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Z (pronounced Zed) is a 1996 Real-Time Strategy game by Bitmap Brothers set in a galaxy far far away where a perpetual war is taking place between two different Interplanetary Empires of sentient biped Robots; the heroic red MegaCom Corporation and the dastardy blue TransGlobal Empires. We follow the story of Commander Zod and his two transport pilots Brad and Allan as they travel across 20 levels on five different worlds; blowing things up, knocking back rocket fuel and taking down names.

A Windows 95 version named Z95 was released soon after, to make the game more compatible with new operating systems. It also included 15 additional levels and some gameplay balance tweaks.

In 2001 a sequel was made; Z: Steel Soldiers which followed the story of Zod (now a lowly Captain) being in charge of one side of a neutral zone on a distant planet. Currently, the two forces are under a ceasefire and the possibility of a sense of more permanent peace is also certain. Zod, however, enters the neutral zone after his men having shot down an aircraft, on it, he finds a new secret weapon and uncovers a massive plot of the blues to wipe out major strategic red bases all at once during the peace talks.

An open-source Fan Remake of the original game called The Zod Engine, is also available.

In no way related to the 1969 French political film Z, but it's an easy mistake to make.

This game contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Area: Battlefields are littered with abandoned factories, vehicles and grenades. Also, the last world is a decaying industrial complex.
  • A.I. Breaker: Since stationary gun turrets continuously rotate clockwise, and the AI never manually orders them to lock on a target, a human player can simply station a tank just outside the enemy gun's range, wait for it to face the other direction, then attack and retreat before they turn around to return fire.
  • Artificial Brilliance:
    • The computer-controlled opponent in Z was considered challenging and impressive for its time. It doesn't merely follow a preset strategy, but adapts and reacts to the human player's actions.
    • In Z, if you leave the approach to your fort unguarded, the AI will sometimes try to sneak Snipers into your fort for a surprise victory. This is particularly dangerous since Snipers out-range the lower-tier fort defense guns.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • Partly an in-game mechanic in Z, as the five robot types are given varied levels of intelligence, which affects their behavior.
    • Special mention goes to the Tough robots, with the lowest intelligence rating of 3, that have little sense of self-preservance, and won't stop firing even if their target changes position.
    • Since robots try to grab flags and hardware on sight, they will ignore any surroundings and more often than not run straight into an enemy guard turret's line of fire.
    • Units will often attempt to avoid incoming fire by strafing, which could result in the unit deliberately moving into the path of an enemy missile and getting obliterated. This can be infuriating when trying to attack enemy artillery, as your units keep stalling or retreating, instead of just moving in for the kill.
    • Vehicles would sometimes get confused whether to use roads or just go straight towards their destination, and start rocking back and forth.
    • Cranes, when told to repair a bridge in front of them, would sometimes instead go around it and enter it from the other side.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Mobile Missile Launcher is heavily armored and has the most powerful weapon in the game, but it has a long production time and is very slow — even Toughs can outrun it. What's worse, its projectiles aren't particularly fast and can often be dodged by light vehicles. Some players prefer to stick with the more versatile Heavy Tanks instead, and leave the Mobile Missile Launchers for assaulting enemy forts, which is one thing they do excel at.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: They are a mid-tier unit that can carry one squad of robots (regardless of their number), giving them greater speed and armor while still allowing them to fire their weapons to full effect. Also, unlike other vehicle drivers, the robots cannot be sniped. They do have downsides, though: the robots will perish if the APC carrying them is destroyed — the player must eject them manually if they wish to avoid this — and an APC comes only with a single Grunt when built, meaning they need more micromanagment, as you need to eject the Grunt and replace him with other robots if you want the APC to be effective.
  • Balance Buff: Z95 buffed some units to make them more viable:
    • Grunts got increased intelligence.
    • Toughs have three robots per unit instead of just two, and much better movement speed.
    • Medium tanks got a slightly increased range.
    • The Howitzer got increased hit points.
    • The Missile Gun's rate of fire became far better.
  • Blood Knight: Zod, in the second game, laments on the upcoming peace treaty, since it means he and the boys will no longer be seeing action.
  • The Captain: Zod, in the second game.
  • Chromosome Casting: All the robots appear male. The only female presence in the game is the voice of the computer.
  • Color-Coded Armies: Red Vs Blue. The multi-player modes include additional colors.
  • Crippling Overspecialization:
    • Snipers are pretty much designed to shoot enemy drivers/gunners and capture their vehicle/gun. They will lose against any infantry except Grunts, and even that's a waste because Grunts are much quicker to build. Also, sending them unsupported against powerful vehicles will not work, as said vehicle will just demolish them before they get the chance to shoot it.
