Thursday, 02 May 2019 18:48

Generation Zero Review

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Edited by: John Gerritzen

The post-apocalyptic genre is tricky. It is infinitely interesting, and there are probably more games than a single person could even play if they only played that single genre. What is usually missing is originality; all too often it is replaced by a single unique mechanic or an overreliance on multiplayer to drive enjoyment. From time to time, something like Horizon Zero Dawn comes along that changes the genre slightly and is met with overwhelming positivity, but generally speaking it is a genre filled with retreads.


Enter Generation Zero, the new title released recently by Avalanche Studios, which undeniably sets an entirely different stage for what playing post-apocalyptic games can look like. Set in Sweden in the 80s, the game creates an alternate world where machines have taken over the countryside and your job as an angsty teen archetype is to survive and presumably find out what happened. Those familiar with Avalanche Studios know that the developer has experience with storytelling without taking away from gameplay — just ask Just Cause fans — so there is certainly reason for excitement. Like much of anything from the 80s though, the sheen wears off after not too long at all, and you are left wondering why you were so excited in the first place.


Getting off the ferry after a small vacation to see overturned cars and a bloodied house on a foggy evening in a small town immediately thrusts the player into a chilling and atmospheric experience. Artistically speaking, Generation Zero is beautiful; there is obvious care put into the details for the aesthetic of the game. The landscape is sprawling and the the buildings that you find yourself scavenging through are well designed and don’t feel like they are too sparse at all. Scouting out locations with the binoculars to try and take out small bands of robots led to more than one occasion of admiration as the light crested over a hill or behind a building, framing it beautifully. There are a few moments when you realize the scene you are witnessing is one you have seen before, due to reused elements, but there is no reason every building has to be entirely unique, right?

Outside of the environment, the UI is minimalistic and intuitive, which made it easy to forget that I was carrying a gun and hoping that another mechanical horror wasn’t waiting around a corner to ambush me. In so many other games the UI or inventory becomes just as big a part of the game as the game itself. Generation Zero does a good job keeping you from thinking about it in tense moments by minimizing the clutter. The feel is similar, with the guns feeling weighty and balanced when firing, while also responding as a real gun would when trying to fire and run simultaneously.


As you work your way through the environment to track down clues as to what caused the apocalypse, the sole purpose of your movement seems to be trying to find literally anything other than just another building/bunker/church with twelve backpacks in it, or to evade/attack another group of robots. Speaking of those robots, those details mentioned before are doubly impressive when talking about the design of the robots. Engaging the early robots isn’t that much of a chore, but once you move onto the larger of the pack, planning on how to best attack them becomes critical. The fact that these large robots are designed with armor that can be shot off doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fuel cell tucked beneath said armor. More than one encounter would’ve been easier had that been noticeable earlier.


Unfortunately for Generation Zero, many of the details put into the robots and the feel of the gunplay is marred by a somewhat buggy experience. At times, you can walk right next to the robots without them noticing, but just as frequently they will notice the slightest movement from five hundred yards away. This can be used as an advantage of course, if you have a boombox or flare that you can use as a distraction, but it certainly throws a wrench in the aforementioned planning when it happens. When actually engaging you, one robot quickly turns into five, and they will not stop once they have you surrounded, whether you run into a building or not. On more than one occasion, safety seemed assured while hiding inside, only to get shot from a window, or jumped on through a wall. Additionally, even the most well-executed ambush often brings attention from otherwise unengaged robots, leading to longer fights that weren’t actually planned at all.


There is not a lot of story to drive you forward outside of notes or storyline trigger events. Although this is in line with the overall minimalistic tone of the title, and maybe Sweden overall, it did leave an emptiness to the experience. This changed somewhat slightly when playing the multiplayer component, but overall that was relatively barebones. Although enjoyable, a lack of a character progression model made playing with random people a bit more of a chore than a good time. Snagging two to three close friends and playing through the game simultaneously would be a good time, but much of the magic that exists in this title seems to fall outside of the buggy battles, in the moments of solitude and planning.


The Verdict: Good

When coupled with the mellow techno-centric musical score, it is easy to love Generation Zero for all of the little things that it does well. It is a title that should be worked through slowly, with intention, to get the most out of it. When isolating the things it does well, it is possible to forget the things it doesn’t, and I would encourage people intrigued by the title to take the chance to do just that.

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Alex Mickle

Alex Mickle is a gamer that traces his roots to JRPG’s on the PS1, but ultimately found his way to PC gaming by spending every afternoon after school playing Counterstrike at a local LAN gaming café. He is a father and husband that splits his gaming time into bursts whenever he can find time, or when ever he makes time. Alex enjoys variance and versatility in his gaming experiences and can be found asleep on the couch with a twitch steam on the television at the end of almost every night.


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