps testament to the game itself that despite me not fully clicking with the story, I’ve still had more fun with ZZZ than perhaps any other game of this type this year so far. And this year has been pretty damn good up to now.

Zenless Zone Zero

Dissecting the story in the broadest chunks possible then, here’s what I do understand. Some time in the past, a cataclysmic event rocked the world of Zenless Zone Zero, leaving behind “Hollows”, spherical pocket dimensions that pop up in random places. Within these Hollows are Ethereals, hostile mutated creatures that stalk the ruined streets. But with Ethereals comes Ether, a highly valuable substance worth risking human lives for. Hollow Raiders, or Agents, dive into the Hollows, guided from the outside by gifted hackers called Proxies, who are linked empathically to the Raiders. If a human spends too long inside they will become corrupted by the Ether and turn into beats themselves. Therefore, deep dives are illegal, and regulated by the Hollow Investigation Association, a kind of interdimensional police force.

You play as one of two siblings, Belle and Wise, a pair of Proxies who live in New Eridu, one of the last remaining safe cities. Their front is the video store Random Play, which they run during the day as a cover for Phaethon, their secret Proxy business. It’s at this point in the review of most games that I’d say “Such and such is a game of two halves,” or something equally as trite. But the truth is that Zenless Zone Zero is about six different games-of-two-halves all rolled into one, sprinkled with sugar, baked on high, left to go cold, painted with rainbows and then launched into the sun on a rocket made of jelly and, I don’t know, noodles.

Zenless Zone Zero

The first of the two most prominent elements is exploring New Eridu as either Belle or Wise. The day is split into four segments: morning, afternoon, evening, and night. You can rest between these time periods to speed up the day, as there are different citizens abroad and events active at different times. Here you can visit places like the noodle shop and eat for buffs (though the buff translates from your Proxy to your team of Hollow Raiders via some kind of telepathic osmosis), drink coffee (also for buffs), visit the newsstand to buy a daily scratchcard from a cigar-chewing dog (I mean, of course), or head to the Modelling Shop and customise your Bangboo, which are little robots somewhere between Rabbids and Minions that act as companions and aides like Monster Hunter’s Palicoes.

The focus is on completing odd jobs for people, collecting HIA Commemorative Coins, and doing side quests that reward any of the frankly staggering number of different currencies. Multi-stage missions see you fast traveling around the city, or visiting the HIA club to partake in VR training simulations which allow you to promote your Agents, or just practice with them.

A currency called Master Tapes allows you to send out a Signal Search, which is this game’s version of the Gacha character system. They can be earned by performing deep dives into Hollow Zero, the most dangerous original Hollow that’s always monitored by the HIA. You can spend them singly or in a batch of ten, and they unlock either Agents from the weekly rotation or W-Engines. These are equippable items that offer buffs to an Agent’s attack, defence, crit, and element values. These can be further enhanced with up to 6 CDs, which convey further buffs and can be equipped as sets of 2 or 4 for additional bonuses. Quite how necessary they are or how much they really help depends on how seriously you’re going to take your time with the game, as combat seems particularly easy from the get-go.

Zenless Zone Zero

You’re brought Commissions by various means, most often through your secret agent-like liaisons Shepherd or Venus, or via Fairy, a rogue AI who attaches herself to Phaethon early on. Whether Story, Combat, or Exploration type, Commissions into the Hollows begin with selecting a squad of up to three Agents from your available roster. Initially you have only a trio to choose from: sawblade-wielding Anby, gun-toting AI construct Billy Kid, and Nicole Demara, who make up the Cunning Hares raiding squad. As you meet more Agents they’ll become available to unlock, and earning more of everything is straightforward enough, if grindy, but how the Gacha percentages work is difficult to say in the long term.

Either way, the Agents are a colourful, eclectic, and energetic bunch. Combat sees you hammering the basic attack in various combos that alter by Agent, until you’ve earned enough Zap to unleash a special attack or special “EX” attack, at which point you can combo directly into the other members of your squad, who you can also switch to at will whenever you choose to. Getting hit will let you trigger an Assist, which brings another Agent in to keep your combo going instantly.

