Avalanche Studios has been busy. In the last couple of months alone, the Just Cause developer opened a new studio in Sweden and revealed that it was working with id Software on Rage 2, all while being acquired by major motion picture company Nordisk Film. Yesterday, a new game in the Just Cause series was announced at Microsoft’s E3 press conference, but that wasn’t even Avalanche’s first E3 announcement—that would be Generation Zero, a self-published open-world co-op shooter set in 1980s Sweden. We got a look at Generation Zero during a hands-off demo, and it’s got a strong premise, even if it borrows mechanics heavily from other games.
While you can play Generation Zero alone, you can also experience the entire game with up to three friends as you work to unravel its mysteries. Two developers ran us through an early segment, with the characters returning home after some time away to discover that something very strange is going on. For one thing, their formerly peaceful town is abandoned; for another, deadly mechs roam the streets, ready to pounce. These electronic creatures gave off a Horizon: Zero Dawn vibe, even though the rest of the game looks nothing like it. Game director Emil Kraftling said the environment was inspired by his own memories of growing up in Sweden during the 80s, though never having been to Sweden, I can’t vouch for its accuracy.
You don’t have to be Swedish to appreciate the 1980s nostalgia, though. We got a quick look at some character customization options, and the lead player could’ve been the lead guitarist in a Van Halen cover band, judging by the long hair. The trailer also highlights some other looks, and I’m getting an '80s punk vibe with a side of The Warriors, a welcome mash-up of styles.
One thing I particularly liked about the demo was that there wasn’t a lot of running and gunning, with the players instead making use of their tools and settings to strategically take down groups of mechs. Using smoke bombs to create cover or electrocuting a large group from afar are just a couple of ways to survive when you’re outnumbered or overpowered, and you can even get a closer look at the vicious robots to highlight armor and weak points, which is very reminiscent of Horizon.
Players need to dig up clues to figure out their next objectives, but according to Avalanche, there’s a “very big map” with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. You can check out almost every building, a refreshing change of pace from open-world games that have a huge world but tons of inexplicably closed-off locations (looking at you, Fallout 4). Scavenging and crafting play a big part, and skill trees let each player cater their character to their own play style.
That’s all great, but we’ve seen a lot of this before; Generation Zero feels like a greatest hits compilation of the strongest features of other open-world games. Of course, it’s hard to get a strong sense of what makes a game special from a brief hands-off demo, and I’m still plenty intrigued by the premise and setting. I’m waiting to see what makes Generation Zero really stand out from the pack of open-world apocalypse scenarios, and I’m hoping that when I actually get my hands on it, those secrets are revealed.
Images: Avalanche Studios