Generation Zero Review: Superb Graphics, Repetitive Gameplay
Avalanche's Generation Zero boasts an interesting concept and stunning graphics, but it's far too repetitive and buggy to be worth the ride.
Generation Zero imagines an alternate 1980s Sweden where killer machines invade and players must strategically find a way to survive and push back against the robot threat. This is a premise filled to the brim with possibility and one that a studio like Avalanche should have no problem knocking out of the park. Unfortunately, while Generation Zero brings Sweden to life with superbly detailed graphics and an awesome, '80s-centric soundtrack, it's filled with far too many bugs and repetitive missions and combat to sustain such massively detailed world for more than a few hours.
Generation Zero starts players off like most RPG titles by tasking them with creating their own unique character and then dropping them into the middle of Sweden after a brief wall of text explaining the alternate history of this world. These first moments in the game are tense, exciting, and a little disorienting (thanks in large part to the first-person perspective). The scavenging system introduced early on, which consists of looting for guns, ammo, health packs and assorted clothing - which can boost a player's overall defense in certain areas - points to something akin to a survival game, but Generation Zero never really capitalizes on this.
For instance, the tutorial system for combat suggests that players use flares and other items to strategically blind robot enemies and then use guns to finish them off. On paper this would be an intuitive combat system that offers up an endless amount of distinct combat situations that force players to think and utilize tactical thinking. In reality, the combat in Generation Zero is a buggy, unfinished mess.
There are times when flares simply do not work as intended and the machines will ignore them and attack the player anyway. Shooting is erratic and a slight pull of the thumb stick often results in your character aiming in the complete wrong direction. There's a great disconnect from what the game seemingly wants from players and what can actually be achieved.
Even if the mechanics worked as they should, combat in Generation Zero is unbalanced and kind of a slog. Robots charge with incredible speed and deal ridiculous amounts of damage. Every battle is reduced to all-out fire fights and the combat gameplay issues are compounded later in game when newer, more difficult types of robots are introduced but the strategy stays the same thanks once again to a buggy, broken system. Playing with friends or random people online (Generation Zero allows up to four players to team up) can circumvent this somewhat, but that's only when the online matchmaking actually functions correctly (which is not often). There's a sense throughout that the game never should have left its beta phase.
It's not all bad. The graphics and world of Generation Zero are absolutely stunning and there's a real aura surrounding it that suggests players are actually inhabiting a world overrun by human-killing robots. From finding homes and buildings previously containing a ragtag group of survivors to encountering the fallen corpses of the recently killed surrounded by defeated machines, Avalanche has created a terrifying, luscious Sweden to explore and survive in. The soundtrack really helps sell this, as well as the '80s time period that Generation Zero occupies. Electronic, Stranger Things-like tones permeate the game, adding to the foreboding mood of the experience.
While quests all seem to boil down to fetch this, meet these people here, etc. they aren't restrictive. There's plenty of incentive to travel the world and find your own adventures. It's this sense of freedom and role playing that will likely inspire the most replay value for players, especially those in groups of friends. And if that gets boring, there's always the actual quests, of which there are a vast amount. They're not always fun and Generation Zero doesn't seem all that interested in telling a cohesive story, but they're never as disastrous as the title's broken mechanics.
Generation Zero is a game with a ton of potential. In fact, given a proper major update or two, it could legitimately be fun and another win for Avalanche following the incredibly entertaining Just Cause 4. In its current state, it's a mixed bag of a survival action game, with tedious combat and buggy mechanics that detract from what it's trying to ultimately accomplish. It's gorgeous to look at, the soundtrack is infectious and the map is well-designed but that's simply not enough to sustain a large title like this for very long. Players might be better off waiting for some much-needed improvements down the road before spending their hard-earned cash on a game that really could have used another round of fine tuning before release.
Generation Zero is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC for $39.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.