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Not So MMO: Not So MMO: Generation Zero Review

By Paul Eno on April 04, 2019 | Columns | Comments

Not So MMO: Generation Zero Review

Have you ever felt so strongly about a decade or so in history that you wish an army of robots would come and just wipe the whole mess away? Maybe the ‘80s? Avalanche Publishing bravely steps up to the task, making a valiant effort of doing just that with Generation Zero. This is our review.

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Have you ever felt so strongly about a decade or so in history that you wish an army of robots would come and just wipe the whole mess away? Maybe the ‘80s? Avalanche Publishing bravely steps up to the task, making a valiant effort of doing just that with Generation Zero. This is our review.

Generation Zero begins with a bit of textual preamble describing the historical ramifications of the events of World War II and the lasting effects it had on the mindset of the Swedish government and the people. The conclusion of the introduction leaves you, a lone survivor of a wreck near the shores of one of the Southern Swedish Isles, with not a thing but your clothes to call your own. Fortunately, there are a few houses nearby that you can presumably retain assistance from. Except, no. The houses, barns, sheds, and cars are all abandoned, and not just in a dilapidated “no one’s lived here in ages” kind of way, but in an “everyone just got up from what they were doing and left” way. Televisions are left on, though nothing but static greets you. Lights are still shining, food is left on dinner tables, books left strewn wherever they were thrown. Oh yes! There is also a mangled mess of a machine lying on the living room floor. From this point on, you realize it is in your best interest to fully give yourself over to the life of a professional looter in the name of survival. And maybe figure out what the heck is going on in the meantime (Skynet?).

Avalanche is known for creating massive, beautifully rendered maps, and they don’t let us down here. There is a lot of ground to cover. Villages, farms, and small cities sporadically placed amongst leagues of lovely Swedish landscape. Let’s not forget the military bases and bunkers that you must find a way into; whether for information or for phat lewtz is completely up to you. From the onset of the game, players come across hints and clues that help form a path of discovery and lead you systematically across the islands in search of better stuff… I mean the truth. All while running into, fighting, and fleeing from increasingly numerous and difficult machines. You get no help in this journey (unless you play multiplayer), as no survivors can be found, despite following every lead you come across. The world is empty and lonely. So there’s no one to tell you the hat you just looted from a kid’s backpack looks ridiculous on you. Or the plaid pants that you feel really tell the world who you are. Be glad, like most of us who lived through the 80s, you can look back on them now, too, and wonder what the heck you were thinking.

Let’s be honest, the first few hours of gameplay become difficult to play through. Not so much because it’s hard, just because you’re alone with very little information or reason for going forward. Except you really want a pink rocker wig. Pressing on, however, the game will draw you in, even as it becomes progressively more difficult to fend off the machines. Stealth becomes a winning factor through most of the game, and the hope that you pick up a rocket launcher somewhere. That’s always nice. It’s important not to judge the game by what it isn’t. It isn’t what has come to be implicit in “survival” games. There is no building structures, or anything for that matter, you cannot craft, nor is there starving or dehydration. There is the ongoing conflict of whether you can survive a world newly conquered by machines while picking up your shinies, and maybe some info scouting just to spice things up a bit.

The amount and variety of weapons in the game is pretty extensive. I won’t say it’s the best I’ve ever seen. It was the 80’s, after all. Despite that, there is a nice variety of rifles, light machine guns, submachine guns, handguns, and, yes, rocket launchers.

Each of the weapons has a range of quality to them, beginning with dilapidated and moving through worn, good, exceptional, and special. Honestly, that’s the highest level item I found. Ammo is pretty readily found for most gun types but also is quickly spent. The machines don’t go down easy. While ammo can be found in almost any container in any place including in the shower, weapons are a bit harder to come by. That hardly matters, however, as finding better quality weapons might take you even longer than finding the next gun cache. A lot of weapons will be left behind, as you only have so much inventory space.

You will gain experience as you explore, either from destroying machines, investigating new locations, or finishing missions. To go with that are eight skill paths to pick from. Fortunately, picking one path does not keep you from spending points on another down the road. Each of the paths has a row of six skills that must be unlocked in a linear fashion, and the last skill in a path is a specialization. While you can eventually learn all the specializations, only one can be active at a time.

Your best bet at being successful is to play with others. Generation Zero’s multiplayer is essentially default and allows up to four people to play on the same map at a time. You don’t necessarily have to play together, sometimes it’s just nice to have someone else to chat with.

That brings us to the section where I discuss what I consider issues, starting with multiplayer.

Multiplayer is a strong benefit to the game that helps to stave off the absolute loneliness the setting inspires and allows you to accomplish greater efficacy in demolishing even large machines. Of course, you’ll want to play with your friends. This is where my first issue comes into play. There is no internal system for linking up with friends in the game. You can decide to just start playing your own playthrough by selecting “continue” or throw yourself out there randomly to hopefully find a pleasurable ally to play with. Quite often, I found myself booted from a session before I had even fully loaded onto a map. There is a way to hook up with your friends by using Steam’s friend list, but that is not part of the in-game system, and it seems to me that would be an essential thing.

Along with that, there is no built-in voice chat. Granted, most veteran multiplayer gamers don’t use in-game voice chat, as they have their own favorite external apps that they prefer, but that is not the case for everyone. Also, while you can pull your chosen character into a multiplayer game, character progress and items intact, I notice quite a few issues regarding mission statuses and exploration achievements in the transfer, as well as transferring back. Upon starting up my own map, after playing with others, missions I had before were no longer open to me, even though we had not completed them in our group session. In fact, I currently have no missions when I continue on my own map, and am left with wandering around hoping to accidentally pick one up. Safehouse locations don’t seem to work, switching from different multiplayer maps, and I have had to re-discover locations 2 or 3 times and still can’t be certain that they will show up on the map the next time I join a game.

While there are various glitches and oddities throughout the game, very few are game breaking. Except perhaps when certain particularly vicious machines called hunters clip through walls to see and kill you. To be fair, a machine of that size and power would just plow through such mundane objects as walls in reality, so maybe not too game-breaking? The world is vast and beautiful. Avalanche has put in a great weather system and a day and night cycle that can dramatically affect each area. The game is not without its glitches and oddities (despite all the abandoned vehicles you find, you cannot make use of them), but most of it is not game breaking. Gameplay mechanics may seem a bit simplified in comparison to most current games (things like no hugging cover) it is pretty solid in what it does, and as mentioned before, can draw you in as you try to discover where it all leads.

The music is fittingly ethereal in a digital way that punctuates the mystery and eerily abandoned feel of the entire setting. Truthfully, it can be downright spooky when trying to stealthily evade the more persistent machines.

Overall, I enjoyed the game and spent altogether too much time delving into it in the short space of days I’ve had to explore it. Avalanche promises more to come and I can only hope that will mean a rehauling of some of the more lacking aspects of multiplayer. My suggestion for players just diving in? Don’t go it alone.


Score: 7


Pros

  • Well crafted, mysterious story
  • Enjoyable multiplayer
  • Vast, beautiful map

Cons

  • Gaming with friends is more difficult than it needs to be
  • Gameplay mechanics are a bit too simplified
  • Various Log glitches when joining multiplayer games

Note: Our copy was reviewed on (platform) with a code provided by PR.

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