When I wrote my first article for Generation Zero back in August of 2018 the hype level had reached its peak for me. I had to play this game that put you and your friends in combat against machines and in an open world no less. I started sending them screenshots, trailers, articles and anything I could find on the game. I wanted my friends to be just as hyped as I was. Then came the release date announcement and as a group, we were all in. But could a game set in Sweden back in the 80s live up to our expectations?
Generation Zero by Avalanche Studios throws you right into the game from the start. There isn’t much as far as introduction. You return from a getaway and everyone appears to have disappeared. Soon after you find that machines have taken over the area and they are not here to assist you. Well…unless you consider helping you with a shorter life span. The object of the beginning is simple. Find a gun. Defend yourself against the machines and try to locate information on what happened to everyone. The road ahead is tough but not quite tough enough.
Generation Zero excels and fails in this department. When they get it right you will have moments where you wish there was a photo mode in the game. When they get it wrong you will wish they had a photo mode in the game. The sunsets, the moonlight, scanning the horizon, seeing towns from afar or spotting machines from a long distance all looks great in the game. This is enhanced by incredible audio throughout the game. Hearing the wind rustling the leaves in the trees or powerful storms that can hit at any time really give you a sense of being in the moment. The first person view is fantastic and the way you hold each gun is done spot on. You can see new attachments to your weapon and even new clothing on your arms and hands. The visuals play such a great part in the game. Also being able to see your friend dance with emotes or fire their gun causing massive explosions is kick ass. The machines look badass as the creep across fields or run frantically through a town. The larger machines can put on quite a firework display that caused my friends and myself to scream out in panic on many of occasions.
Unfortunately not all is right in Generation Zero. Sometimes you will run across items clipping through the environment. Trees limbs coming through the side of a building or even machines ghosting their way through walls. I can get over small things like that but not when in combat. That is a big problem in my opinion. There were times when the terrain didn’t fully connect and left gaping holes. My friends would be performing possessed like acts while in combat at times and all I could do was laugh. See reason why I want a photo mode right there.
But for every bad visual there are several stellar visuals to make you happy. I don’t know much about what the 80s looked like in Sweden but the developers appeared to have captured a beautiful country side. From cars, houses, furniture, posters, barns and environment everything appears great in detail. The houses do appear to be of the cookie cutter variety but as the game progresses they change up and you even discover large towns with apartment buildings. If that isn’t enough for you wait until you discover the very large bunkers. Why say very large? Well you will find some smaller bunkers that are just okay but the large bunkers are filled with really cool stuff. Explore them at your own risk.
The combat and gameplay in Generation Zero is the backbone of the co-op play. Here you must talk with your friends on how you want to proceed in combat situations. You can strategize on how to take out a nest of machines or you can just go in guns blazing (Thanks for alerting all the machines ever Andrew). If you have a friend that is surgical with a shotgun (Hale) then you can shred through a group of runners pretty easily. As the game progresses though you will need to take a more careful approach or death will find you quickly. Working together is a blast and finding a way to out maneuver the machines is honestly one of the best parts of the game. A simple combat situation can turn south in a hurry though if a seeker arrives and alerts more of his buddies.
There is something oddly satisfying about watching your friend get blown up and thrown halfway across the screen. These comical moments are what make the combat fresh and fun every time you fight the machines. When things do get out of hand and there are a ton of machines in the area the gameplay can suffer. Experiencing framerate drops and lag is never a good thing in co-op games like this one. You want the gameplay to feel smooth and fluid at all times. This is not always the case and I could see why some might be frustrated when coming across theses situations. It doesn’t happen in every big battle scenario but a handful of times is enough to damage the experience.
The guns in Generation Zero are an important aspect just like in any first person shooting game. They carry their own here and for the most part give you that feeling and impact that they should. The kick and balance of each weapon is done well and when you cause severe damage to machines or surroundings it looks awesome. Each gun is rated with dilapidated, worn, good, etc. along with their attachments. I found that equipping guns, ammo or items into the quick slots a tad annoying. It doesn’t work all that well and as my friends agreed there are way too many variations of ammo. It is a cool concept but when you have a lack of storage space it becomes increasingly time consuming as you pick which ones to keep. There is a lot of ammo in the game so don’t worry about running out. The developers could have simplified the ammo types and kept the game moving along.
The menu in the game is pretty much the same in most looter/shooter games but the mission tracking is one of my biggest complaints. When playing co-op the host is the one you play off of as a team. You track the missions as a group but it only counts towards the host. This isn’t a problem that is if it actually worked correctly. Half the time I couldn’t tell what mission we were supposed to be on or which one was active as a group. Some missions seemed to appear from nowhere and some disappeared. We found out that even after completing some missions they wouldn’t go away at all. We spent way too much time trying to figure out why we couldn’t complete some missions instead of just playing the game. I know the developers are working on this as I type but for now it is a major flaw in the game.
The skill tree adds to the RPG elements of the game and you can unlock new skills by leveling up. each level up gives you one point that you can put toward skills such as, increased hip shooting accuracy, more carry space, increased stamina (Didn’t understand stamina as it doesn’t seem to work in the game) etc.
