I’m a big fan of Avalanche Studios. They’ve made some of the most fun and ludicrous games of all time, and they know that. They lean into that stuff. All the Just Cause games? They know that all you want is to blow everything up and ride jets into the sunset. That Mad Max game? That was rad as hell and still has, to this day, some of the best vehicular combat in a video game. So with all of those large, robust and wild titles under their belt, how did they manage to make one of the most boring games I’ve played in a very long time?

Generation Zero Screenshot Harvester 02

Generation Zero is an open world first-person shooter and I wish I could be more specific about the genre here, but I don’t really know what this game is trying to accomplish. You play as a student that has been on a school trip and is suddenly attacked whilst at sea, waking up on a beach in the Swedish countryside. The people of the country have disappeared and the only things walking around are savage robots akin to the ones in Horizon: Zero Dawn, that attack you on sight. Your goal is try find survivors by scavenging loot and doing…something. I never quite figured out what my end goal was besides…escape, I guess?

Generation Zero Screenshot Open World 01

So let me get this out of the way, the shooting in this game feels great. The guns have a lovely, hefty weight to them and sound fantastic, just as great as the robots look when they explode. Combat is fun but gets stale very quickly when you realise you’re fighting the same enemy over and over again. There are larger bots to take down, but if you’re playing solo, good luck with that Sisyphean task. The enemy AI ranges from firing into a hill while you’re standing right in front of it to being able to snipe you from three kilometres away with an SMG. It’s inconsistent and I found myself avoiding combat as much as possible as I played through Generation Zero.

Generation Zero Screenshot Runner 01

See, “play” is an interesting word to use. To get theoretical for a second, Scott G. Eberle noted that in order for something to be considered play, it must meet certain criteria, the first being “Is it fun?”. And this game is not fun. What it amounts to is walking at an exceptionally slow pace through fields and villages, trawling through backpacks for the same loot (largely ammo or first aid packs) over and over again. There are no other human NPCs in this game, all quests are provided by notes and audio logs (which are in Swedish, I might add, so unless you’re fluent they’re functionally notes too) with little narrative pay off.

Generation Zero Screenshot Runner 03

Generation Zero feels both rushed and unfinished. Most of the buildings I encountered had one of 4 (I think, that’s right, around that region) interiors whilst the rest of the map is field and forest and while it can be pretty at times, crouching through shrubs to follow some random quest marker doesn’t feel fulfilling to me. An open world game can often be graded on how fun it is to both traverse it and exist in that space. With no vehicles (or if there are, I hadn’t found any after 15 hours of play) the space is empty and monotonous and boring to walk through.

Generation Zero Screenshot Runner 05

And it’s such a shame because it seems like there could be something good here. The way skills and leveling up works is great, awarding experience for both winning in combat and evading combat, rewarding different manners of play rather than shoe-horning the player into a single approach to enemy encounters. Yet the skills are boring and it takes ages to unlock anything significant. After an hour of exploration and shooting robot dogs I was finally able to purchase the skill that…let me regenerate stamina 25% faster. If there’s one thing in looters and RPG’s I detest it’s a skill tree that exists purely as stat numbers rather than having a tangible impact on my experience.

Generation Zero Screenshot Seeker 01

The quests themselves are also incredibly frustrating. Despite having the ability to “track” missions, you’re not provided with any markers until you get close enough to the quest location, which is usually vaguely provided in the note you’re reading. Hey, take a guess how many rocks on the top of that hilltop in Sweden there are? DOZENS. It’s like the game expects you to pick these quests up and ignore them, explore at your own pace and then remind you there’s an objective to complete in the area. At that point the quest doesn’t serve a narrative purpose nor does it a provide a goal and becomes an excuse to have the player run around an empty map some more.

Generation Zero Screenshot Tank 01

Look, I’ll admit I played this solo and maybe that’s the problem. As a cooperative experience this game may be a lot better, but that could be said about anything. Even with friends, all the quests are the same, the world is empty and bland and the loot is uninteresting and unengaging. The most fun that could be had is taking on some of the larger robots, a task that feels almost impossible playing solo. I suppose laughing at the silly 80’s outfits available for your characters has some novelty appeal, but outside of that I can’t imagine it being improved on too much.

Generation Zero Screenshot Tick 02

I hate doing this. I do my best to promote optimism and positivity in this little video game community of ours but Generation Zero is a real dud for me. Everything that initially seems great very quickly nosedives into monotony. Combat starts fresh and challenging before turning into AI exploitation, the massive world seemingly filled with possibilities is empty and the story is almost non-existent. Playing through Generation Zero made me think that not only is this game painfully unfinished, but it almost looked like the developers looked at Fallout 76 and learned all the wrong lessons, because they are remarkably similar in the worst possible way.

Last Updated: March 25, 2019

Generation Zero
Generation Zero is a bland open world shooter that offers little other than monotonous countryside jogging, an empty world and repetitive combat.
Generation Zero was reviewed on PC
51 / 100

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