Release roundup – Onward, Horizon: Zero Dawn & Endzone: A World Apart

As we look at all the new stuff that’s coming out every week, we take a little time to check out a few recently released ports and updates for existing projects. This time, we’re highlighting the Oculus Quest release of Onward, the PC port of Horizon: Zero Dawn and the recently updated Early Access title Endzone – A World Apart.

Onward (Oculus Quest)

Those who are familiar with the VR landscape will probably have heard on Onward before, as it’s been making waves in the PC-based community for a number of years now. It came out back in 2016 as an Early Access release, and to this date it’s still in the EA phase. While the Oculus store doesn’t have a clear moniker for it, the Quest version should be considered to be in a similar phase where further development will continue post-release.

Onward is a military-themed team based shooter, and as such was always going to be a very ambitious port for the Quest because people were inevitably going to be comparing it to the PC version – the original home of the genre and a much more powerful platform, hardware-wise.

Speaking of PC, the Quest port of Onward features cross-platform play with the PC, and although this means a shared code base that made PC players face a downgrade upon release (which should be fixed down the road) it also means that you can dive into fairly populated servers right away. This does mean you have a bit of a learning curve to get over if you’re only just starting out though, since opponents who have been playing together before will already have their own team tactics in place.

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You can hone your skills in an offline single player mode though, which I would definitely recommend doing if this is your first time with Onward. It was for me, and I made the mistake of jumping in at the deep end too soon. Perhaps what didn’t help is that the Quest version, in terms of visuals, definitely doesn’t offer the sharpest visuals either – making it harder to spot and distinguish enemies in the distance. There is also a fair bit of pop-in, making this one of those titles that, at least in its launch form, showcases how underpowered the Quest is – being a first generation wireless VR headset.

There are some seriously neat mechanics in Onward though, like the ability to physically hand an ammo clip or even gun to a teammate or the way you grab everything you need off your body – a process that takes a little practice to perform without having to look first. It’s a bit like Phantom: Covert Ops in that sense, only with a lot more stuff on you. I also enjoyed wandering off and communicating with my teammates over a radio that you have to physically handle – there really are a lot of immersion-boosting features here. It’s little touches like that that make Onward a standout experience, even in a downscaled version for the Quest. We look forward to seeing how the game develops over the next few months, as the developers will be adding more content and tweaks to the game.

Horizon: Zero Dawn – Complete Collection (PC)

Another surprise move was that Sony, a while ago now, announced they were bringing two of their big PS4 exclusives to PC. We already got Death Stranding, and now PC gamers can enjoy Horizon: Zero Dawn as well, with a complete edition that also contains the Frozen Wilds expansion.

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Content-wise, you’re getting the same base game that we reviewed here and the same expansion that we checked out here, but the PC port also has a few PC-exclusive surprises up its sleeve – most of them technical in nature, but worth it because they give fans of the original the best experience yet and a whole new audience a chance to play one of the PS4’s best games.

Accommodating various PC setups (and hardware budgets), the PC version supports a variety of resolutions as well as ultrawide aspect ratios for those with a 21:9 screen to play on. You also get a much wider array of options when it comes to how you want to configure the controls for the game, which now supports a mouse and keyboard option in addition to gamepad support. Having played the PS4 version I leaned towards the latter, but PC purists will certainly enjoy having the option to switch and change the setup to their favorite key bindings.

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Graphics options aren’t just limited to resolution and aspect ratio changes though, there are also plenty of ways to tweak the level of detail including both generic presets as well as options to turn individual features up to a higher level or completely off. Besides the usual options like the ability to tweak antialias settings, the PC version of Horizon: Zero Dawn also has an option to render objects at a higher detail level even when they’re further away – something that wasn’t possible in the PS4 version but if you have the horsepower required it makes quite the impact. If anything, this PC port is a nice little preview of how graphics can be elevated beyond what we saw on the PS4, and we didn’t even have to wait for the PS5 to experience it.

Endzone – A World Apart (Radiation Update)

The Early Access title Endzone – A World Apart recently received another big update as the game inches ever closer to its 1.0 release. Developed by Gentlymad Studios and published by Assemble, it has one of the most original setups for a city builder we’ve seen so far.

In a plot twist straight out of Dmitry Glukhovsky’s novels, a global nuclear disaster has forced the remaining members of mankind to live underground in facilities called Endzones. After 150 years there, they’re slowly emerging again to see if life on the surface can be restored, but the aftermath of the disaster is still there: radiation and extreme weather make for very harsh conditions, but your task is to survive and persevere through it all and bring hope to new and future generations.

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It’s an environment where most city builders would think “why even bother?”, which is why the most recent update for the game is so interesting. It features two brand new buildings to help you withstand the harsh conditions of 2171’s earth, one being the decontamination post that cleans radiation from food and other resources before you use them.

The other new ‘building’ also helps your community deal with the radiation as it’s a mine and though it’s not meant for shelter underground it does give you access to raw materials like iodine and coal, which are resources that can be used to make medicine that helps fight radiation poisoning. Just like the decontamination post does, this underlines that Endzone isn’t your typical city builder.

With gameplay that’s also driven by narrative missions and expeditions into the unknown to try and find new resources to make life above ground more habitable, this is certainly a game worth keeping an eye on and coming back to once it leaves Early Access.

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