I hate to use the phrase, I truly, truly do, but Generation Zero plays more like a walking sim with a few elements of combat present. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a fair bit to like about the game, but there’s so much holding it shy of greatness too. Generation Zero is penned as an FPS that sits on the backdrop of Sweden, in the 1980s. The population is scarce, the environment desperate, and hostility is rife – no thanks to the machinery and robots that are gunning after anything with a pulse. The setting is odd, but it just about works overall.
The crux of play sees you trotting around the game’s open world in search of answers, and whilst some of the answers to your immediate questions are painfully obvious, the game does a fair job at keeping its more elusive secrets embedded in mystery. Your arrival on an island to the far north is met with hostility; missiles are fired at you, but mercifully miss their mark. Quickly rowing to shore, you look around to observe emptiness and bleakness. You’ve no idea why missiles were fired, where they were fired from, nor who, or what, fired them.
You’re stranded and alone, and you quickly summarize that you need to arm yourself in the hopes of standing a chance against the war of man vs. machine. The game allows you to create your own unique look as you dive on in; with no shortage of choice for both male and female avatar. There’s next to no cutscenes present, and in its place, text-based transitions will feed you into the experience at hand. Here, you’re told about how Sweden was close to being taken over by Hitler and his forces, and in defense, Sweden created defense systems.
It becomes immediately apparent that this defense system didn’t quite go to plan, and that’s where you come in; searching for those aforementioned answers. Once control is yours, the game gives you a half-ass tutorial to sink into. I say half-ass because although it tells you what to do, you’re given next to no context to run with anything. It’s basically a case of figuring things out for yourself. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but for an open world game, you would expect a bit more clarity as to what you’re supposed to be doing here.
You’ll start by entering a range of desolate buildings in search of loot; weaponry, ammo, health packs, explosives, mods, and other useful tidbits. These all get stored in your backpack, which is basically an inventory of sorts. Thankfully, you can pack quite a few items here, so management is never too much of an issue. The inventory system works as well as expected; some items stack, some do not. You’ll eventually need to prioritize your wares, but in truth, it’s quite a generous pull-along. There’s a hot-bar present too, via the D-Pad.
This could have done with some improvements mind, for instance, there’s a few select items that seem to be exempt from the hot-bar, as well as the fact that items do not auto-fill with items of the same class. I, at one point, had seven medikits on my person. I had picked up some more on my travels, but these didn’t get added to the hot-bar, and instead just went straight to my inventory. It would have been nice to see these auto slotting to the hot-bar, as needing to constantly address this manually was quite counter intuitive.
Once you’ve got a firm grasp of the inventory system, you’ll be ready to press on. The game’s general movement and core aspects of strategy tend to go hand in hand for the most part. The game is completely open, and by that, I mean there’s no loading screens present. You’re free to explore everything in bulk. This is where I found the most enjoyment, going anywhere as and when I pleased, with little pressure haunting me throughout. But, what about that previously alluded to robot army? Where are they at?
Well, in Generation Zero, the enemy forces are quite spread out. So much so that I was able to traverse for roughly half and hour without one hostile encounter. My feedback here is a bit hit and miss. On one hand, it’s nice to have that weight of constant conflict lifted. On the other hand, it can get really boring, really quickly. I do have a gripe with the game’s handling, being that the input can be a bit sloppy, but that being said, the gunplay isn’t at all half bad. Like everything else in Generation Zero, the whole ordeal is quite hot and cold.
Throughout the course of natural play, you’ll stumble across a variety of guns in different areas within. There’s a number of them that are quite dilapidated, but before long, and as progress is made, you’ll start to obtain better gear, weaponry, and mods; such as scopes, silencers, and so on. These tend to lean upon the same wear-and-tear system as the weapons – ranging from dilapidated, right up to brand spanking new. They’re super easy to work with too, simply allowing you to attach and detach them as and when you see fit.
The aim of the game is to search buildings one at a time, and in doing so, you’ll start to gain missions from picking up letters or listening to voice recordings. These missions will give you plenty of distance to cover, but you’ll always need to suss out where the correct location is, due to the lack of a way-point that tells you where to head. One early example of this is that I was assigned with finding a someone’s house in a large town, and just as luck would have it, and again due to the lack of any real definition, it was the very last house I checked.
