Avalanche Studios’ output appears to be snowballing. In addition to housing the teams that are creating Rage 2 and Just Cause 4, the Swedish developer is working on a self-published game called Generation Zero. The game was announced at E3, and we were impressed with its first showing – as weird as its premise may seem. It features a mysterious robot uprising and environments largely barren of humanity. And, as a kicker, it just so happens to be set in an alternate version of Sweden in the ‘80s. At Gamescom, the studio let us get our hands on Generation Zero to see how we fared against the mechanical threats.
The demo drops me and a co-op partner in a home inside a small rural village. The mission is simple: head to a bomb shelter in a nearby village, and perhaps find some fellow survivors. After foraging around for ammo and supplies, we head out into the darkness. The game is running on Avalanche’s proprietary in-house Apex Engine, and it looks great – and oppressive. The woods are thick, and the fog and rain combine to make every step feel tense. As it turns out, that tension is earned: A pair of robotic sentries called seekers hover over some nearby brush, and I nearly walk into their range. Fortunately, my partner tells me to hang back. Seekers can draw in robotic support, but when they’re isolated they aren’t particularly dangerous. We take the duo out with our pistols, and forage their remains for gear.
I’m lucky, and find an EMP cell in one pile of ruined scrap. It comes in handy a short while later, when we encounter dog-like runner robots patrolling a cluster of buildings. The EMP works as you’d expect, detonating with a nice flash and temporarily shutting down the runners’ systems. From there, my partner and I unload on the stunned beasts as quickly as we can before their bodies spring back to life. We’re mostly successful, but I manage to completely overlook a straggler on the side. It rushes toward us while we’re looting the remains of the others, knocking me to the ground. I’m able to restore my health with a medkit, but I’m rattled.
We continue toward our waypoint, picking up better weapons in abandoned cars and boxes along the way. I end up with a nice shotgun and a rocket launcher. Weapons have multiple ammo types, and I’m told the rocket launcher has some exotic projectiles of its own. Unfortunately, I have to make do with a boring old massive explosion – particularly helpful against clusters of runners. During the demo I also learn the value of using items like flares and fireworks to attract or disorient my foes, manipulating them and making it easier to take them out with a well-thrown grenade.
The bomb shelter turns out to be a bust, but a computer terminal has a clue: some survivors are heading toward a farm for some kind of last stand against the robots. Sounds like a party. We load up on gear and make our way to the farm. The party is cut short by the introduction of the ticks. These small enemies like to jump, and are an overall nuisance. They’re particularly effective when near other robotic types, since you have to take them out quickly before diverting your attention toward the more conventionally dangerous enemies. Ignore the ticks, and they’ll essentially hassle you to death with smaller wounds.
On the other side of the robot spectrum, the demo ends with an encounter from a tank. This shambling titan takes potshots from a distance, and its armor makes it a truly difficult foe. I’m able to make several successful shots with my rockets before the demo ends. Don’t worry, tank; you’ll get yours eventually.
Avalanche says players will learn more about the robot apocalypse, but that portion of it will be hidden behind optional missions you may or may not encounter in the open world. Along the way, players will be able to outfit their character in true ‘80s style. My hero sported a backward cap and a thick, gold dookie chain, but that’s just the start. You’ll be able to find more cosmetics as you explore – loud patterns and tragic haircuts are apparently plentiful. Best of all, Avalanche says there won’t be microtransations, so you’ll have to earn the right to look so gleefully corny.