There’s also a reactive dodge that you can perform twice before a short cooldown, and landing it perfectly slows the action for a second and builds Zap. It’s not complex, but it’s more than one-button mashing. I make no exaggeration here when I say that, despite the overall simplicity of it, combat in Zenless Zone Zero is the most fun I’ve had this year. It’s just an absolute frenetic joy, characterised by ridiculously over-the-top combos, flourishes, and explosions. It’s almost a shame there isn’t more of it.


While the amount of direct action has been increased significantly since the betas, a lot of each Deep Dive is still dedicated to the roguelite-adjacent Exploration. Here, you move your Bangboo across a grid made of TV screens to reach set goals like objectives and boss fights, unlocking currencies and secrets along the way. The longer you stay here, the more corruption you’ll develop, but I never came close to having to worry. This mode is much faster and more rewarding than it was during the betas, and I always enjoyed the simple process of unlocking stuff. Some missions mix it up by having you pursued by an Ethereal, or having to dodge trains in a weird, Matrix-like interpretation of the Hollow.

There are multiple different versions of the Hollow, some with breakable walls, some with switches you need to weigh down with blocks to activate different routes; some have NPCs in there who can offer you buffs or aid if you pay them or help them. It’s the single weirdest way to convey exploration when juxtaposed with the mayhemic action, and I don’t fully understand why it’s presented this way. It’s bizarre, and a little incongruous, but it also works really well, so go figure.

There are also daily and weekly events and bounties to earn Z-Merits, and a myriad of challenges, all of which reward you with multiple currencies. Investigator Logs and Records are used to level up Agents, while there are several other items used to enhance the W-Engine and its components. Some items seem to exist just to be exchanged for other items, which at least gives you easier ways to get the rare stuff – even if it does require some serious grinding.

Zenless Zone Zero

It’s hard to criticise the amount of content on offer in Zenless Zone Zero, though. Even the individual Agents come with their own mission lines and stories, which you can view and play by visiting the video archive in Random Play. Oh, and that’s another thing: you’ll earn and unlock more and more videotapes to add to the shelves of your store, which earn you Denny (cash) daily. You decide which to push in order to earn more money and sell VIP memberships. It’s another side activity in a cavalcade of side activities, but none feel overly intrusive and there are so many to juggle that it rarely gets boring.

Be aware though: there is a hell of a lot of dialogue in this action game. Characters converse on the street, before Commissions, after Commissions, before you go to bed, in the shops you visit, when they come to the store, on the phone, via text and email – and there’s an entire worldwide web analogy called the Inter-Knot, which you’ll need to earn levels in to advance the story, and can surf when you like to see news on in-game events, or explore the lore of the world.

From what I have seen of the later game, the story will be ongoing, added to with updates going forward that will likely introduce new Agents, items and enemies. Nearly everything can be repeated endlessly, allowing you to grind currencies in multiple ways through the endgame. It is, after all, designed to be a forever game – and you really have to give HoYoVerse their props for having three games like Genshin, Honkai, and Zenless pushing content and engagement at the same time.


Zenless Zone Zero is incredibly fun to play – which is as good a bottom line as any. HoYoVerse have already shown with their previous titles that you don’t have to spend money to get scores of hours out of them, and while I can’t confirm that this is the case with ZZZ, what I’ve seen feels steady and balanced. It’s not a game designed to push your skills to the limit, but it is a game designed to drain the hours from your day, and it will certainly do that. There are so many elements to it, so many quality-of-life additions right out the gate, and so much content that it feels unique and fresh. It’s also just ridiculously charming, from the gorgeous animations to the character design, dialogue and voice acting.

It will almost certainly confound newcomers to the genre, and the latter game is particularly grind-heavy. The story is totally bonkers, and those expecting a straight action game might be disheartened by just how much it seems to sometimes actively avoid action, but overall Zenless Zone Zero is just an incredibly good time bursting with things to do and places to see, presented with supreme confidence and verve by a developer that knows exactly what it’s doing.


Looks incredible in motion
Combat is simple but satisfying
Great characters


Story is a little hard to follow
Needs to be more challenging
Too much filler content at times

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Zenless Zone Zero is just an incredibly good time presented with supreme confidence and verve by a developer that knows exactly what its doing.