Generation Zero review | Robotic

Avalanche’s open-world robot uprising starts out strong, but soon runs out of energy. Here’s our review of Generation Zero…


There’s a robot in the garage.

I managed to trap it in there when it charged at me with its giant chainsaw, and now it’s pacing around, buzzing and bleeping and doing other murderous robot things. I’ve got a plan on how to deal with it, but it’s a terrible one.

The first step is to find a gas canister. There’s one around here somewhere, but the tiny spider-bots leaping at my face make searching for it difficult. Once that’s done, I’ll be able to open the door, drop the canister in front of the robot in the garage, and blow it, myself, and all the other robots in the area to kingdom come. Fortunately, I’ve got an adrenaline shot to make this less of an idiotic idea than it sounds, but it’ll still be a tad messy.

I dash into the nearby house, shotgunning robotic spiders as I go. One of the medium-sized dog-bots spots me and opens fire, but I take cover in the bathroom upstairs and… bingo. I grab the canister and return to the garage. I have less than a second to pull this off before the big guy in the garage is clear of the blast, but I manage it and, with a meaty, satisfying boom, shrapnel and computer components rain from the sky. I’m blasted across the yard and am knocked out, but the adrenaline shot keeps me from dying. Now I get to search the corpses of every robot caught in the explosion for goodies, before moving on to my next objective.

It’s moments like this that make Generation Zero. Set in an alternate 1980s where Sweden has been abandoned and overrun by killer robots, the setting should’ve been enough to carry this game without the remarkably clever systems-based interactions. Situations like the one above are rarely scripted, making the game an excellent canvas for player-driven stories. Unfortunately, the world that holds these stories doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, and Generation Zero begins to rust and fall apart after only a few hours spent wandering its forests.

It’s the lack of handholding that makes Avalanche’s newest title (only four months after the dismal Just Cause 4) such a compelling sandbox. With an almost complete lack of tutorials and very vague objective markers, it’s up to you to learn the landscape, the intricacies of your equipment, and the new, mechanical ecosystem that threatens to eviscerate you at every turn. The more you understand the rules, the game turns you from frantically running for your life and into a hardened and weary survivor. If any game comes close to evoking the self-determination and smart survival of Black Mirror’s ‘Metalhead’ episode, this is it.

The enemy designs are also stunning. Piecing together what they even are before engaging them is part of the challenge. These robots have moved beyond their human creators’ understanding of anatomy, often only slightly resembling the living creatures we’d use to relate to them – that floating doohickey may look harmless, but its alarm that summons even more vaguely dog-shaped bots definitely isn’t. The way enemies move, strategise, and eventually fall apart (which is immensely satisfying) all come together to build some of the most interesting robot designs seen in games for a very long time.

Generation Zero sets up fantastic systems and a compelling aesthetic, but the world they’re let loose in is by far the game’s biggest flaw, and, sadly, it kills the game dead on its feet. When it’s not empty, it’s repetitive. When it’s not repetitive, it’s mundane. When it’s not mundane, it’s half-baked. Avalanche never manages to do the premise justice, and it’s impossible to not question whether the game was actually close to being finished by the time it launched.

The environments are cookie-cutter – in the space of just the first hour, you could easily go into five different houses in five different locations that all, for some reason, have the exact same internal layout. Exploring a house should be an integral and intimate part of a survival story like this, but instead, you go through the motions because you already know where every room is and what is in it – right down to knowing where the toilet is before stepping in through the front door.

The same applies, to a lesser extent, to the military bases. The first time you crawl through one, stumbling through the pitch blackness, it’s an awesome experience. The second time, you’ve already seen everything a bunker has to offer, despite it bearing on the other side of the country from the last one. What is the point in a game with such a focus on exploration when it spills all of its secrets in the first few minutes?

The narrative isn’t much to phone home about, either. Generation Zero could’ve learned a thing or two from Gone Home or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, as everything is told through boring audio logs, abandoned letters, or exposition-dumping newsletters conveniently left for you to find. None of it does anything worthwhile with the 1980s setting – this could have happened in 1960 or 2019 and nothing would have felt different, bar a few items of clothing you can wear for stat boosts.

The result is that all of Generation Zero’s brilliant moments feel more like a fluke than something Avalanche actually intended to happen. You may come away from it with dynamic and player-driven stories of survival in the harsh, post-human landscape, but you’ll just be taking joy in the few gleaming moments that happen by accident.

Ultimately, with a bland and underused world, unfinished environments, and an entirely forgettable story, Generation Zero is the poster-child for wasted potential.


When you’re fighting for your life against a horde of machines, Generation Zero comes alive. Desperate improvisation and gambling your life on snap decisions is intense, and does a fantastic job of putting you into the mindset of a survivor, rather than that of someone just playing an FPS.


With a neat premise and some genuinely awesome robot designs, Generation Zero starts out strong, but runs out of steam fast.


Genre: FPS / Survival
Format: PC (tested) / PS4 / XBO
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Avalanche Studios (PC) / THQ Nordic (PS4, Xbox One)
Price: £29.99
Release: Out now

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