I was actually looking forward to Level Zero: Extraction when I first saw its trailer last month. It looked like a serious and tactical game about several groups of mercenaries trying to acquire important laboratory research and extract from the facility, while fighting other groups of player mercenaries and also players who are on the alien team, who are hunting all the mercenaries down. The twist is that in Level Zero, the Aliens can only be hurt with light sources, not guns. The guns are there purely for the mercenaries to fight each other.

Unfortunately, this Level Zero is horrifying in quite a few ways besides the aliens that are out hunting you.

First Impressions:

First impressions are pretty abysmal, when booting on the Steam Deck, performance was at 10 FPS on the main menu. I thought that was odd, so I checked the graphics settings, and lo and behold, they're set to "Epic". Ok, so we'll just change that down to "Low". For some reason, Shadows and Post-Processing don't go below "High", not sure what's going on here, but either way, they're stuck there, and we're now getting between 29-31 FPS on the main menu. I've lowered the resolution scaling down to 50% by the way, it's the only way for the game to run well, so at least Level Zero offers us that.

It's also worth noting that the game has no gamepad support yet, so I had to make do with a controller layout to convert keyboard controls into gamepad controls.


Ok, not a great start then, but what does Level Zero actually play like once we're in a match? Well, my first attempt to join a match as a mercenary resulted in a frozen black screen, I then spent over 10 minutes attempting to matchmake as an alien, which failed to do anything, and at this point, I'm not sure if there's just no one playing the Level Zero closed beta, or if the servers are down, there's no way to know. So I try playing as a mercenary for a second time, and the eternal black screen returns... sigh

Playing as an Alien:

Finally, I got into a match as an alien. Within a minute or so, I encounter a human team, I fumble around with my controls, managing to spit at them with one of my abilities, however, they deploy a flare which I foolishly walk into while I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing, for context, the only way for humans to harm the aliens is with light sources, guns have no impact on an alien, somehow. This basically means that an Alien can nearly always survive an encounter with a human if they simply walk away and try again once the team moves or the light source disperses.

BUT, as I was a fool who walked into a flare, I now have a 35-second wait where I cannot see anything but a timer, no spectating your teammate here, that would be in danger of being entertaining, and Level Zero is anything but entertaining!


Upon respawn, I quickly go back to where I died, but the team has moved on... and that was that...

For the next 13 minutes, I scoured the map, I found my alien teammate three times, but never saw a human again, considering there are 12 humans in the game, and only 1 other alien, I should have surely seen them at some point. I have no idea if they all quit, or if something went wrong on the server, but the game didn't end, and me and my teammate failed to find a human beyond that initial team.

When I quit at the 20-minute mark into the game, the end-game screen reported that 2 humans had been killed in total, out of 12. So I presume the other 10 were still in the facility or had left and the game had carried on? I honestly couldn't tell you. Regardless, both me and my teammate failed to find them on the large map, and somewhat confusing to navigate map.

Playing as a Mercenary:

Now I was determined to get into a mercenary match to find out just what was going on with Level Zero, is it a glorified multiplayer walking simulator? Or do things actually happen? I managed to get into a mercenary match pretty quickly this time, after selecting my loadout of some glowsticks, flashbangs, a gun, and some health syringes, and it was then that I realized... They totally just quit in that last game, didn't they?


Level Zero is dark as a mercenary, super dark. Annoyingly dark, weirdly the Steam screenshots show the game a lot brighter than it actually is in the game. It's also brutally unfair to the mercenary teams. The Aliens can die and respawn after a lengthy timer, however, if you die as a human, that's it, you lose all your equipment and you're sent back to the main menu. And you can die very, very quickly. The game is unbalanced and greatly favors the Alien side, if you're playing solo and you encounter an Alien, you're probably just going to die, there are too many things that want you dead as a human, wandering turrets, other mercenary teams, the aliens, and you don't really have much ability to defend yourself against everything, especially if you're a solo player.

I ended up wandering around the facility for about 8-10 minutes, seeing no other humans or an alien until I was shot by what I believe was one of the turrets roaming the facility, and killed before I knew what was happening. Game over, I guess? By this point I was getting pretty sick of Level Zero, I had just lost a good deal of equipment as a mercenary due to playing solo and thus not having a teammate to revive me when a turret I had no idea about rinsed me.

You might be thinking at this point, that the Alien sounds so much easier to play than the Mercenary, right? Well, to balance that out, there's not really any rewards right now for playing as an Alien. You play that team purely for the enjoyment of killing players trying to escape with their loot. Only the mercenary teams can acquire/lose resources and equipment. So while the Alien might be "fun", at least compared to the Mercenary. You won't gain any actual meaningful progress playing as an Alien, you can't gather equipment or improve your loadout, etc.


I came away from this whole experience thoroughly disappointed... I had really wanted to enjoy Level Zero, but I hardly see anything redeeming about it. Poor optimization, bland environments that repeat themselves, the map design is just too big and repetitive to get your bearings or find players, and the combat isn't tactical due to Aliens having good vision and humans not really being able to see anything. From what I've played and what I've watched of others playing, mercenary teams rarely attack each other because of the Aliens and turrets that want them both dead. Having a firefight just attracts attention, and none of the mercenaries want that.

The only plus here is that Level Zero for the most part stayed above 30 FPS on the Deck, whether that's good enough for a "competitive" game, well that's a decision everyone has to make. Weirdly, the gameplay itself runs at a higher frame rate than the main menu, go figure. Unfortunately, to achieve that, you have to run at very low settings with 50% resolution scaling, and with Level Zero already relying on restricted vision as a playing point, that just makes it even harder to see what's going on.

I've actually been trying to get into another match before finishing this article, but after being in 4 queues for over 5 minutes each and just now finally getting into a match, the game crashes as the "Deployment" timer reaches 2 seconds, throwing me back to SteamOS. That's the final straw for me Level Zero, I'm uninstalling you now...

I wouldn't hold your breath for this game, sad as I am to say it. It's currently ranked #157 in the most wishlisted games on Steam according to SteamDB, and I'm worried we're heading towards another highly anticipated flop with Level Zero: Extraction...

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Oliver Stogden
Oliver began playing video games at an early age, starting with the SNES console and Commodore Amiga computer. Nowadays, his interest is in the future of portable technology, such as handheld gaming systems, portable power stations/banks, and portable monitors. And seeing just how far we can push these devices.
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