Unex­cep­tional in the ’80s

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Alex Spencer

Be­tween Stranger Things, the nos­tal­gia of Ready Player One and roughly half of re­cent pop mu­sic, it feels like we spend more time to­day in the ’80s than any­one ever ac­tu­ally did at the time. And Gen­er­a­tion Zero, a shooter set in 1989 Swe­den, is no ex­cep­tion

The game hits a lot of fa­mil­iar pe­riod tropes. Fire it up and you’re greeted with those tow­er­ing John Car­pen­ter-es­que synths, just as gor­geous here as they are in Stranger Things. The char­ac­ter cre­ation screen loops through teen movie archetypes like it’s quot­ing the speech from the end of The Break­fast Club – the rebel, the punk, the preppy kid, the nerd.

There’s not a flicker of neon to be seen, though, and Gen­er­a­tion Zero stands out sim­ply by virtue of be­ing set in Swe­den. Avalanche uses the pe­riod set­ting to high­light a side of its home coun­try that isn’t of­ten seen: the heavy mil­i­tari­sa­tion that fol­lowed World War 2 and the be­gin­ning of the Cold War. Oh, and also there are ro­bots. Lots of ro­bots.

The idea here, which is mostly just hinted at, is that Swe­den’s an­swer to the arms race was build­ing a drone army – think the Bos­ton Dy­nam­ics dog bot, but with ma­chine guns strapped on top – un­til, one day, the ro­bots turned on their hu­man over­lords. Who could have pre­dicted that, eh?

The game be­gins as your cus­tomised teen re­turns from a week­end of par­ty­ing to find their home blood­stained and de­void of life – but help­fully packed with guns, ammo and flares. From here, you’re sent on a path of ex­plo­ration, nom­i­nally to find out where all the peo­ple have gone.

In prac­tice, this is just a smat­ter­ing of nar­ra­tive bread­crumbs to lead you through the map. The game it­self plays out like the first ten min­utes in a game of Play­erUn­known’s Bat­tle­grounds, spun out in­def­i­nitely. You move across stretches of open land. Oc­ca­sion­ally you come upon a set­tle­ment, and go from house to house, hoover­ing up their con­tents – weapon at­tach­ments, med­kits that grad­u­ally bump up your health when ac­ti­vated, gear rang­ing from di­lap­i­dated to ac­tu­ally use­ful – into your in­ven­tory, in prepa­ra­tion for the next en­counter.

Fa­mil­iar ground

Even Gen­er­a­tion Zero’s Baltic is­land set­ting is rem­i­nis­cent of PUBG’s Erangel, with its sparse fo­liage, weather cy­cle with a pen­chant for moody rain, and over­all sense of des­o­la­tion. Ini­tially, it’s a fas­ci­nat­ing world to ex­plore, pok­ing around homes with their aban­doned din­ner ta­bles, TVs tuned to static and lit­tle crossstitc­hed Swedish say­ings on the walls (hand­ily trans­lated when you point the retic­ule in their di­rec­tion).

Quickly, though, you’ll re­alise it’s the same din­ing ta­bles, de­tuned TVs and cross-stitches re­peat­ing in an end­less loop. (Ac­tu­ally, in fair­ness, there’s a de­cent range of Swedish say­ings on of­fer, just in case for­eign-lan­guage proverbs are your par­tic­u­lar jam.) It’s like do­ing cir­cuits of your lo­cal Ikea.

Pub­lisher Avalanche Stu­dios / De­vel­oper Avalanche Stu­dios / re­lease date Xbox One / cost £34.99/$39.99

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