Great, yet another post-apocalyptic game. Will it be zombies again, with people trying to survive in this new merciless world? Surprisingly not, this time it’s actually a robot uprising, not like Terminator though, the foe’s you’ll be up against generally consist of robotic dog-like devices as well as some much bigger ones. Generation Zero is the latest game from Avalanche Studios, the team behind Mad Max and the Just Cause Series, so I was expecting a lot from this game – unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations…
Set in 1980’s Sweden (interesting choice), the national defence robots which were put in place in order to protect the civilians have turned against them. What’s happening? Where’s everybody gone? Its up to you and up to 3 friends to find out. Returning from a boating trip, an explosion rocks your boat and causes you to capsize as the party are washed up on the local shore. Things aren’t the same as when you left though, you’re greeted by a very deserted landscape and the mystery of what’s occurred during your brief absence.
Generation Zero is a first-person co-op survival game. I like survival games, but I don’t really like being limited on what I can pick up to survive with though. Inventory management isn’t something I want to spend hours doing in games. In Fallout or Elder Scrolls, I’m always over encumbered as I refuse to ditch anything – this usually ends up with my protagonist taking a very slow walk to the nearest town. In Generation Zero, I found there was plenty of supplies to loot but I couldn’t carry very much. I guess this is technically a core component of a ‘survival game’, deciding what you really need and selecting what to drop, but I just felt having to constantly go through my inventory stopped the momentum of the game and impacted upon my experience.
However, Generation Zero is certainly a pretty game with the Swedish countryside being beautifully represented, it’s the nicest looking apocalyptic game I’ve ever seen as there is no radioactive waste or crumbling buildings here, just the odd car on fire -but it’s all a bit empty. Once you’ve been inside one house you’ll realise they’re nearly all exactly the same, which is quite lazy considering they are few and far between in the rolling landscapes.
While it’s nice to wander through a forest and take in all the details, it’s about as exciting as if you went for a country walk yourself, except you’ll probably see more people on your [irl] walk. You will come across the killer robots of course but they mainly seem to be located on the roads or around the buildings. I will say that the atmosphere is suitably creepy, I was actually kind of scared in the beginning when I was in a building surrounded by killing machines making screeching noises at me.
On my first play, I didn’t have a good weapon so decided to cut through the woods to stealthily avoid the robots; this resulted in me managing to walk miles without encountering anything. This worked well, as I was trying to avoid combat, but it meant I went right past where I was supposed to be going for the quest as it wasn’t marked on the map. I had to basically fast travel back to the original safe house and follow the road to find where I was supposed to be going. The map in Generation Zero is huge, but it’s a big open world of nothing. As I was cutting through the woods I was kind of hoping a zombie would attack me as it felt very much like the environments you’d see in The Walking Dead TV show. Not having the next destination marked upon the map meant I had to do lots of backtracking, which as you’d imagine, was very tiresome and pretty much wasting my time.
Being set in the 1980s, you can customise your protagonist with different apparel which you pick up along your journey to give them an 80’s vibe. The only clothing-styles I remember from the ’80s were shellsuits and those hyper colour global t-shirts that changed colour when you got warm, but I was just a kid, I don’t really miss the 80’s fashion though personally. Also, you will pick up cassette tapes, remember those? The things you had music on before CD’s, you know those round shiny disks we used before Spotify. These basically act as the collectables you can pick up, there are also answer machine messages you can listen to, but it’s more you have to read the subtitles because they’re in Swedish.
There’s a skill tree you can add skill points to in order to level up your character’s combat, support, survival and tech abilities. Levelling is slow so don’t expect to progress this too quickly. There are also emotes that you can use to communicate with other players if you are playing in co-op. The menus, in general, were fiddly to use with a controller and seemed a straight port from the PC, using your analogue sticks like a mouse which I didn’t like. This also made opening doors, when you were trying to make a quick escape to save your life, often harder than it should have been.
The combat in Generation Zero wasn’t great, the gun aiming wasn’t very precise leaving me wasting my precious ammo at times. There are plenty of items you can pick up to help distract the robots, such as bomb boxes to lure them away or explosive gas tanks to shoot when they are near the robots. While a good idea I didn’t find these items worked very well in practice and the robots were all too aware of your presence to really set up traps stealthy before engaging in combat. I found myself constantly stuck inside a house surrounded by machines trying to kill me and wasting ammo trying to take them out from the doorway, yet I then find more showing up from another direction. It was easier just to travel back to a safe house and continue from there most times.
Trophies are a good mix of missions and kill types, kill so many with this item or that, distract so many with this item etc; Along with some collectable specific ones. They encourage you to explore and use the different items available to you and not just rely on your guns all the time.
If you miss the ’80s then Generation Zero may be the game for you, personally though I thought it was an odd choice for this style of game. It truly was a beautiful looking game which has been dragged down by the poor gameplay. Maybe if the map was smaller and more condensed then it would have appealed to me more, as well as not being as tedious and boring with the vast open nothingness.
A game should make you excited to get home and play it, I had to force myself to pick it up and play for the sake of this review. Save your money and wait for it to be free on PSN Plus, which I’m sure it will be, and even then only play it out of mild curiosity as there are better games to spend your time on.
- - Beautifully detailed landscapes
- - A creepy almost scary atmosphere
- - A variety of items to distract robots instead of killing them
- - Plenty of apparel to create your 80’s styled player
- - Boring emptiness
- - Poor combat
- - Repetitive house design
- - Menu navigation designed for PC gamers