Horizon Zero Dawn Review

Horizon Zero Dawn Review Darryl Linington
Gameplay
Graphics
Storyline
Lasting Appeal
9.8
Game of the Year Contender
User Rating: 9.2 (2 votes)

Developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, Horizon Zero Dawn is the latest title to arrive as an exclusive on the PlayStation 4 console. Apart from Horizon Zero Dawn, Guerrilla Games also developed the Killzone series as well as RIGS: Mechanised Combat League – which comes in as a PlayStation VR title. While these titles are indeed impressive, Horizon Zero Dawn is by far, in my opinion, the developer’s best title to-date.

From the moment I picked up Horizon Zero Dawn, I found it hard to put down. Not only is this title visually impressive, but it also features an extremely well-written storyline as well as combat that is both intense and extremely well thought out.

Throughout my 40+ hour trudge through Horizon Zero Dawn’s visually captivating open-world, I was introduced to the game’s deeply interesting protagonist, Aloy. During the early hours of Horizon Zero Dawn, the player finds out that Aloy – who is branded an outcast by her tribe the Nora – has been placed under the care of the outcast Rost by the Nora Matriarchs. As outcasts, Aloy and Rost are not to communicate with the Nora; however, this does not stop a young Aloy from attempting to assist the Nora with berry picking during the early stages of the game. Upon offering the berries to a Nora Mother, Aloy’s offer is quickly rejected and her very presence shunned. Aloy then runs through the forest, but then takes a tumble into an ancient bunker built by the Old Ones. Upon inspecting the cave, Aloy finds and takes possession of a Focus, a small device that gives her special perceptive abilities as well as the ability to interact with machines and Old One technology. Later, she becomes curious about the identity of her mother and decides on winning a competition called the Proving so she can win the right to ask the Matriarchs directly about her past. Rost spends several years training Aloy in preparation for the Proving, teaching her how to hunt, fight, and survive.

To avoid further spoilers, I will end the synopsis there. One of Horizon Zero Dawn’s biggest pulls – apart from its visually beautiful world – is its storyline. Aloy is bent on finding out more about here past as well as her birth mother. This leads Aloy on a journey where she not only discovers information about herself, but she also finds out more about the hostile machines that inhabit the planet as well as why various tribes and factions are in conflict with one another. Aloy, during her journey, also meets a plethora of well-scripted characters. While some of these characters are kind and inspirational toward Aloy’s journey, others are cruel and unwelcoming. This gives the storyline of Horizon Zero Dawn an incredible amount of balance. Overall, when it comes to story, Horizon Zero Dawn has a solid one. Not only is it well-written and well-thought out, but it is also entertaining and well worth playing from start to finish.

Apart from its brilliant storyline and highly interesting cast of characters, Horizon Zero Dawn shines brightest when it comes to the game’s combat mechanics as well as its highly creative robotic enemies. The robotic enemies that populate the planet have been designed in such a way that they represent wildlife as well as creatures from the prehistoric times. Watchers, as they are called, tend to mimic the movements and characteristics of the age-old Velociraptor while Striders mimic the movements of horses. There are are a number of enemies to face off against, including the Thunderjaw – which looks very similar to a Theropod dinosaur.

To take on these highly aggressive machines, Aloy – who is a master archer – uses a wide variety of weapons. These weapons are styled in such a way that they look primitive; however, they do pack a rather big punch. The main weapon used in the game is a bow and arrow; however, there is a variety of them to choose from. There is also a variety of arrows to choose from in order to take down specific enemies. During the early stages of the game you will use a hunting bow, but as the game progresses you will be able to use the Sharpshot and War bow. Apart from the bow and arrow, there are some rather interesting weapons on hand here. There is the Tripcaster, which can be used to take down larger enemies. To add to the arsenal there is also the Ropecaster, which can be used in order to tie down smaller enemies. Aloy can also use spears as well as slings to overcome her enemies. She even goes as far as cradting her own ammunition via the on-the-fly crafting system.

When it comes to actually taking down various enemies, Horizon Zero Dawn does not hold the player’s hand. Apart from Aloy’s Focus pointing out weak points on an enemy, the player is essentially left on his own to figure out how to actually tackle and take down an enemy. I personally loved this approach, as having no tutorials forced me to try out different weapons and ammunition in order to take down different enemies. This essentially makes each fight a riveting experience as the player will need to strategically approach combat. To add to the intensity of combat, some machines will attack in packs, much like wild animals, and try to overwhelm the player. When this happens, the player only has a few options… stand their ground and fight, or run. Alternatively, you can go the stealth route; however, if you cause too much commotion you will be spotted and trampled upon.

Moving away from combat, Horizon Zero Dawn – as stated many times above – is a visual masterpiece. Not only does it look absolutely fantastic on the PlayStation 4 Pro in 4K, but it also looks visually stunning in standard high-definition. To add to the visual quality, Horizon Zero Dawn also runs really smoothly on both systems and very rarely suffers from framerate drops.

Conclusion:
Horizon Zero Dawn comes in as another game of the year contender for the team at Tech IT Out. Not only is it a visual masterpiece, but it is also just hands-down a brilliant game that will keep you busy for anything around 40-60 hours. What impressed me the most was Horizon Zero Dawn’s combat mechanics and highly creative enemies. Combine this with a beautiful open-world, an engaging plotline, and highly interesting characters and you have a near-perfect game.

While Horizon Zero Dawn is near-perfect, I only have one complaint… While character models are beautifully crafted, unfortunately, the lack of any proper facial expressions was a bit of a disappointment as everything else in this title screams game of the year.

Horizon Zero Dawn was reviewed by Darryl Linington on the PlayStation 4 Pro

Contact: Darryl@techitout.co.za
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Editor of Tech IT Out. Former radio host of Cliffcentral.com. Former Editor of IT News Africa and ITF Gaming. All round techie, gamer and entrepreneur. For Editorial Enquiries Contact: Darryl@techitout.co.za or via +27788021400.