Open-world games are tricky to get right. Players want big (but handcrafted) maps, filled with endless (but varying) quests and intelligent (but not too intelligent) A.I. So, naturally, it’s refreshing and extremely well-received when a game has just about all of that (and more).
‘Horizon Zero Dawn’ follows Aloy, a born hunter, in a world where giant machines roam the environment, posing a great risk to any humans. Primitive tribes exist, but Aloy is an outcast, adding an interesting feeling of accomplishment into the game, as if every time you succeed in something, you’re showing the tribe what they could have had.
A PS4 exclusive, the game uses the console’s specs to deliver a perfectly designed world with a mix of environment types and weather conditions, nicely topped off by some incredible lighting. The sunsets bleed with red, orange and pink hues, whilst the rainy days wash grey and fog over the land.
Character design is impressive, with the voice-acting giving them more depth and making them that bit more believable. Aloy looks fantastic, apart from wearing what appears to be socks with sandals.
Exploring and adventuring aside, what you’re looking at with this game is some seriously fun combat. The combat system is fast-paced and needs some quick reflexes, with the first few fights making you feel like a tiny human in the midst of great mechanical animals (which is exactly what you are). However, as you get used to it, the combat doesn’t fall short of near-perfect, mixing swift dodging with swifter aiming and allowing the player to use technology to scan enemies and see their weaknesses.
Stealth is another major aspect of ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’, with many situations offering you the chance of not fighting at all. Crouching in some tall grass, Aloy is hidden and won’t alarm the machines. However, they wouldn’t be powerful machines without the ability to hear, which is implemented nicely into gameplay; move too quickly and you’ll be heard (and then likely seen). Using technology again, a scan will allow Aloy to see the paths the machines are following, meaning smarter evasion.
Attention to detail is nice, with one example being that you must use a ‘fast travel pack’ (comprised of supplies and food) to fast travel anywhere. Even things such as the tall grass bending when you move through it and Aloy leaving footsteps in the snow add that little bit more realism in areas you won’t have thought about.
Although the armour and weapons are well designed, there aren’t all too many of them. The bows look and feel similar, with not much pride being found in purchasing an expensive one and no big, noticeable change in combat afterwards. The various types of armour do look and function differently, but there still isn’t a great range and each one works as an all-in-one piece, rather than being made up by the player with specific bottoms, tops, helmets and so on.
Overall, the game has an enticing story with original quests, the characters feel tangible and the world looks stunning. Combat is fast, unforgiving and extremely satisfying. The game provides an adventure with twists and turns worth the £49.99 price tag (PlayStation Store).