Granted, when you’re close to your objectives, a small marker will appear, but this doesn’t tend to show until you’re in the right vicinity, and even then, it can be quite elusive. Generation Zero doesn’t really have that much structure to its missions. Missions take roughly twenty minutes to fulfill on a fluid run, and when you complete one, you’ll usually be fed straight into another one. This style of play just about works, but it would have worked so much better with some defining clarity and meaning in place, for in between missions.
Still, that’s largely how the game operates. You’ll take on a mission, work through said mission, find another mission, and rinse and repeat. Missions do tend to vary quite well, and they all feed into the journey at hand nicely. You’ll naturally be killing enemies along the way, and this is how you level up. Leveling up in Generation Zero can take some time. The upgrade ladders are large and diverse, many of which allow you to follow a route that suits your style of play. The system here is fairly straightforward – earn points, and spend points.
You’ll usually need to plug in one or two points to unlock an upgrade, which ultimately grants access to successive upgrades. The upgrades span the usual affairs; improved reload time, swifter ADS, an increase to your inventory space, and more. There’s some extra useful additions present too, such as unlocking the ability to pick locks and enabling you to observe enemy health and rank. Nevertheless, choice is by no means exhaustive, if indeed a little safe. Trust me folks, you’ll need all the help you can get, for both good and bad reasoning.
The game’s base difficulty is fairly lenient starting out, but as progression is made, there’s a pretty harsh spike. In Generation Zero, enemies are very aggressive. They don’t give you a second to breathe once the action picks up. When the numbers are even, or slightly stacked against you, combat is admittedly satisfying. However, when you have a horde of them, that comfort goes out the window. Enemies get bigger and more lethal further in, so much so that skill and team communication is the only way to truly succeed the latter stages of play.
That usually wouldn’t be a bad thing, but throw in some nasty glitches and bugs, and the whole balance is thrown out of whack. Enemies make a nasty habit of trotting through walls. Hell, at one point, I closed a door on a dog-like bot, only for it to scoff, walk through the wall, and kill me as if it was the norm. Other enemies can seemingly see through walls too, meaning that tactical play is religiously thrown out the window. Then, there’s the fact that certain guns fail to automatically reload (not by design), forcing you to back down.
These small gripes collectively stack against the game’s favor. The game serves itself as an experience that throws you into the open, and expects you to tactically survive through scavenging supplies and observing your opponent; each new mission a stepping stone to the endgame. However, in the face of its technical issues, much of the game’s desired fluidity is lost in translation. It soon becomes a game of endurance, rather than a game of strategical measure. This holds true whether you play solo, or with up to three other online players.
It’s a shame really, because its many systems are commendable, and furthermore, seamlessly fit into the bigger picture quite nicely. Though, how can you be expected to utilize stealth, when the enemy can strut through walls and see you through structures? What good is a harsh offense, if the weapons used for this are fidgety and unpredictable? The game says that living is winning, but winning, for me at least, only came about when the game worked as intended, which unfortunately wasn’t as consistent as it should have been.
I don’t want to come down on Generation Zero too hard, but these issues are issues that should have been picked up on during QA. Hell, a monkey could have seen these problems a mile off, but still, the developer released the game. Now, as it stands, the game is merely passable. It’s a serviceable affair that’s only fun if you can overlook a few poor design choices and forgive the game’s technical drawbacks. If you can do that, you’re likely to pull more from this game than most. Now, onto the game’s overall visual presentation.
When it comes to games of this type, care and attention to detail is important. Generation Zero clearly didn’t get the memo. The visuals have an ugly grainy presentation, so much so that I was often reminded of Friday the 13th the Game. Make of that what you will. Whilst the overall presentation of the game’s world is okay, there’s nothing particularly remarkable to take note of. In fact, everything looks better when you’re far away. Towns look realistically rendered, woodlands look appropriately distinct, and set pieces stand out.
Get up close, on the other hand, and you’ll be met with poor textures, bland effects, and an all round lack of graphical refinement. It’s serviceable, yes, but that’s all that it is. When we consider that we game in an age where the open world scene is evolving and adapting, Generation Zero just feels a little out of place. The audio design is fairly decent. The game sports a retro 80s synth music, which does well to set the mood. I could say the same about the few spoken bouts of dialogue here; all of which is Swedish spoken with English subs.
Generation Zero sports many of the components that you would expect to see in an open world shooter with online play. Whilst entertaining in short doses, and fairly interesting when it wants to be, the whole ordeal has a tendency of being massively undermined by its poor design choices and its several technical issues. Indeed, it’s a serviceable loot shooter at its core, but the developer really should have held the game to a much higher standard.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.