I’m pretty sure that Generation Zero was one of those games that nobody was expecting, and that nobody was asking for. With that said, I must admit that I was rather enthusiastic when I learned that Avalanche Studios was working on a co-op focused first-person shooter. Nevertheless, now that I’ve finally spent a good amount of time with it, I can say that the game did not live up to my expectations.
Generation Zero takes place in a 1980’s Sweden, where after a few days alone with your classmates on an island cut off from the world, you return to the mainland, only to find out that the entire population has gone missing and a machine invasion is underway. With no military training, alone (or with up to three other players), you set out to unravel the mystery behind the invasion and follow a trail of clues left by the evacuees.
While at its core the game is a first-person shooter, it doesn’t really play how you’d expect it to. Thanks to the focus on multiplayer, a lot of gameplay systems feel weird, or can even harm the solo experience. First of all, the world is open-ended. Even though there are quests that serve to guide you through the world, you can ignore them and explore on your own. If you open up the map and you see a house in the opposite direction of where the game is telling you to go, you can just go there and search it for any potential loot. However, the vast majority of times, there are no objective waypoints whatsoever, and you have to rely solely on notes from your journal.
Since there are not actually any other humans, besides other players, nor dialogue, the game delivers its story and unravels the mystery surrounding the plot through notes, letters, voice recordings, and whatnot. You can come across a note of someone letting people know where they stashed a weapon, and you can find it by following any clues the note might give you. Likewise, that’s also how the game’s quests work. Notes on your journal like, “Find X bunker” or “Locate Y” do not point you directly to their location, but they give you a general idea of where they might be located on the map. I’m pretty sure some people won’t like this system, and I think that’s perfectly reasonable, but I personally don’t dislike it, because I feel like it forces the player to explore the luscious Swedish landscape.
Generation Zero attempts to tie looting to its open world gameplay, but it seems that the way it’s implemented does more harm than good. Loot is scattered throughout the entire map, but it’s only found inside vehicles and buildings, generally inside small cases or backpacks. Now, even though loot is plentiful, I found it weird that you can just exit the game, load back in, and loot would have respawned on the world. As far as I can tell, loot is random, but this still allows you to get extra ammunition and health items, which in my opinion, you shouldn’t be able to farm. The only reason I can think of as to why this is the way it is the fact that it needs to accommodate any player that might jump into your game. However, since you can actually set your game to private, I don’t get it why you can’t have fixed loot. Also, if there’s one thing that I really don’t like about the game is its save system, which only lets you save when you get into a safe house, and these are few and far between. I understand if this was the case only in multiplayer, but why also apply this saving system to those that choose to play solo?
Like many open world games, Generation Zero also suffers from a lack of building diversity. While in some games this issue might not be so obvious, unfortunately here it’s easier to spot it due to their scarcity and predominance of woodlands. There are a lot of houses layouts that are reused, and you can see the same sheds, shacks, barns, all across the map. Maybe everyone just went to Ikea and bought a series of prefabricated buildings.
If in one end you have exploration as a core gameplay element of Generation Zero, on the other you have shooting, but also stealth. There are about at least a dozen different weapons, and each come with their different stats (damage, fire rate, range, etc.). From bolt action rifles to small handguns, submachine guns, assault rifles, and even a recoilless rifle, amongst a few others. They’re not particularly interesting on their own, they’re just conventional weapons that you’d expect from this time period. Nonetheless, shooting feels extremely satisfying, especially when you hit one of the fuel containers that power the enemy and it just explodes. The sound aspect also plays a huge role here, as the quality of sound design is also of high standard.
If you’re not someone who likes to go in guns blazing and instead prefers to approach the game at a slower pace, the game also allows you to do that, and it provides quite a few gadgets for you to slip by undetected, even by the largest enemies. Things such as flares and boomboxes can distract enemies or jam their targeting systems, which can serve to create an opening when you find yourself in a tricky spot. Likewise, thanks to the game’s dynamic weather system and day and night cycle, rainy times and the night are particularly great times for sneaking, as not only you’re harder to see but also to hear since the rain muffles your footsteps.
With that said, you’d expect that an army of machines, that managed to defeat the military, to have advanced tactics. Well, from my experience, it turns out to be quite the contrary. It’s pretty easy to cheese enemies, and they’ll usually stand away from you while shooting, which makes it so that you can just keep peeking in and out of cover. On top of that, apparently they can’t go indoors, so if you see a building, just run inside and you’ll be safe. On the other hand, I’ve run into some enemies trying to kill me when they were above me, on the surface, while I was inside a bunker. So I guess the machine’s AI has been upgraded with wallhacks now.
I also have to point out, and I’ve seen other people complaining about this as well, that mouse movement feels really weird, and this is coming from someone who mostly plays first-person shooters. While it took me a while to find a sensitivity setting that I could get along with, both for looking and aiming down sights, whenever you sprint, your mouse sensitivity is just the default value, which makes it really weird whenever you’re transitioning between walking and running. Likewise, aiming down a scope has a really low sensitivity for me, but there is no option to change scoped sensitivity in the game, so I either have to move my mouse around like a mad man whenever I want to snipe someone, or I have to change my mouse DPI settings on the fly.
While the game sure looks pretty and the soundtrack is nothing short of amazing, the game does feel like it was a game developed with a relatively small budget. If that wasn’t the case, I honestly can’t explain how some things just feel like they were stitched together without much thought put into them. The game gives this feeling that they just ran it through a checklist by adding things until it felt like it met a certain standard. Open world, shooting, looting, stealth, collectible storytelling elements (notes, audio tapes, etc.), gorgeous graphics, skill tree progression, and so on. I honestly think that the setting of this game has a lot of potential, but as it stands, the game fails to deliver a meaningful experience.
At the end of the day, and even though it pains me to say, Generation Zero just ends up being boring to play. This is mostly due to all the walking around that you’ll be doing, which really makes it feel like you’re actually playing another game that was published by Avalanche, theHunter: Call of the Wild, and the missions that only really provide tiny bits of story and do little in terms of worldbuilding.
I haven’t finished the game, and, at this point, I honestly don’t know if I will. Even though I’ve spent just over a dozen of hours with it, whenever I open the map and see the amount of ground that I’ve yet to cover on foot, it just puts me off immediately. If the game had any kind of vehicle, even a bike, playtime would be much shorter. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to seeing if Avalanche will stick with this game and improve it because if that’s the case, I sure as hell will be revisiting it.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Generation Zero Review
User Review( votes)
While the game sure looks pretty and the soundtrack is nothing short of amazing, the game does feel like it was a game developed with a relatively small budget.