Generation Zero – Xbox One Review
Living is Winning!
When I heard about the premise of Generation Zero, I was really looking forward to getting stuck into the game, but would this shoot’n’loot adventure live up to expectations in the long run? Avalanche Studios have set the story in rural Sweden in November 1989. In this alternative history, the country has been building an arsenal of weapons and training its citizens so that come any foreign invasion, they’ll be able to defend their homeland. You play a character (created from a nice choice of 80’s stereotypes) that has been away with some classmates enjoying some time in the wilderness of the archipelago. As you return in your boat, its hit by a missile fired from the shore. You’re thrown into the water and by the time you make it to shore, wounded but alive, theres no sign on of your friends. In fact theres no sign of any humans at all, and as you find the first houses and cars, you realise everyone left or were removed in a hell of a hurry.
The first thing that struck me was that the atmosphere had been set just right. The map covers a harsh, beautifully drawn autumnal landscape and is of an impressively large scale, of which will open out to you as you progress through the game. You get an instant sense of being the only person for miles, as all you can hear is the wind in the grass and the trees, the volume of which realistically ebbs and flows. The sound is certainly a highlight of the game, especially when it starts to rain.
You soon discover that you world now contains killing machines, most of which guard strategic positions like robot guard dogs. With their sensors and heavy weapons, its suicide to just go and confront them, so stealth and tactical nous is needed to get past them or ultimately destroy them. You look you environment for hard to find weapons and easy to find ammo, that although of not a great variety, do have different damage effects on the enemies. You also pick up items that can be used to help you, such as radios, flares, and the vital first aid kit. There are also clothes to pick up in a similar method to PubG that you can chop and change to customise your character.
The AI enemies may be viscous but aren’t particularly intelligent in the most part, with most of those you’ll encounter early on behaving more like animals, albeit very dangerous ones. When you get close to an enemy a little white marker will show your in which direction they are, and this marker turns yellow as soon as they spot you. As the enemy gets closer and more likely to attack, the marker gets bigger, so its wise to go and hide or flee. Hiding behind trees fools the low intelligence of the robots, as does taking refuge in a building. Like a well trained dog that knows its place, they generally wont follow you indoors , but prowl the outside of the building and wait for you to emerge. In these situations one of the flaws in the game becomes apparent as the poor collision detection and aliasing means parts of the robot can glitch through walls while they try and sniff you out.
The game play works best when you play it as co-op multiplayer as you can form strategies to set ambushes to destroy the enemies. Leaving a radio switched on or setting off a flare and then moving aware will attract robots to where you leave them, allowing you to coral them into an area and pick them off as a team A well placed shot into a petrol can can cause a nice explosion and cause carnage if you have the enemies close enough together.
The downside of Generation Zero are the small but numerous graphical glitches, which give you the impression more of a beta than a full release version at times. The inventory system isn’t as intuitive as it could be. Assigning slots to different items is good so you can call them up instantly, handy when you need a quick boost from the first aid pack, but the rest of the inventory is a bit of a mess, as duplicate items don’t stack, and you have to manually assign packs of ammo to guns, where as automatically using what you have of that type would be much more user friendly. Having to move a cursor around the inventory could’ve been changes as well to a move efficient system for using a controller in a console version.
There is a character levelling system and skill tree in play, but didn’t appear to have a massive effect on the way you play the game. You gain perks and advantages but the effect didn’t feel significant to me and a lot more could’ve been done by the developer to make its inclusion worthwhile.
While the scale of the map is very impressive, after a few hours a lack of variety becomes apparent as the same type of enemy keeps popping up, turning things into a bit of a grind. The enemies do get more impressive as you progress, getting bigger and with more fire power, but I still would like to have seen more variety in the type of enemies. The slow development of the story keeps you interested however as you need to explore and find letters and documents that give the clues as the what happened while you were away, but the gaps between this exposition are quite large if you’re not looking in the right places.
On the whole I enjoyed my Swedish adventure with Generation Zero, as this kind of shooter that involves stealth and strategy over gung-ho firepower is more my kind of thing, but I was still left thinking more could’ve been put into this world. The developers have hinted that more content will be added later, which is great news, so if you’re still a bit non-committal about a purchase then wait until the updates drop. For those that want to play now, try and get a mate or 3 together for a session and the game gives much more to a group than the lone player. I’ve a feeling I’ll be back to play this game again at regular intervals, but the addition of more content might be crucial as to how often I’ll be doing that.
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Avalanche Studios
Many Thanks to Dead Good Media for the review copy.