Generation Zero is the latest offering from the developers at Avalanche Studios. It is a first-person co-op shooter developed for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Generation Zero released on the 26th of March, 2019. Avalanche Studios has had a pretty solid track record in terms of making fun open world games. Mad Max and the Just Cause series are among the titles Avalanche Studios is known for making. Let’s get on our rad clothes, break out the boombox and check out the bogus events following a weekend campout with friends.
I have been looking forward to getting my hands on Generation Zero since I first heard about it. I mean come on, Robots? The 80’s? Scavenging for weapons to survive? That sounds pretty awesome, right? In theory, yes, that sounds awesome. In practice, however, it’s slightly less than awesome. You and your friends (If you have any friends who bought the game) have gone to the Swedish archipelago for a weekend of fun. Upon returning, your boat gets attacked by a flying explosive device, and you start on the shore uninjured. The first thing to do is to search the nearby houses for a weapon with which to arm yourself. Once you’ve found something to use, the next goal is to try and find survivors.
The whole game follows a fairly repetitive loop of being told to go to a place because there might be survivors there, but there never is, and you follow the bread crumb trail trying to find anyone. If you leave the beaten path, you can find places like naval bunkers and farms, usually with weapons hidden away. Between the areas shown on the map, there isn’t much going on aside from trees. It was pretty much travelling on foot from location to location, then search for items to use against the robots. That’s not to say that the encounters aren’t tricky or fun, it’s just unfortunate that as long as you’re carrying one of the entirely too numerous adrenaline shots, you can keep reviving yourself, which seems to trivialise encounters.
The inventory system in Generation Zero needs a bit of tweaking. Picking up items that are on the quick bar, like bandages, doesn’t automatically sort them into the same stack. You have to manually go into your inventory and drag the new ones onto the stack already on the quick bar. There were also far too many clothing items to collect, some of them with stats boosts and some without. This led to my character looks incredibly ridiculous.
One thing I thought was pretty interesting was the whole system of item condition. In the beginning, the weapons and attachments you find are all in “Dilapidated” condition, making them less accurate. Each gun type has multiple ammunitions available for it, such as FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) and AP (Armor Piercing) rounds. As you progress through the game, you see increasingly better condition weapons, increasing the accuracy and damage they do. You are awarded XP for a lot of different actions in the game. These experience points level you up and allows you to unlock skills such as lockpicking or increasing inventory, along with a plethora of passive bonuses. Generation Zero was designed with cooperative play in mind, as there seems to be a vast amount of items to pick up that my inventory couldn’t contain.
Generation Zero is a pretty atmospheric game to look at. The colour palette is mostly greens and browns, giving you that real-world backwoods feeling. I had it running smoothly at 60FPS on my GTX970 using high settings at 1080p. There’s a charming filter post-processing effect rendered that gives the game a more atmospheric feeling to it. It gives you the impression like you’re playing an old 80’s movie. The textures look good, but I noticed pretty quickly a lot of reused assets seemingly copied and pasted around the world. From what I understand this is fairly spot on for what Swedish house design was in the ’80s, especially in the rural areas.
There are plenty of options to fiddle around with in the settings, most importantly the option to turn off motion blur. The number of options available make it so that the game can be tweaked to run well on most computers.
The sound design in Generation Zero seems relatively simplistic. Ambient electronic music adds to the atmosphere when you’re wandering around. On the other hand, once you get noticed by a robot, the music picks up and creates tension. The sounds the robots themselves make are all somewhat similar to each other. Guns do the typical magazine getting low noise when you’re low on bullets. Shotguns sound beefy and powerful, whereas the pistols sound more like pea shooters. The directional audio worked relatively well in that when I was in a building I could hear the robots patrolling just on the other side of the wall.
Generation Zero feels like there won’t be much replayability to it. It’s fun to play for a while, until you learn the formula and notice the repetition. Running guerilla tactics as a single person is very tough, and often gets you blown up. I could see spending about 30 hours or so playing it, but with only one game mode and not that many different ways to tackle a situation, I can see the gameplay getting a bit stale on a second playthrough. The saving grace is being able to kick some robo-butts with your friends.
Generation Zero could have been a much better game than it actually is. I feel like it’s almost too simple to just collect ammunition and medpacks. If they had added some sort of hunger system or survival mechanics I would have had a much more enjoyable time. Randomizing item placement in the world would have been a plus aswell. The world seems to be static for the most part. I also encountered a handful of crashes while playing that seemingly reset some of my progress, but those can and will probably be patched quickly.
To sum up, gameplay was fun for a few hours, but once I put it down I had a hard time wanting to go back to it. It’s nice to look at albeit a bit drab in the color department. The style of music Avalanche has chosen to go with is something that appeals to me. So Generation Zero has pros and cons to it, and it has a lot of potential if they add some DLC down the road. For all of this I’m going to award a Thumb Culture Silver Award. Hope for some cheaply priced DLC down the road, and the game to go on sale for some friends to pick it up.