As a fan H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, and Jeff Wayne’s musical adaptation of it, it pains me that there haven’t been more video games based upon it over the years.
Recently, however, I played a closed beta for a game that offered everything I’d expect of a The War of the Worlds game, only with an ’80s setting. Because that’s what’s cool these days it would seem. Ignore that the characters in Avalanche Studios’ Generation Zero are stereotypical jocks, punks or greasers though, and you really do have an experience that reminiscent of H.G. Wells’ science fiction classic.
Generation Zero places you in an epic game of cat and mouse. Set in Sweden, mankind is seemingly reeling from the appearance of robotic machines that are ruthless in their pursuit of things that live and breathe. Finding yourself in the middle of this nightmare, your only option is to survive the best you can, and maybe even discover the origins of the catastrophe. But you don’t have to do it alone.
While Generation Zero is perfectly playable in single-player, most will probably want to team up with their friends to improve their chances of survival. Well, providing they can effectively make use of the limited resources they have available. In my time with Generation Zero‘s closed beta, I primarily encountered dog-like robots that roamed in packs and pursued me if spotted. Encountering them was a tense affair on my own, and even with a team their speed and hardiness presented a challenge.
Relying on the items you can scavenge from the environment to survive, you rarely feel suited to take on an army of metal machines. As such, stealth is very much your friend. Sneaking from one location to another as you complete objectives is the best way to keep yourself safe, but it’s not always possible and limits your scavenging opportunities. Picking your fights is imperative, and so you’ll get used to bringing out your binoculars and staking out locations from a distance, trying to get a grip on if any robots are lurking there, and how many.
Set for release sometime in 2019, even at this early stage Generation Zero‘s gameplay is gripping. Combat is tense and exciting, primarily because you have a myriad of options to put down and hinder your adversaries. And the open world that the game is set in is visually appealing and feels natural. Straight from the outset I wanted to explore and discover its secrets, and the responsive and intuitive controls allowed me to do so.
An RPG-like progression system appears like it will add some welcome depth to the whole experience, allowing you to specialise your character. You earn experience for performing a number of actions, including dispatching enemies, and as you level up you can spend skill points across a number of skill trees. Essentially, whether you want to become more formidable in combat or more savvy with tech is up to you. When playing with a team, it will be handy to balance your skills.
New clothing and other cosmetic items can also be found as you explore Generation Zero‘s depiction of a slice of 1980s Sweden, allowing you to tweak your character’s appearance to your liking beyond your initial choices. I found alternative hair, glasses, trousers and jackets in my time with the game, allowing me to effectively change my punk rocker into a fan of hair metal. Inconsequential, sure, but fun nonetheless.
Before jumping into Generation Zero‘s closed beta, I have to admit that the game really wasn’t on my radar at all. After playing it though, I’m keen for its release. Aside from wanting to unravel its mystery, I want to immerse myself in its world. On my own, and with friends, I want to explore every nook and cranny to uncover the game’s secrets, sneak by and enter into combat with menacing machines, and develop my own silly looking ’80s caricature.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, Generation Zero might just be the game that fans of The War of the Worlds have been waiting for. Sure, it’s about robots occupying earth instead of aliens (though maybe they are), but it conveys the same feeling of being isolated and desperate in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile due to invaders. And I certainly want more of that.