When considering Horizon Zero Dawn is developed by Guerrilla Games, it’d be easy to make the assumption that it’s a linear game set in an incredibly dark universe, with the gameplay focused on delivering as many bullets into enemies as humanly possible. But Horizon Zero Dawn is the complete opposite of all of these traditions which have been Guerrilla’s hallmarks for generations.

Moments into the game you’ll quickly realise Horizon Zero Dawn is a breath of fresh air that Guerrilla Games was  ecstatic about creating. Every little detail in the game oozes with the enthusiasm and passion of a studio which has had the ambition to create an experience far beyond what they’ve ever created before.

HORIZON-1A core part of this experience is the protagonist Aloy, who Guerrilla obviously spent a long time fleshing out in order to create an encapsulating story. The majority of the game is a quest to discover exactly where Aloy came from, and why she’s a key figure in the world of Horizon. And from the outset, Aloy is an extremely strong and personable character. Right from when she is learning how to survive, all the way through to the later stages of the game, her personality stands out. And here story is an emotional roller-coaster and who you learn to respect and love after seeing her survive everything which is thrown at her. I don’t think I’ve ever been so emotionally attached to a female protagonist, and she’s an important character for many reasons.

Aloy is an outcast of the Nora tribe, a tribe of hunters who worship a goddess of nature, called Al-Mother. The Nora tribe believes they should stick on their own, without exploring the ancient lands of this post-apocalyptic Earth. Quite frankly, they stand for everything that Aloy simple won’t comply with.

HORIZON-2There’s multiple plot-points in the world of Horizon Zero Dawn, including learning more about Aloy’s origins, why Earth has turned into a machine-filled wasteland and what lies in the future for this land Aloy calls home. It is a story which for the most part is intriguing, however it does feel like you’re being forced through smaller story-arcs in order to find out the bigger details. Which does get tedious at times, as I’d prefer the option to move on with the main plot which I found the most interesting.

Despite how strong of a character Aloy is, the various characters which you’ll come across in-game can be quite bland without adding much to the overall story. There’s a conversation wheel, but thankfully you’re always able to jump right out of these and proceed with the mission where you choose. I really appreciated this design decision for those times where I wasn’t particularly interested in a certain story arc. When I did want to know more about the situation, I was able to probe until I had all the information that I needed.

HORIZON-3Thankfully, regardless of some underwhelming story missions and bland characters, Horizon Zero Dawn’s world is an absolute joy to explore from start to finish. Seriously though, Horizon is probably the best looking game that I’ve played on PlayStation 4 Pro and takes the most advantage of HDR to-date. Everything from the beautiful scenery which constantly amazed through the various elements, weather effects and different times of the day highlights the HDR functionality of the PS4 Pro. This is especially the case in the games’ Cauldrons, which are essentially underground dungeons. These house the secrets of the machines and allow you to gain the ability to override bigger and better machines to join your arsenal.

A lot of open-world games are quite repetitive in their mission design, but I never at any point felt like I was doing the same thing for too long in Horizon. In-fact, it was quite the opposite. I’d constantly forget about main story missions due to the fact that I’d constantly come across an epic herd of machines or somebody that needs my help in the middle of nowhere.

Horizon4Speaking of the machines, they are the highlights of Horizon Zero Dawn. The way that they look and move as well as their overall design was intriguing and impressive throughout. When I played through four hours of the game a few weeks ago, I was impressed to learn there are over 25 different machines in the game. However, it was around half way through I realised quite a few of them are just slight variations of machines that you’ve seen earlier in the game, which was a little disappointing.

Luckily, despite this slight repetition in design, all the robotic enemies are a pleasure and challenge to fight. Even the Watchers, which are the smaller dinosaur like machines which you’ll meet early in the game, are a ton of fun to fight. This is due to the fact that each machine has its own personality and acts differently depending on the situation and other machines which are in the immediate area. The combat in Horizon Zero Dawn is by far my favourite aspect of Horizon and has made the game possibly the only Action RPG which I’ve been able to truly embrace. The combat is just deep and challenging enough without feeling cheap or like a chore. I lost count with how many times a massive machine would come out of nowhere and one-shot kill me, which was both hilarious and frustrating, but sums up the combat in Horizon.

Further to machines, there’s Corruptors which are machines that are being controlled by a demonic presence. They’re much harder to fight and rely a lot more on skill and careful strategy to succeed in combat. You’ll also be fighting humans in some instances and in my opinion, this is the weakest part of the game. They only get in the way of the amazing enemy design of the machines and are bullet sponges that feel like a way of extending the game length.

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Aloy’s greatest asset in combat is her mobility, which allows her to dodge and get around quicker than most machines. Which is a key part of the moment to moment combat and a technique you’ll need to master if you want to survive. Aside from this, you have a number of bows, arrow types, traps, bombs and other heavy weapons at your disposal. Quite frankly, there’s way more than you’d ever need in one game. You’ll end up picking 2-3 weapons based on your play style but each weapon is unique and incredibly fun to fight with. Which gives you the room to mix your battle style up if you’re feeling stuck or become bored with one play style.

If that isn’t enough for you, you’re also able to modify each weapon with items which you’ll receive from machines. And you can modify your outfit to resist melee attacks or certain elemental types. Honestly, I found that the game has the perfect amount of customisation. It allows you to really craft and shape Aloy to your play style and advantage, without overwhelming you with the need to collect a million items and manage a hugely extensive inventory.

PlayStation 4 Pro owners will be happy to know that Horizon Zero Dawn will have a ton of optimisation options on day one. A performance mode will be available which will deliver better frame rates whilst delivering higher visual fidelity. This is available in both 4K and 1080p.

The PS4 Pro version of this game was used for the purpose of this review.

CONCLUSION

Horizon Zero Dawn is an incredible game. Guerrilla has managed to find a perfect balance between creating an extremely challenging and deep Action RPG whilst still managing to make it accessible to almost any gamer. It’s without doubt the most beautiful game on PlayStation 4, set in a world that’s full of life and intrigue. There’s definitely some minor issues with the game, but at the end of the day, Horizon Zero Dawn reminds me why I love games. I was able to get lost in the world for hours on end, fighting bad-ass machines without a care in the world.

The PS4 version of this game was played for the purpose of this review. You can read our review policy HERE.

THE VERDICT
The Best Looking Console GamePerfect Balance Between Action and RPG ElementsMachines Are Genuinely Fun To FightCauldrons Are Bloody Epic
Human Encounters Take Away From Brilliant Machine CombatSome Characters Are BlandRepetitive Enemy Design
9Overall Score