Despite a poor showing with the last Killzone release, Guerrilla Games have gone the extra mile to make up for Shadow Fall’s failings with Horizon: Zero Dawn. Blending together a variety of mechanics and concepts from Far Cry to Tomb Raider, the world presented here is one of post-apocalyptic survival amid robotic animals. Rather than taking the Fallout route, this game tries to be bright, colourful and vibrant as it can, while showing shades of a world lost.
The story surrounds several tribes of humans who have endured a cataclysmic event which brought the planet to ruin. Now living in a techno-barbaric state, their feuds and discoveries of ancient relics have repeatedly shifted the balance of power in the land. The latest of these is being used by the villain to potentially hold dominion over the planet. This is largely just a framework for the characters to work off of, and balances a substantial number of side-quests against it. In this regard it is a success, as the protagonist, Aloy’s, upbeat sarcasm never fails to be endearing no matter the situation.
What really keeps things fresh, however, is how it adapts a number of past ideas. While the game does sadly stick to quite a few of the old tropes people are becoming burned out on (yes, there are radio towers), the game tries to present them in a new way. The bigger foes are often more of a puzzle to take down than a mere enemy, requiring you to break through their defences and bring them low. No single one shares the same flaws or weaknesses, which can often catch you off guard whilst exploring. Furthermore, the old staple of hacking is given a makeover, permitting you to do anything from hijack a foe as your mount, to turn one robot against others.
Obviously this is helped substantially with how the game captures the sense of exploration and sheer wonder of an alien location. It clearly tries to sidestep many of the more common or expected elements found in more recent open world titles without directly reinventing the wheel. For the most part this succeeds, thanks to the odd juxtaposition of technology and primal energy, and you might often find yourself pausing just to admire the view. Especially when it comes to the ruins.
Horizon: Zero Dawn adds a breath of fresh air to an oversaturated genre, and proves to be the best release of its kind since Witcher 3. Set aside a few hundred hours to get lost in this new world, as you will not want to miss this one.
HORIZON: ZERO DAWN / DEVELOPER: GUERRILLA GAMES PUBLISHER: SONY / PLATFORMS: PS4 / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW