Giant robots! The 80’s! Leather jackets, big hair, the Swedish countryside! The…apparent lack of any signs of life or reason to continue in this tiresome adventure! Oh…
I wanted to love this game. Anything with robots in is usually a guaranteed win for me. But t’was not the case, for the experiences that both myself and the Finger Guns crew did nothing to make me want to continue. So, what went wrong? You’ve stuck with me this far, so let’s find out together.
In this idyllic reimagining of Sweden in the 1980’s, the local populace has disappeared, whilst robots roam the countryside, eradicating any life they find. Almost seems like a wasted effort, really, considering that they’ve all scarpered.
This is briefly explained in a one-shot text scrawl at the start of the game, telling us of a massive economical boom and a lack of preparedness during World War II drew the attention of everyone’s favourite facist, Adolf Hitler. This lack of preparation on Sweden’s part led to the increase of defensive measures, which goes at a stretch to explain why there’s no bugger about.
So, right from the offset it explains the lack of populace, but therein lies the problem: if you’re not actively hunting for/helping people, what is your motive other than survival? In my time with the game, I felt like I was playing a localised version of “Where in Sweden is Carmen Sandiego?”. Every new location would have a text document, vaguely along the lines of, “Ooh, we’ve just popped out, but we’re about five miles down the road” ad nauseum.
Starting off on a tiny archipelago, after your boat is sunk from shoreline fire, it doesn’t seem too bad. Until you realise that you’re predominantly running everywhere.
Kudos to Avalanche Studios, though. They’ve done a lovely job in creating a visage of their home country. After all, they’ve had practice with the Just Cause series. There’s just not a lot else to do, except not get minced by the metal marauders. However, as pretty as the outside world is, it can’t be said the same for interior design. Everything has this weird Tim Burton aesthetic: all the houses look almost identical, right down to the contents inside. I get that the meat of the game is in the open world exploration, but having a sense of deja vu in every single house you go in to is both jarring and deflating.
But, before I continue down the rabbit hole of kicking this game to death, here’s Rossko with his hot take of this hot mess:
I’m not even sure where to start with this one.
Generation Zero is a game that I was looking forward to playing with the FG team. It looked like a solid four player adventure that we could get stuck into, allowing us to explore from top the bottom this dense Swedish town overran by robot bastards that we could take down together. The trailers were cut in such a way that it would be an action packed smackdown with Greg and I taking down giant mechanical bastards whilst Sean and Paul sourced ammo and health, and we’d meet up and share resources and make quick work of any son of a bitch that would stand in our way.
Turns out the things in our way were invisible walls in the middle of bridges, a genuine lack of atmosphere and about as much excitement as an empty plastic bag.
It’s a real shame, because there are elements here that really work. The sound design is ferociously good, along with the music, which really captures the era and encourages you to carry on just to discover more. Visually, it’s rather nice. You aren’t going to mistake it for God of War anytime soon but it’s definitely up there with some of the best, particularly on a PS4 Pro. Sadly, at least for me, that was where the joy began and ended.
Playing it with the team was a persistent ball ache. Whether it be struggling to even joining a game together to getting into a game, only to find you spawn at the very first safe house, which could be miles away from the rest of the team depending on when you join the game. We had to stop twice so new players could join us, with the walk taking several minutes. As for the aforementioned invisible wall? Well that’s the ultimate definition of a game-breaking bug, stopping us in our tracks right in the middle of a mission.
Yes, we’ve seen some solutions that players have posted to get around this, but should we even have to do that in the first place?
I kinda had the feeling it wasn’t ever going to be GOTY material, but every now and then we come across a game that we all enjoy playing and we can power through together regardless of whether or not we consider it an absolute masterpiece. I was hoping GZ was going to be one of those games, something to keep us occupied when we put down our Division 2 and Sekiro controllers in order to take down some freakin’ robot scum.
I hope there is a future in the game, and that it’s not left in the corner like other four-player co-op titles like Earthfall, which is what this game most reminds me of. There’s definitely a spot in the market for a AA online co-op shooter that doesn’t necessarily require the time and financial investment that some of the major players do.
Generation Zero sadly doesn’t appear to be the one filling that gap.
So yeah, it’s not just me that hoped this game would break the mold and be the next Left 4 Dead. It would have been a nice change from aliens and zombies in droves, but a tactical and survival based co-op shooter against robot hordes.
It’s just so lacklustre. In our adventures, we deviated to one castle that had nothing to achieve in it, before hitting the aforementioned invisible wall that absolutely killed the immersion.
The inventory system is a mess, too. That you can’t stack medical packs or adrenaline shots is a pain, meaning that every time you pick new ones up you have to manually reapply them to the few you already have equipped. So you might think you have a dozen equipped, but in the heat of the moment you’ll forget you haven’t manually stacked them and then get downed.
The level progression system is also clearly geared in favour of team-based play, with it seemingly impossible to try and spread your abilities across several skill trees. It’s more geared to MMO style of play: one of you is the tank, one the healer, etc.
The whole experience, then, is a misfire. It’s a shame, because anticipation for this at FGHQ was high. What could have been a brilliant take on 80’s pop culture, big hair and soundtrack with all, to create a Red Dawn/Homefront/War of the Worlds mashup failed to hit the mark.
It’s pretty to look at, but is such a jumbled mess and we couldn’t get our heads around it…a bit like their furniture, then.
Generation Zero is available now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with multiple review codes for co-op testing purposes. For our full review policy, please go here.
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