By: Segaro Bozart, Contributing Writer
Horizon: Zero Dawn has been marketed as Sony’s next big IP. Following the spectacular close to Nathan Drake’s adventures in the Uncharted Series, PS4 users are introduced to Aloy, gaming’s next big heroine. Exploring a lush open world is fairly commonplace in today’s gaming ecosystem, but Horizon stands out in more ways than just that.
Horizon’s plot is a genuinely intriguing science fiction story that deals with current issues. This story is told not only through the main questline, but in the history of each successive civilization in the game’s’ story world. Speaking to NPC’s (Non-Player Character) was fascinating and it revealed so much about the world. Collectables tell stories, give you incentive to explore the world, and can be traded for special gear, so there are multiple reasons to see the “full story” behind this world.
The camera is positioned to make the player feel like Aloy, smaller in comparison to whatever else is on screen (especially when crouched in grass) so the player feels genuinely afraid of enemies. The player feels like they’re exploring the world both with, and as Aloy. She wants to know what the player wants to know, and is just as annoyed when other characters manipulate her into doing what they want rather than just accept the next story quest to be able to move on. Even the standard “Bandit Camps” that have become commonplace in modern open world action games (think Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry) are twisted and force the player to approach each mission with a new mindset.
Horizon is the best looking game on PS4, and they know it, hence the surprisingly deep photo mode. The lighting is fantastic and environments look alive with grass flowing and rivers bustling everywhere. Rabbits, boar, and other small animals fill the overworld, making it feel like a place that exists, even when the PS4 turns off. Detailed character animations make Aloy feel like she’s actually exerting energy to climb, roll, and slide around the rough terrain. With the exception of faces looking kind of stiff (a la Dragon Age: Inquisition), the game has been nothing short of breathtakingly beautiful from the opening scene. Every new environment encourages the player stay and slow pan across the gorgeous landscape. Whether it’s a field of roaming machines, or a ruined skyscraper, or the very common combination or both, the need to sit and take in both the natural splendor, and the ingenious design of these robotic creatures is present throughout the process of game-play.
The most exciting aspect of Horizon‘s gameplay is the way it forces you to play smart… or die a lot. Aloy moves with grace and precision, but can hit hard when need be. The game establishes rules that are harsh, but ultimately fair once you understand them, and extremely rewarding when you learn to utilize everything at your disposal. Enemies require unique strategies per species, as well as exhibit specific behaviors, so it’s beneficial to know thy enemy before engaging in combat.
Horizon: Zero Dawn is a masterpiece in every sense of the word and is one of the best presented games to date. With gameplay that relies both on quick thinking and quick reflexes, Horizon caters to several play styles and rewards diversity of thought. Whether you’re looking for the next great sandbox, next great character, next great story, or just the next great game in general, Horizon: Zero Dawn delivers.