Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when going into Horizon Zero Dawn, (as will likely be the case for most of the gaming population). It’s an entirely new franchise from Guerrilla Games and as is always the case with a fresh series, there’s the chance it could be forgotten within a matter of weeks following release. Despite that, the game has already gone gold thanks to pre-sales; it looks as if the gaming community is ready to get behind the title and its leading character, Aloy. I’m happy to report that after a couple of weeks with the game, it’s more than deserving of the success.
At first glance, HZD may look like just another tribal game set in the past, but that’s not the case at all. In fact, we zoom deep into the future to follow this story, at a time when technology has done unspeakable things and some of the most dangerous beasts on the planet are made up entirely of machinery. Those machines are intricately detailed and styled to look like huge birds, dinosaurs or other intimidating creatures that have plagued the planet at one time or another, adding a huge layer of danger to the game and encouraging stealthy gameplay.
For me, minute details are what really make a game stand out from the crowd. Playing initially as a young version of protagonist, Aloy, you rush to get to your destinations, padding up steps with your hands to stop yourself from falling forward in your excitement. When running down stairs you very nearly lose your stepping, just as children do in real life. Moments like this aren’t essential for the game to be a success, so the very fact that they’ve been thought about so deeply and included adds another huge level of relatability to proceedings.
Saying too much about the story weaved throughout this adventure would do everybody a disservice. So, instead I’ll simply say that it is one of the most thoroughly planned, infectious plots I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing through. Take in the world around you; don’t make use of the fast travel abilities. Don’t even mount up when given the option. Walk everywhere. Breathe everything in. Do every side mission and speak to all of the NPCs around you. You’ll be thankful after 40 hours of stellar gameplay and wishing there was even more for you to delve into. Even after all of that time, you’ll want to come back and continue exploring the world. It’s that incredible.
Lead character Aloy is without a doubt going to go down in history as one of PlayStation’s character icons. She’s already up there among the ranks of Crash Bandicoot, Lara Croft and others that have cemented their place in history. You’ll take her through countless fights that have a wide range of possibilities depending on how you approach them. Using a device you find early on in the game, you can scan the machines in the environment around you, picking up their weak spots and using a flurry of weapons and artillery to take them down. Every fight is thrilling. If stealth is more your thing, set a few traps and watch as your quick-thinking takes down formidable opponents. Once you’ve spent a few skill points in your talent tree, you’ll even be able to slow down time while aiming at your enemies. There’s a lack of an ability to hide bodies after a kill, which means that when you want to go through a lengthy and stealthy approach to taking down a camp of bandits or herd of machines, you’ll have to make big plans if you’re to do so without one of your victims’ corpses being spotted. It’s only a small niggle however, and not something big enough to take away from the overall experience.
HZD is arguably the most beautiful, intelligent and explorative open world I’ve ever had the privilege of being a part of. For a brand new franchise it’s done the perfect job of introducing itself, and I hope this is just the start of the time we’ll get to spend in the game’s world alongside Aloy and company. There’s a whole other realm of possibilities within this universe that we could journey through moving forward.
For the first time in quite a while, I was itching here to get back to the game whenever I was away from home. In fact, it may be the most addictive experience I’ve had since my first run through of The Last Of Us. I can’t give HZD anything less than a perfect score.
Horizon Zero Dawn is available now, exclusively on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro.