Horizon Zero Dawn – Review

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Introduction

After a lot of press, hype and showings around the county, Guerrilla’s new IP is here, Horizon Zero Dawn. This is a big step for Guerrilla Games and their studio. They have broken away from their main bread and butter series and are trying something new. How did they do with their new adventure? Did they succeed the expectations or does Horizon belong in the scrap metal pile?

The main character that you play, Aloy, was raised by a man named, Rost. As you find out early in the game, Rost is not her real father. Aloy was given to him so he could raise her, but not love her. In the beginning you actually control Aloy as she is a little girl. In the early beginning of the game you fall down into a cavern that was once used by the “Old Ones”. In here you find a device that is known as an Echo. This allows Aloy to scan the area around her for clues, machines (robotic animals) and other items.  When Aloy was old enough, Rost would teach her how to hunt the machines that roam the lands. During her training Aloy grows into the young woman that we spend the majority of the game with. Guerilla did an excellent job in this part making it feel like it was part of the story while also making it a tutorial.

 

Gameplay

One of the things I was worried about going into this game was how the combat and over all feel of controlling Aloy was. Since combat is a big part of this game, it had to be precise or it would have felt like the entire experience of it would have been ruined as a whole.

Guerilla did an awesome job on this part.

Not only did Aloy move fluidity but her actions where crisp and very reactive. This was needed as some of the fights with the machines could be right in your face. To avoid being trampled, or mauled to death, you had to make some quick movements. There is no blocking maneuver that you could use to prevent, or limit, the damage you would sustain. Your biggest action for this is to roll out of the way. Sometimes this wasn’t even enough as the machines would lunge at you after their initial attack.

This isn’t a game you could just run into a pack of machines, pull your bow out and take them all out. If you try that, you won’t live very long. Every machine in the game will either get spooked of your presence or turn hostile and start to attack you. It is very rare to a find one machine out in the wild by itself. There are normally a group of the same machines together. When one turns agro on you the rest will follow. Your best bet is to find a safe place, like up on a rock or ledge, in order to take them down.

As you progress further into the game you will run across even more machines. Some of these machines have range attacks on them. Some even have cloaking abilities.  Just standing out in the open far away can prove to be deadly as well. Some of these fights require a decent amount of strategy and some stealthness involved.

The real only issue I had with the controls was sometimes when I tried to pull my bow back I would end up doing a heavy melee attack. This only happened in the frantic up close fights where every second counted. It very well could have just been me but it did happen a hand full of times.

I did have one issue with the camera. When you were trying to look up in the sky, the camera would go behind some of the tall grass, or plants, which would block your view. This could be frustrating at times as some of the machines you face do fly. Trying to track them, while also lining up a shot with your bow, with foliage in your viewing area, made it annoying at times.

Another slight problem that I had was collision detection when firing an arrow. You can have Aloy position behind a rock, railing or something else to block the view of the machines, or bandits, from noticing you. When you have a clear sight over these and fire your arrow it will hit something in thin air and stop. You can plainly see the background all around the arrow. Not a huge problem by any means. Once you wait for a good shot to get perfectly lined up and the arrow just sticks in mid air can be frustrating. The way I found around this is to back up just a little bit to give your arrow some more clearance.

 

Machines

As stated early on in this review, the machines, or robotic animals, are amazingly done. There are some normal animals in the wild, such as Rabbits, Turkeys, Boars, Foxes, Fish and so forth. These can be hunted for materials, such as their bones and hides, to upgrade your equipment.

The main wildlife you will come across are the machines. These are designed after Horses, Raptors, Ostriches, Alligators, Giraffes and even more animals. All of these machines act independently of each other and have their own manners and characteristics.

These machines are very well detailed with their interlacing parts and wires. I caught myself a few times just watching as they roam around the lands and how they interact with different landscapes and even each other. The larger machines are even more detailed with their moving armor and sheer size, especially the Tall Necks and Thunderjaws.

As you progress through the game you will learn a few tricks on how to take these machines down. Each one has some weak points on them that you can highlight with your Focus. Removing these parts will help dwindle the health down on them faster. You can also override them by going through special caverns called, Cauldrons. By completing these you can essentially make the machines friendly to you and they will fight other machines. Also by overriding a select few you can also ride them. This provides much quicker travel across the landscape to your next destination.

 

Graphics

Horizon will be one of the prettiest game that you will encounter. From the color of Aloy herself, her outfits that she can wear, to the machines and their individual parts and especially the environments, Horizon is a gorgeous game to just sit back and enjoy the view.

What makes this even more appealing is the difference in time throughout the day. You will be able to see the sun rise and watch it set. Even at night it has a blue hue about it. This makes it easier to see the bright lights on the machines at night. This is a good time to go hunting for the cloaking machines as their eyes can glow in the dark.

As you embark your way through your journey, you will travel through different terrain. From lush jungles, to snowcapped mountains, the dry rocky desert and even over grown vegetation that used to be metropolitan areas. Everywhere you turn and look you will see vivid colors and amazing landscapes. These give you plenty opportunities to make sure of the Photo Mode portion of the game. In here you can adjust about anything you want to get the perfect image. It is quite robust which can make you spend an hour, or even more, tweaking your picture to get that correct look to it.

This is a little nit-picking here, on some of the human models, parts of their hair and weapons will disappear inside their bodies. On the machines themselves you will see some jaggies and blurriness up close. None of these will take away or lessen the beauty of the entire game.

 

Conclusion

The time I spent in Horizon Zero Dawn was an amazing time. The inclusion of Hunting Trials helped break up the gameplay and tested your skill using different methods. Going through the Cauldrons was surprisingly fun and rewarding at the end. The most rewarding feeling was taking down the machines, especially the furious Thunderjaws. There was nothing better than watching one of them fall at your feet.

No matter how you look at it, Horizon is a must play game. I can see this game being strong enough to sell the PlayStation 4 to new adopters. The production value, writing (Aloy can get rude with some of the NPC characters), the voice acting, plus everything else involved in this game, makes the entire experience worthwhile.

If you have a PlayStation 4, or even thinking about picking one up, you should grab this game. It is well worth the full price. I would give Horizon Zero Dawn a cumulative score of 9/10. Grab your bow and spear and enjoy the hunt!

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