by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
So if you try to imagine Horizon Zero Dawn, crossed with Stranger Things, you might come close to seeing what Avalanche Studios’ game Generation Zero is all about. Set in 80s Sweden, an army of machines has mysteriously appeared and all the humans have mysteriously disappeared. You and up to two other players take control of 80s young adult avatars and wage a guerilla war, fighting back against the invaders, while also trying to find out: what happened to everyone? I was lucky enough to see some gameplay at Gamescom 2018 and for the most part, I liked what I saw. I feel the Stranger Things comparison is apt, because Generation Zero is a game that really makes the most of being in the 80s, giving you boomboxes to distract enemies with and allowing you to customize your teen hero with as much denim and mullet as your heart could desire.
Generation Zero is open-world and as you roam from clue to clue, you avoid or fight machine patrols and loot and scavenge what you can. There is something very eerie in sneaking through a rainy Swedish night, as robots shine lights out across the darkness searching for you; it feels very much like you are rebels under some despotic robot regime. The main part of the game seems to be gathering clues and weapons, moving through different areas and fighting progressively harder robots. What Generation Zero does, it does well, but I do think the game at this stage is somewhat empty.
There are no NPC’s in the game, which is for plot reasons, but it does mean one less aspect of interest. There is no weapon crafting system, even though there is a loot and scavenging system, which seems a waste to me. Also, maybe it was just the demo, but the game seems to give you a lot of weapons and tonnes of EMP cells (grenades which temporarily disable robots) which seems somewhat overpowered. Also with a really big inventory, you can literally carry every gun you find.
I think these are mechanics that make Generation Zero more like a fun multiplayer sandbox, but should a game about a life or death insurgency against a machine army, not be more survival based? I think it could really be improved if it added a few more survival-based mechanics; a crafting system based upon what you scavenge and inventory size limitation, so you can’t carry every single gun you find. While the game is tonally perfect, capturing the Swedish countryside and a wonderful 80s aspect, I feel it might grow boring quite quickly if some other form of player challenge/interest is not planned upon or found.
Slated for 2019, it is still early days though, so a lot could change between now and then. But on the whole, what I did see showed promise.