The map is massive in Generation Zero and luckily there isn’t much backtracking to do. The game wants you to loot locations and discover little tidbits so you get the feel of Sweden in the 80s. This is a great part of the game as you really do get the sense of being there in person. However with such a massive map it does take you forever to get around. The first small island which is considered the introduction mission took us somewhere between 10-12 hours to complete. That of course is looting and trying to discover as much as possible. Oh, plus battling machines, let’s not forget killer machines lurk about. This isn’t a major problem with the game but at times you will feel all you are doing is looting. I didn’t like that feeling and it caused moments of emptiness in the game. If this were a single player game only this would be a huge problem. In co-op however you can always find things within the game to amuse you when these moments arise. With the map being so large of course you need safe houses. Here you can fast travel to them but that is their only use. This is a big fail by the developers if you ask me. The safe houses should have more use in the game. A place to store loot, a strategy board with missions or just something else to give them more importance.
Customization in the game certainly helps it with overall content. Equipping attachments such IR scopes to your rifle or binoculars gives combat strategy even more importance. Spotting machines from a long distance with your scope or detecting which machine you’re dealing with holds its own in this one. I found myself carrying around the binoculars just so I could spot a machine and get the stats on it a lot in the game. There are a few glitches with attachments but again I know the developers are working on a patch to correct the issue.
Customizing your character is also a lot of fun. You pick up plenty of clothing items from jackets, pants, shirts, glasses etc. and some of the items will even give your character a stat boost. For instance some jackets make you more resistant to fire and when things start exploding you’re going to need it.
Machines and that co-op play
Of course Generation Zero is about the machines and the invasion of your town. There are six machines total. Yes I know that doesn’t sound like much and I thought the same thing. I have heard that there will be more added to the game at a later date but not sure if that is officially going to happen. The machines are dangerous and at times act in a frantic and wild manner. This is sometimes good and sometimes bad. When I machine spots you it goes into alert mode. It will stalk you, shoot you or attack you by jumping at you. For the most part it works well but that is not always the case. The machine can become unresponsive to you and it will stand there waiting for you to shoot at it. This can trigger the machine to attack or just wait for you to finish it off.
As the game progresses the machines become more dangerous with even more lethal weapons. Large explosives, a barrage of missiles or even poisonous gas are just a few ways that you can meet your death. Not to worry though the game provides you a self-revive in the form of adrenaline shots and if you run out (this is unlikely) your teammate can pick you up. At first I hated this about the game. It took away from the thrill of combat in my opinion. However, later in the game it is necessary. The machines become highly difficult and you will find yourself on the ground in self-revive state more often than not. I spent several hours trying to go it alone and found it damn near impossible. I know that it is best to run in some cases but how do you do that when you are trying to complete a mission in a machine filled area? Going in with a group of friends is the best option to counter this difficulty and working together is the best strategy. Stray from the group and you will find that you might as well be playing alone.
Generation Zero is a looter/shooter but it’s also a survival game. Relying on your teammates is a big part of the game but I feel the game doesn’t focus enough on the survival aspect. You never really die in the game and there is no sense of fear from it. There is way too much loot spread throughout the game and honestly with less revives the game would force you to think about every single combat situation. If this game is meant to be co-op then it should definitely be geared more towards that style. The game is punishing but not enough and it should be tweaked towards surviving. Intense battles, epic explosions and good gunplay don’t mean squat if you don’t truly feel threatened.
Loot is plentiful to the point where you wonder if the game is being too generous. Opening cases, backpacks, crates, etc. can get annoying when you have to reposition numerous times just to get it open. Small areas can cause a problem as the characters collide with each which will allow your friends to trap you (Again thanks Andrew). You can loot defeated machines which give you mostly ammo but some will drop barcoded key cards to gain entry into bunkers. If you don’t want to get pushed out of the way like dogs at a feeding bowl wait until your friend loots first. Not sure why the developer went with player collision as it causes almost as much conflict as the machines.
Generation Zero is a fun co-op game that falls a tad short in its overall gameplay. There are times where I felt the game wasn’t complete and we got an unfinished product. This could still be true as the developers have said more content will be released for the game. This is a shame as I loved the co-op experience. Wondering around in this beautiful world looting everything I could get my hands on was great with my buddies. I don’t think this could be said if I only played it alone. The character customization, weapons, attachments and environment have been constructed well for the game but again it all feels incomplete. There are a ton of aspects that could have been changed about the game to make it more player friendly but it just didn’t happen. Overall though it was a fun experience and being able to create multiple characters and play with them seamlessly will keep me playing with my friends. That is if they still want to wage war against the machines with me.
At this time I would recommend waiting to purchase the title until the developer’s patch some of the bugs but being an Indie game its priced fair at $40. I wouldn’t blame you if you and a friend decided to take a chance and play it anyways. This one is certainly co-op friendly.
A review copy of the game was provided for the PS4.