BY MIKE EPSTEIN Conceptually, Generation Zero has a lot of big ideas. Its setting, a 1980s alternate history where robots have taken over the Swedish countryside, is fresh and stylish in its specificity. Though it fits into a clear-cut niche – the co-op survival first-person shooter – it draws clear mechanical inspiration from a range of sources, from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds to Horizon: Zero Dawn, as well as more directly comparable open-world shooters like Far Cry 5. It is incredibly ambitious, and I really want to be able to tell you that it’s among the most exciting games published in 2019.
...But it’s not. It’s really not. For all its great ideas, only a few of these concepts – namely the art and a spooky 80s mystery vibe – play out as well as you’d hope or expect. From exploration to combat, much of Generation Zero feels out of whack. Enemies can sense your presence from across a field or forest and break up a carefully laid-out ambush in an instant, and too often the resulting chaos is a jerky, janky shootout where the victor is dictated by attrition rather than skill or foresight. Likewise, progress comes slowly and it’s often unclear what you should be doing and where you should go. Moreover, all of these problems are compounded by gratuitous glitchiness – just about every kind of bug you can think of, you will likely see roaming rural Sweden. All of these problems blend into an incredibly frustrating grind in which I – whether I was playing alone or as part of a team – constantly felt like I was butting heads with the universe for every measly inch of progress (in a bad way).