    • Jeeps are fast and quick to produce. Their role is to capture territories quickly and draw fire from more valuable units. When it comes to actual fighting, though, they're very weak, as they will generally lose to just about every other unit except Grunts.
    • Grunts are even weaker than Jeeps, and their only real strength is that they're quick to produce and can wade through water, making them great for quickly capturing territory and equipment but nothing else. They are practically useless in combat against anything except other Grunts.
    • Gatlings are only good for defending against early rushes by Grunts, Psychos or Jeeps, and are pretty much useless otherwise because they are fragile, ineffective against armour, and are immobile yet have a short range.
    • Cranes can only repair bridges and maybe serve as a distraction. They move slowly and have no weapon at all.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Mostly played straight, although heavily damaged vehicles move and fire slower, and factories will have an increased production time.
  • Damage Is Fire: Damage on buildings is represented by small fires and plumes of smoke.
  • Dodge the Bullet: Cannon projectiles and thrown grenades are so slow that a properly maneuvered jeep can evade them for enough time to shoot the enemy or tank driver with faster, low-caliber bullets. AI takes advantage of this. Similarly, missiles and howitzer shells are so slow that even Light Tanks can evade them.
  • Easy Level Trick: A well-known one in Level 15 - Swamp Fever. The player and CPU forts are very close together, only separated by a short, destroyed bridge. The strategy is to wait for all enemies to leave the perimeter of their fort, bring in a construction crane to fix the bridge, and rush all your units in.
  • Enemy Exchange Program:
    • This is a major component seeing that you have to capture territory to gain additional factories to create your robots. Slightly annoying as the clock doesn't reset when the territory has been captured; meaning that heavy tank that took 5 mins to build and was just about to be completed before you lost the territory is now in the enemy's hands. You can use this against them too, setting the factory to build the weakest unit just before losing it. Probably justified because they are robots, all they need is slightly different programming to switch sides.
    • Z: Steel Soldiers has an early level where plot-wise you're attempting to build up your forces and technology (as command hasn't sanctioned your actions) by using a hacker to take control over a small enemy base before assaulting the larger one. In general gameplay, the hacker can be useful but they're weak and easily destroyed by gun emplacements.
  • Flash of Pain: Any unit taking a hit will flash white briefly.
  • Geo Effects: Water allows infantry to pass (if lucky enough to not get eaten by a crocodile or sewer monster), vehicles need a bridge, which can be damaged (and repaired with a crane). Rocks and ice walls can be blown up.
  • Luck-Based Mission: The gameplay in Z has many unpredictable factors, and two battles rarely play the same.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Mobile Missile Launcher has the most powerful weapon in the game and very thick armour, but is slow-moving and slow to produce.
  • Nerf: Z95 reduced the hit points of the Heavy tank and especially of the Mobile Missile Launcher.
  • Non-Fatal Explosions: Averted in that exploding tanks sometimes shoot their turrets into the air. A falling turret can destroy another tank, which can lead to chain reactions.
  • Not Playing Fair With Resources: In the original game:
    • Whenever a computer player captures a factory, the second unit produced there will be ready much quicker than normal. A skilled human player can use this to his advantage, though - let the computer player build a unit, then capture the territory before the second unit is complete.
    • The computer player also starts with slightly more units as the player progresses in the single player campaign (this can make a big difference, as it allows it to capture more territories at the beginning).
    • From the second planet on, the computer player will begin each level with significantly stronger fort guns, presumably to help defend against early game rushes.
  • One-Letter Title: Self-explanatory. The game is sometimes referred to as Commander Zod for clarity.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: If you fail the mission by losing your territories and letting the enemy destroy your base, your entire army insults you and blames you for these reasons.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: They walk, they talk, they get drunk on rocket fuel. Oh and they also use computers with keyboards and drive around in tanks.
  • Robot Soldier: All your infantry are robots.
  • Single-Biome Planet: The game spans five planets, each having only one terrain type: Desert, Volcanic, Arctic, Jungle, or City.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: This is how you win the game. Either you bombard the opponent's fort from outside with grenades, shells and missiles, or you send a single unit inside it. Anyway, it blows up spectacularly, sending debris everywhere (which will damage anything they land on). Factories and bridges can also be blown up if you bombard them long enough.
  • Updated Re-release: The game and its sequel eventually saw ports to the portable market in 2011, 2014, and 2015, with a new difficulty setting and hints and tips at loading screens, which themselves got ported back to the PC.
  • Variable Mix: Music is more intense during combat and even more so when combat happens close to headquarters.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Averted in Z, where factories do not need supplies, only time (which decreases when you conquer more territory). Steel Soldiers switched to using credits, which are similarly earned by conquering more territory.

Alternative Title(s): Z Steel Soldiers