A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Generation Zero is an open-world cooperative action game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. Working alone or in groups of up to four, players take on the roles of young adults in 1980s-era Sweden who have received mandatory military training and are exploring a world overrun with fast and lethal machines. Guns and explosives are used to combat these robots, with successful attacks resulting in large explosions that send machine parts scattering. Combat's exceptionally frenetic and also very challenging, especially when playing alone and without the help of a group. Players who work together will find the experience less frustrating, especially if they cooperate and devise strategies, such as setting explosive traps and baiting machines. Parents should also note that while the game's mostly free of strong language, the word "s--t" appears in text notes found by the player.
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What's it about?
GENERATION ZERO is set in 1980s Sweden near the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Players assume the role of a young adult returning from an isolated excursion to a remote island only to discover that a mysterious army of machines has murdered many citizens and compelled the rest to flee. Robots are still roaming the land, forcing you to defend yourself with whatever weapons -- and weapon modifications, including muzzles, scopes, and ammunition magazines -- you can scavenge from buildings and vehicles. You can also create makeshift traps, using items such as radios to lure robots toward explosive containers. Defeating enemies, completing tasks, and discovering new locations results in experience that leads to skill points, which can be invested in a variety of character attributes that will make your avatar a better fighter, healer, and tactician. As the game progresses, players will discover clues that suggest places where survivors might have gathered and that provide more information on the robots and what may have happened while you and your friends were away.
Is it any good?
The most interesting part of this open-world shooter is its setup. Generation Zero's setting is integral to its premise. It takes place in a country with mandatory military training for young adults to defend against a potential Soviet invasion, which makes the notion of a group of late teens taking up arms to defend themselves believable. It's also set in a time prior to the internet and cell phones, which makes plausible the idea that a crisis could take place while the teens are away without them being aware of it. The scope and beauty of the lonely but extremely dangerous world furthers the sense of isolation and catastrophe. Moving through a lush but chilly forest as night falls and a thunderstorm rolls in from the sea, fearful that at any moment you could be spotted by a cadre of lightning-fast four-legged machines, creates heart-pounding tension.
Sadly, though, this strong staging makes the game's faults all that much more disappointing. Nature may often appear beautiful, but humanmade elements are less so. Vehicles and buildings suffer from cookie-cutter design, with details such as posters, dishes, and furniture copied straight over from one location to another. It effectively breaks the game's spell, and makes scavenging a lot less interesting. And while the fast-paced and viciously difficult combat rewards caution and strategy, there are also plenty of scenarios where the speed, number, awareness, and intelligence of enemies effectively eliminates any chance at survival, especially when playing alone. It makes the idea that this army of machines could so quickly and effectively take over believable, but it can also be extremely frustrating. Perhaps the biggest letdown, though, is that the story takes a backseat to the action, left mostly to notes and newspaper clippings. A premise this interesting deserves more thorough investigation than it's been given. Generation Zero has potential, and could perhaps evolve through updates and patches, but the initial offering isn't what it could have been.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in the media. Is the impact of violence in Generation Zero affected by the fact that you're destroying murderous machines in battle? Would you feel differently fighting enemies of flesh and blood?
How would you feel if you knew you'd be forced to train and serve in the military right after high school?
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