Horizon: Zero Dawn review (PS4)

Guerilla’s Horizon: Zero Dawn continued 2017’s strong opening for the PS4, with high quality exclusives that are certain to boost console and game sales for months to come.

In the case of Horizon: Zero Dawn, I’d say it’s also a big flagship title for the Playstation 4 Pro, even though of course it’s not advertised as such seeing as how it’s fully compatible with the original PS4 as well. Having said that, the visuals in Horizon sit right alongside Uncharted 4 when it comes to showing off the PS4’s capabilities, and it shines extra bright on a Pro console.

In Horizon: Zero Dawn, Guerilla strays away from their Killzone franchise in both name and style. The PSP version of Killzone was of course also not a FPS, but with Horizon they’re taking on the open world action/rpg adventure genre, and they’re doing it with a brand new look and feel. Think of a mix between Far Cry Tribal, giant robotic beasts/dinosaurs and backdrops that range from jungles to snow, and you’ve got the general picture.

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You assume the role of Aloy, who lives as an outcast of her tribe due to the uncertain past she carries with her. This is one of the big mysteries for you to unravel, but you’ll also tackle the grander story taking place in the world around you. As you encounter gigantic robotic monsters, you’ll slowly learn about their origin and the people who made them – and where they went. You discover a lot through audio logs and messages that you find along the way – not just about the past, but also about the troubled relationships between the various tribes that inhabit your world.

It’s a long journey, and most of the pieces don’t start clicking together until you near the end of the 15 plus hour story campaign – which is likely much longer if you do a bit of exploring, gathering and side questing. In that sense, it’s quite a lot like Far Cry – and for people who really just want to enjoy the story these activities can turn into a bit of a drag as repetition creeps up from time to time. This is mainly true for collecting items and looting fallen foes, which feels like it’s keeping you from getting on with the story. The same can also be said for your upgrade paths, which is almost essential if you’re to be successful but are partly fueled by hunting animals for crafting materials. It’s great that open world games offer these challenges, but sometimes I wish they didn’t feel so mandatory.

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Luckily, there is a lot more to do in Horizon, even when you stick pretty closely to the storyline. Of course there are the main story missions, but there are also plenty of side quests you can undertake. These largely fall into two categories: story related and non-story related – the larger serving as often fun diversions that can bring you substantial rewards and deepen your relationship with the other people inhabiting the lands. It’s too bad that the cutscenes and closeups where you interact with them are often a tad ‘wooden’ when it comes to the animation – a bit of a contrast with the silky smooth animations in-game and something that can/will hopefully be updated with a future patch.

The real stars of Horizon: Zero Dawn are however not the people you meet, but rather the creatures you go up against. These dinosaur-like robots can fill up the screen and they all have distinct features and fighting styles, forcing you to learn and adapt – often mid-battle as well. Many of the battles have several stages to them, as you can focus on taking out an enemy’s armor first before moving on to hurting him properly – or you can figure out ways through which they end up hurting themselves as well.

Horizon: Zero Dawn might not have a solution for the faults that other open world games also have, but it delivers an experience that is rich in content and gorgeous to look at. The game world that Guerilla has crafted here is as intriguing as it is stunning, and we’re hoping it’ll spawn future titles in the same sphere – perhaps even spanning a few gameplay genres along the way. The world of Horizon sure lends itself to it.

Score: 9.0/10

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