Only in the world of video games could hyper intelligent, homicidal robots be considered “more mainstream” than white-tailed deer.
Generation Zero is just one of several new titles announced by Avalanche Studios, makers of the Just Cause series and 2015’s Mad Max, announced prior to E3. Game director Emil Kraftling told Polygon that his newest project evolved out of the company’s work on another, lesser known series called The Hunter. The original title, simply The Hunter, was released as a free-to-play title in 2009.
That game, which is still available on Steam, allowed players to hunt exotic game together in a number of unusual locations based off of real-world environments. Much of the early game was spent chasing white-tailed deer. The Hunter included stunningly beautiful outdoor environments, something that Avalanche has clearly made a name for itself by creating time and time again. But what made the game stand apart was the complexity of the simulation itself. The animals could hear you and see you of course, but they could also smell you on the wind. Sneaking up on them was incredibly challenging.
That same stealth system was applied to 2015’s The Hunter: Primal, which asked players to hunt herbivores and massive, deadly carnivores. I spent most of my time being chased around by velociraptors on the slope of an active volcano. Later, those same systems were applied to a third game called The Hunter: Call of the Wild, which Kraftling also worked on.
In Generation Zero, he said, those stealth mechanics are being applied to a high-stakes guerilla-style engagement between up to four players and a mysterious breed of killer robot.
“When we realized we were going to make a new self-published game,” Kraftling said in an interview with Polygon over Skype, “we wanted to make something that was less niche and more mainstream.
“We said, ‘What if instead of animals that run away from you when they detect you, what if you have something dangerous that comes at you when it detects you? [...] What if we take that stealth, tactical element and we combine it with the other side of our history — which is these explosive, action-packed, AAA games like Just Cause — and we tried to combine them into something that is in an entirely new experience?’”
In Generation Zero, Kraftling said that the enemies will have a new and sophisticated suite of senses that players will have to suss out on the fly.
“Being machines,” Kraftling said, “we realized we could add more advanced sensors to them. So for instance, rather than just having normal vision, some of them can have night vision so they see better at night. Some of them can have heat vision — infrared vision — where they basically they see you through foliage. They can see you through a fog or smoke, which you otherwise could use against them. The same is true for some of their other more advanced senses.
“It was an opportunity for us to dial things up to 11 and let you play a lot more with the enemy senses in terms of luring the machines into ambushes.”
Kraftling said that the final game will include inventory items and environmental effects that players can use against the robots. A demo showed during E3 included a boom box that players could use to lure enemies in and electrical panels that, when damaged, would disable nearby enemies.
“All of this works dynamically with their senses,” Kraftling said. “So it’s using existing systems and you being creative with a bunch of tools that we provide to take on fights in different ways. Basically, we want no two fights to play out the same because there are so many moving parts involved.”
Generation Zero will arrive in 2019 with a simultaneous release on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.