Developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony for the PS4, Horizon Zero Dawn was praised on release for its stunning visuals while running in 4K – Fast forward a year, and it is still beautiful – It’s easily one of the best looking games that I have ever played… But then again, I’ve only just upgraded my PS4 to a PS4 Pro and haven’t really played anything else to compare it to – So having played around 20 hours of the game and done very little of the story, here’s what I think of it so far.
First of all, I’ve got to mention the way that it looks; it is incredible. The first time I tried playing the game I didn’t give it much of a chance to let me get into it, but in that short length of time, while playing in 1080p, it looked amazing – Now in 4K, it’s even better; I haven’t seen a game running like this before, my PC definitely can’t handle 4K so playing a game this intensive this smoothly is incredible. While the game does suffer from a bad case of pop-ins, this can be expected when trying the run the game this hard.
The next thing to mention is the gameplay; it’s hard, I’ve only been playing on the easy difficulty because I wanted to enjoy the story more while not eliminating combat entirely, despite this, I’ve been wrecked by some big ass machines a few times now. This is also not made much easier by the fact that your primary weapon is a bow and arrow – The reason why I stopped playing the first time was that I wasn’t fast enough to aim accurately and hit the enemy’s week points. This time I’m doing a little better, and there’s nothing more satisfying than killing an enemy in one shot through the eye.
Now onto the story; I’ve said that I’ve been playing the game for around 20 hours so far, but in that time I’ve not just been focusing on the story, I’ve been chasing collectables, completing side missions and exploring the vast map. I’ll try and keep spoilers out of this piece and leave them for the full review, but it a guess, I would say I’m maybe a quarter of the way through the main storyline, I’m really enjoying it. It’s smooth, and there are enough variations within the missions to make sure they’re not boring.
A good example of this is the way that you unlock the map. You can either free roam and clear the fog that way, or you can climb a machine called a Tall Neck. These are machines that walk around in a circle and send data to the other machines around about what is around. You can hack this and get the information yourself… But every climb is different. Sometimes there’s an awkward climb to be able to jump onto the machine, or there’s a bandit camp that you need to take out before you can risk climbing up the neck.
This game is something that I’ve been looking for in books for quite a while. A merge of technology and a great story. In this case, lots of people living in a world that used to be highly technical and then got obliterated, so they returned back to basics. Primitive weapons, small tribal villages instead of huge cities – Religions towards various gods like the machines, the sun, or the “All Mother”, which everyone seems to be completely devoted to as if their world will end without it. So far this game has provoked thoughts to do with life, death, birth, love, family, friendships, companionship and loyalty. It’s something that I can only describe as stimulating. Expanding your mind to be open about things that are being done in the fictional world as well as the real world.
This is one of those games that before I’ve even finished, I want to recommend to everyone. I’m having a huge amount of fun with this game – Not only is it beautiful, but it’s also got an amazing twisting storyline that will make you trust one side only to make you hate their guts the next time you meet them. It’s also making me a better gamer. I would describe my playstyle for most games to be aggressive, go in hard and fast and deal all the damage you can. That style doesn’t work in this game. I’ve learnt the advantages for dodging, I’m still pretty poor at timing the dodging, but I’m getting better. It’s also improving my accuracy with shooting, aiming it the critical parts rather than just centre mass. This game is just making me a better gamer, if you can tough it out and push yourself to be better, it could be the game for you as well.