Level Zero is an asymmetric multiplayer survival horror game that looks as if Dead By Daylight and Alien Isolation were thrown into a blender – potentially in the very best of ways. It’s that classic story of a science expedition gone wrong. Teamwork is everything, of course, as four scientists fight to survive against two powerful monsters in a PvP showdown. Developer DogHowl Games recently invited me to a hands-off preview, and so far, I’m feeling optimistic.
As the science team, your goal is to restart the electrical system, finding and fixing the broken fusebox in all three sectors. That requires a toolbox hidden in the darkness, so don’t go rushing ahead, though failure to restart the power within 30 minutes results in defeat. Once done, activating the mainframe leads to a tense final confrontation that plunges you into total darkness for 60 seconds, and only one scientist needs to survive to win. DogHowl acknowledges there’s a learning curve here, so take your time studying the map.
Your ultimate weapon against monsters is light; there are no gunplay or melee weapons here to protect yourselves. With limited resources available, this requires strategic thinking and you’ll need to pick your moments. Should you use the UV light that won’t run out of power but doesn’t hurt monsters? Do you choose a torch with minor damage that gradually depletes? Or is a trusty flare what you need, which both illuminates your surroundings and inflicts significant damage to monsters?
If a scientist gets ambushed, fellow teammates can revive you if they’re quick, though death doesn’t mean banishing you to a spectator lobby. Instead, deceased scientists control a weaponless drone, which allows them to mark objects, take items to teammates, and track monsters with a UV light. Monsters can’t kill drones, as death a second time would be slightly cruel, but they can stun them temporarily.
On the other side, monsters play very differently, and your main goal is more straightforward: eliminate each scientist or prevent them from activating the mainframe. If even one scientist still breathes after the power’s back on, you’ve lost. Whereas scientists come packed with varying gadgets, monsters have innate abilities like sensing human heartbeats, electricity manipulation to disable light sources, or even screaming to force humans into dropping objects.
You’ve got some powerful abilities, and Level Zero seems to balance these nicely, thanks to an energy meter system. Monsters need to max out their energy at the beginning by collecting eggs, and once that’s done, your meter automatically regenerates. Unlike scientists, you can see in the dark, the big trade-off being that you don’t have a minimap. So, make good use of these skills. Should a scientist kill you, monster respawns are unlimited, though there’s a 35-second wait to return.
You can only gauge so much without going directly hands-on, but what’s here looks impressive. Between clearing through rooms while searching for a toolbox to trapping scientists in a pincer formation, Level Zero feels like it’s putting strategy front and centre. Whichever side you’re on, team communication is essential across these eerie sectors. I also appreciate how, unlike Dead by Daylight, the ‘killers’ aren’t left to celebrate their victories alone.
Level Zero has three maps at launch, and this preview mainly focused on the Space Station. It isn’t a wildly original design, sure, but what I’ve seen looks well executed. Across these pitch black hallways, the flickering lights, and countless dead bodies of those who came before us, the sinister atmosphere struck a chord. Dynamic events like bursting pipes can build tension and random blackouts give monsters free reign for about 40 seconds, which is a terrifying thought. If they don’t kill you, the suspense probably will.
Once either team reaches its goals, players are rewarded with experience, letting you buy up to three perks like increased running speed. Should you die, those disappear, but you can repurchase them. Character customization options are also here, providing different cosmetic items such as skins, gloves, and costumes. Not many of these were shown, but I did get a glimpse at DogHowl’s post-launch plans. There are more maps on the way, new game modes, other cosmetics, and additional perks. It all sounds pretty expansive! DogHowl Games plans to migrate Level Zero onto Unreal Engine 5 in the future, too, though there’s no clear timeframe for this yet.