Generation Zero Review — Hours I Will Never Get Back
Generation Zero is a first-person shooter where you try and stay alive in a hostile open-world surrounded by mechanical robots and also where you'll most certainly lose some of your sanity.
When Generation Zero by Avalanche Studios first caught my eye, I knew I had to see what this game was about. Being a child of the 80s, it would be rude not to dip my toes in the water of a title that is crafted in the decade where I have so many cherished memories. Plus, there were robots – big, bulky metal ones at that. I was hoping that this title could lovingly massage that feeling again of taking down robotic beasts that I had really missed since completing Horizon Zero Dawn. Unfortunately, all that Generation Zero did was give me one of those torturous massages you get from a shady back street masseuse that leaves you in so much pain you’re confined to your bed for a week staring at the ceiling wondering what crime you committed to deserve such treatment.
Before I get onto the gritty stuff, let’s start off at the beginning. Generation Zero is set in a post-apocalyptic alternate-reality version of Sweden sometime in the 1980s where wild robots roam the lands which were built following World War II with their newfound wealth.
The first 10 minutes of Generation Zero get off to a promising start when I got to dress my character up with some super rad 80s attire. I opted for the metal head get-up that saw me don denim jeans, a leather biker jacket, hair that indicated I was truly a “wild-child” and unfortunately a face that only a mother could love. I honestly looked like a very well smacked arse but assuming I wouldn’t be spending much time looking at myself, I just wanted to jump in and get started.
According to the text that came up on my screen, my character and her classmates have spent some time cut off from the outside world and in returning back, a boat got hit by explosives coming from the shore – my job now is to find out why. My first task was to go from house to house and loot all I could find which seemed like fun, but that excitement came to an end rather quickly. The looting system is unbearably mundane with the same items found in the boxes that are scattered around the homes and sheds that usually consist of a medpack, some bullets, and a firework. After my 20th medpack and already being full on bullets, I didn’t bother to loot again because there was no point.
What really confused me is the copy-paste style the developers have implemented when creating the interior of homes in Generation Zero – it was unsettling to see very little creativity when entering a house for it to be exactly the same as the one I had just left. I mean, look at Ikea – we all know Sweden are the masters of interior design, but what Avalanche created here was pitiful where they could have showcased so much more and highlighted Sweden’s beautiful craftsmanship.
As I journeyed on down a deserted dimly lit road, I came across my first enemy machine called the runner. This little dog-like robot is quick and deadly with a fuel tank and a machine gun strapped to its back. Thankfully, it wasn’t too difficult to kill and once destroyed, you can scavenge some items from its metal corpse.
If you’re looking for an engaging story or really any kind of story, Generation Zero isn’t the game for you. You’re given very little to go on and no amount of rummaging through soulless homes or abandoned cars will stack any meat onto the bones of this lackluster spiel. As you walk, slowly I might add, through the Swedish countryside, there are no NPCs that can offer you a clue to what the hell is going on here, no side quests to provide you with some meaningless banter to make the adventure more tolerable. You are left to your own devices and let me tell you, it’s a really lonely unfulfilling experience.
Generation Zero will allow you to play with other people or open yourself up to allow random strangers to join you on this solitude path, but that certainly doesn’t mean that this game will then miraculously turn into a fun-filled venture – it will probably only provide you with someone else to bitch to about how terrible it is. When I met another player who was aimlessly wandering around as I was, it was the most excited I got during the entire game.
He too was reviewing the title so we talked a little about how dire our experience had been thus far and off we went to kill a few robots together, but even this encounter in terms of enjoyable gameplay was uneventful. It was still slow and boring me to tears, but I was really thankful that I met another person who was having a tedious time just like I was – misery loves company, after all.
Generation Zero’s quests themselves are frustrating and that’s if they actually work. I spent ages in an underground bunker trying to find where a quest was, but soon realizing that it wasn’t appearing due to a bug. This also happened when I went on a mission earlier that, in the end, led me to the middle of nowhere to a burned-out car where nothing materialized.
Despite having the ability to “track” missions, you’re not provided with any markers whatsoever so this leaves you wandering around for a long time like a dork until you get close enough to the quest location. At that point, the mission doesn’t serve an anecdotal aim nor does it a provide a goal, it just becomes another reason to have the player run around a desolate map even more.
Even though I was stomping around the Swedish fields and hills with a frown on my face and cursing under my breath a lot, the environments are actually very pretty when you take a moment to look around. The weather cycle adds an intensity over the rich landscapes as it turns from day to night and the rain feature cloaks the valleys with its profound presence, but this also makes it increasingly harder to notice the school of robotic figures that lurk around the corner. When grouped together, trying to down these nippy mechanical monsters is quite taxing due to my character being largely underpowered.
A few times I ran off and hid in the tall bushes, but this was fruitless because the little buggers knew where I was at all times and could see me no matter what I did. These things are smart and intent on destroying you, so in turn, this then led me to avoid packs of more than two.
As you have probably figured out by now, Generation Zero was not in the slightest bit enjoyable for me and it really is such a shame. Avalanche Studios had a really solid base to work off of here and it could have been an incredible experience for players. Instead, to my utter confusion, Generation Zero felt like it was still in early access, at best. It truly was a soulless and painful experience to undertake without cinematics, story, nor any hint of a single-player arc. This is not something I would be inclined to lift the lid on again unless Avalanche is willing to show that they actually know what a player needs and deserves from a game because as it is, that certainly isn’t found in Generation Zero.