New video game IPs are a risky endeavor. Asking people to drop their hard earned money on something that is more or less an unknown property can be met with varying degrees of success. For every Destiny, there’s a few games like The Order:1886. However, the ones that do break through though can start successful franchises that will continue for years. When the PS4 exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn was first announced at E3 in 2015, it immediately caught my attention and became a must buy for me. My only concern was that it was from Guerrilla Games, whose last title was the somewhat disappointing Killzone: Shadow Fall. Could they pull off a massive open world game? It didn’t take long for my fears to be alleviated and I can answer undoubtedly YES!
There is a lot to say about this game, so I’m going to try something new. I’m going to divide the review into categories, so hopefully it works.
GAMEPLAY: Oh, where to start. This game is MASSIVE! The map rivals Witcher 3 in sheer size. There are dungeons called cauldrons that ramp up the difficulty but give you great rewards. Corruption zones offer a real challenge, but are worth the risk. If you’re lucky, you’ll find all the vistas that give you a look into the old world. Collectibles such as figurines, containers and metal flowers are scattered in every section of the map. Dozens of side quests are available to keep you leveling.
If you just want to do the main story, you’re looking at a minimum of 30 hours. If you want to experience everything else the title has to offer, you can easily double that. There is just so much to do, it’s incredible. A+
THE CHARACTERS: Aloy, the protagonist of the game, is hands down one of the best characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing as. Whether it be her attitude or her actions, every thing she says or does is a treat. As for the supporting NPCs, they aren’t as fleshed out and have substantially less to do. They, along with the various quest givers, each have their own distinct personality. The random citizens scattered around the world are totally interchangeable with each other, but they’re more or less irrelevant. A
THE STORY: The post apocalyptic thing has been done to death in games, so it takes something special to stand out above the others. Unfortunately, while decent, the story still feels like it’s been done before. Aloy, a young woman shunned by her tribe, must traverse the world fighting various humans and machines while on a mission of revenge. There’s a few standout moments, but nothing that’s awe-inspiring. C+
COMBAT: This is one aspect where the game truly shines. The combination of stealth, ranged and direct combat works flawlessly. The difficulty is well balanced, so you won’t often find yourself in a situation that isn’t survivable unless you run in without thinking. You must plan your attack and stay hidden. Also, each enemy has different weaknesses, so there you must choose the proper weapon for each battle. A+
CONTROLS: While at first the controls seems more basic than expected, in actuality are very complex. Trying to alternate between four weapons during a fight, while also crafting ammo, healing yourself and attacking, can be rather difficult. On more than one occasion, I went to change to a different box and rolled out of my hiding spot – and promptly got slaughtered. The regular controls while out of combat are standard, but you need to be careful while doing the platform sections. C+
MISSION/QUESTS: For a game of this length and scope, there is surprisingly few main storyline quests. Luckily, they are quite involved and aren’t the basic “kill this” or “loot that” missions that seem to be popular in most games of this type. Outside of the main story, there is plenty of side quests, hunting challenges and bandit hideouts to keep you occupied. There is always something to keep you busy. A
GRAPHICS: Oh man, is this game gorgeous. From the character animations to the world as a whole, everything is as close to realistic as you can get without it actually being real life. You can see every blade of grass, the shine on the water, even the individual chest hairs on some characters. During my entire playthrough, I never saw a single overlap or drop in frame rate. Completely and utterly flawless. A+
REPLAYABILITY: As is the case with most single player games, once you’ve completed it there is no need to play a second time. There’s no alternate endings or diverging paths, so unless you want to enjoy it again going back serves no purpose. Once the game is done, you can go into free play and clean up any incomplete side quests or gather missed collectibles. Frankly, after spending upwards of 40 hours on any game I’m reluctant to jump back in. B
OTHER: If I had to pick the one thing I hated most about the game, it would be the god awful inventory system. In a game that has literally hundreds of different things to loot, you would think that there would be ways to keep them better organized. I was constantly running out of room, and the only way to free up space was either sell valuable materials which I would need later in the game or upgrade about a dozen different bags so I can store more items. On more than one occasion, I couldn’t upgrade my bags because I didn’t have room to grab the materials I needed to upgrade my bags. So frustrating…
My other gripe is that for the first half of the game, you are more or less forced to run everywhere. Sure, there are fast travel kits, but they are one time use items and not easily acquired. Once you level up, getting a mount becomes significantly easier and makes getting around less of a chore.
No question about it – Horizon: Zero Dawn is easily the best PS4 exclusive to date, and one of the best new IPs to come out in quite some time. The few shortcomings it does have are more than made up for by the sheer scope of the game. Horizon combines the best parts of games like Tomb Raider, Assassin Creed, Far Cry and The Witcher to great effect. Guerilla Games has delivered a winning title that should be a permanent part of your collection. I tend to rush through games most of the time so I can move onto the next one, but with Horizon I took my time and enjoyed everything it had to offer. If you’re a fan of lengthy single player games, this is one definitely worth checking out.
FINAL REVIEW: A