Horizon Zero Dawn Is One Of The Finest Open World Video Games Of All Time
It’s been a long time coming, but thanks to Guerrilla Games keeping their heads down – save for press conference trailers or behind-the-scenes looks – Horizon Zero Dawn has emerged, fully-formed, as not only one of this generation’s most impressive titles, but one of the most tantalising reasons to invest in Sony hardware thus far, alongside being one of the finest PlayStation exclusives of all time.
The biggest positive for Horizon is how immediately ‘playable’ it is. You can really tell that Guerrilla have studied the competition when it comes to third-person action games and how to build an engaging open-world, resulting in something that plays on inbuilt conventions to get you moving, before layering on detailed enemy boss fights, RPG conversation trees, skill-unlocks, points of interest and everything in between.
Just to lay it out, you’ve got Assassin’s Creed-style climbing, the depth of a Witcher 3 side-quest, Far Cry hunting and crafting, Uncharted narrative sections with great dialogue and acting, Mass Effect dialogue wheels, Hitman: Absolution enemy path-tracking, The Division looting – it goes on and on.
Cynically, yes, you can see EXACTLY where Guerrilla took the pieces for their own patchwork quilt, but in combining them all so effortlessly and then adding the art design, world mythology, character of Aloy and the story overall, it means you’ve got something millions can pick up and play, alongside a ton of depth and intricacy for those who want it.
Combat-wise, there’s a standout human-related negative which I’ll address towards the close of this article, but the game is overall at its best whenever you decide to fight the machines. Without going into spoilers, let’s say there’s a reason you’re more comfortable staying within the smaller vicinity of the Nora tribe at the beginning of the game, tackling the serpentine Watchers and occasionally something a little bigger.
Following that, when you start venturing out into the ‘real world’, almost every creature you find will need a considered approach to bring down. Bringing up your ‘Focus’ vision-mode will highlight specific parts of the beasts to target – which you can then do so, depending on which weapons or items you have equipped.
Potions can be chugged or outfits worn to maximise defence, and that’s before you start implementing things like ropes to tie down flying or agile enemies, freeze bombs to slow them down, tripwires to lure them into, stealth to sneak up and deliver a critical hit, etc.
Combine all of these, factor in a lightning-fast, responsive feel, the constant rollout of new machines and how tackling multiple species’ at once means you’ll have to alter your tactics on the fly to survive, and you have one HELL of a package.