Hostile machines have moved in, forcing everyone to move out.
That’s the plot of Avalanche’s new co-op shooter Generation Zero. Up to four players can join forces to stalk across an alternate 1980’s Sweden. While you’re there, why not attempt to unravel the mystery of the robotic-apocalypse and find the survivors.
A little Left 4 Dead, a little Horizon Zero Dawn, Generation Zero has me excited to dive into more co-op shooters and blast apart mechano-jerks with friends.
Generation Zero Review
The setting for Generation Zero is a refreshing change of scenery.
In a Nazi/Zombie/Terrorist filled world, it’s nice to fight some good ol’ robots. The enemies in Generation Zero remind me of all those Boston Dynamics videos. Where the engineers push around robots and knock boxes out of their hand.
They aren’t sleek or streamlined, they’re chunky and industrial. Robust and built with a singular purpose; extermination. Given the 1980’s setting, the death-bots are a grim reminder of the Cold War. Their crude aesthetic and invasive design contrasts well against the gentle scenery.
The beautiful Scandinavian backdrop is littered with signs of war. Burnt out tanks, scattered remains of both humans and robots as well as signs of desperation and struggling survivors. Collapsed tents and abandoned bedding litter farmhouses and churches.
There’s a sense of loss and loneliness. The open world is vast but not overwhelming. Following the roads is a good way to get where you’re going, but it’s also the most dangerous way to travel.
T-100 They Ain’t
The gunplay mechanics remind me a lot of Left 4 Dead, but the combat is far less swarm based. Robots stalk through towns and around caches of supplies.
The loot system is simple, searching through backpacks and crates yields ammo, flares and radios. That last one seems a little weird I know, but given the cold logic of a robot enemy, they are great distractions.
Too many heavy-metal menaces pacing around a potential smorgasbord of loot? Drop a radio down and watch them all stalk over, leaving a clear path to victory.
The utility items in Generation Zero all have a purpose, so carefully consider how you manage your inventory space. The weapons handle poorly, initially. As you gain XP, your ability to handle guns improves so, between levelling up and finding higher quality weapons, the fights get easier.
Perhaps the hardest thing to get your head around is why so many Swedish families have pistols, rifles, shotguns and ammo stashed in their bedrooms but never grabbed them to fight the robot invaders.
Either way, I’m grateful as I often spent more ammo than I found taking down packs of enemies. The combat feels slow and tactical, but not boring. There doesn’t appear to be much of a drawback to dying in Generation Zero, however.
When you are defeated you can respawn at any of the safehouses you’ve unlocked. In fact, I was using it to fast travel around to previous safehouse locations instead of walking. It’s something to consider if you have a long ride home.
Know Your Enemy
The enemies of Generation Zero come in six different flavours, but I am yet to run into anything bigger than a Hunter.
The smaller robots known as Ticks haunt rooms and houses. Lurking in dark places, they drop on unaware survivors and shred them apart. One size up from Ticks are the Seekers, they scout roads and fields with sensors to flag your position for the Runners.
The most numerous enemies you will encounter are Runners. They pack a rapid-fire gun on their back, switching between burst fire sprays or sprinting in to pounce. Knocking players down flat so others can shoot them full of holes.
The Hunters pack heavy weaponry as well as a fierce melee takedown. Fighting a Hunter solo took just about all of my ammo as well as some clever running around a church to block line of sight. I never encountered a Harvester or Tank, until I played multiplayer. So it appears to match the enemies and their number to your party size and level.
These colossal machines dwarf the barns that litter the countryside and both of these giant killbots will require heavy firepower and teamwork.
The first time we fought a Harvester, we ran out of ammo and decided to just leg it. We wasted all of our shots on the Runners and Seekers in the area. The great news is if you engage an enemy then escape. You still get some experience. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valour.
That’s Fucking Teamwork
Initially, I played Generation Zero solo, it was really enjoyable but I felt something missing from the experience. Kind of like playing Payday 2 by yourself. All the great visuals and atmosphere, intense gunfights and level up system felt hollow without some buddies to share it with.
Since then I’ve poured another twenty or so hours into Generation Zero with some buddies. And just as I suspected, it’s a whole new and awesome experience. Customise your character with skills and build a team loadout to survive the harsh wilds as well as your cruel robot overlords. You’ll want to spread your abilities over combat, support, survival and tech skill trees as well.
Unlike some other co-op shooters, not everyone needs to be able to fight. As scavenger survival skills help yield more ammo and supplies so you can funnel them to your best gunman. Tech allows you to repair and upgrade weapons while support keeps everyone breathing.
There are more flares, adrenaline and support gear than one player can carry, so share the load around. In fact, the only items I ran out of consistently was ammo. So as mentioned earlier, don’t be too keen to rush into gunfights.
The mammoth-sized robots need a deluge of gunfire to bring down.
This is perhaps the feature of Generation Zero I was most hyped for. The reveal trailer depicted four friends back to back cutting down a horde of tin can terrors. My experience was very different, however.
It was usually us stalking around, trying to remain unnoticed and placing radios on the ground to lure enemies away. Breaking up the pack into more manageable chunks. Perhaps if we discovered some heavier firepower earlier then we would have more defiant last stands.
That being said, my multiplayer experience was no less enjoyable. Playing tactically, waiting in the shrubs or behind a fence with bated breath as try to predict our enemies next move.
For now, I hunt alone across the wilderness. Moving from cover to cover, avoiding the scanners of my cold-iron foe. Slipping into an abandoned bomb shelter I fumble around in the dark looking for the generator.
My last flare burns out. As I turn around a few angry red lights move towards me…
I really hope that’s some friends with flares.
Generation Zero is being reviewed on PC using a digital code provided by Avalanche Studios.