Thoughts on…Horizon Zero Dawn

Reviews, Video Games

For me, Horizon Zero Dawn came at very strange time. I had just come off a two-week binging of both Uncharted 4 and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Plus, Breathe of the Wild was going to be released in just a few days. One could say that I was going through somewhat of an open-world/action game overload.

I mean, for various reasons, Uncharted 4 and RotTR are both excellent games. Uncharted does cinematic story-telling better than just about anybody and that facial animation is worth the price of admission on its own. And Tomb Raider crafted a really fun campaign filled with interesting RPG elements. Add in the fact that the hype for Zelda was at a fever pitch and it’s easy to see a world where Horizon didn’t a fair shake from me.

Which is why it was so impressive to me that Horizon was as enthralling as it was. Literally everything in my life was going against this game and it still made an impression. That’s when you know you have a true gem on your hands. Often, when playing games, my real life experiences help shape how I view the game. So, when a game takes my current mood in life and just says, “no, you need to pay attention”, that’s exactly what I do.

At the core, Horizon is so captivating because the developers have nailed two major things. First, the game is pure fun. Guerrilla Games locked in what is, for my money, the best bow-play in the business. The central shooting mechanic is so perfect that it almost feels like you’re handicapping your own experience when you decide to go for the easier stealth method.

Even beyond the shooting, the way different weapons in your arsenal interact with each other and your enemies make for a deceptively deep combat system. After awhile, you sort of find what works best for your playstyle, but it’s worth it to look for opportunities to switch it up. You’ll be rewarded with immensely satisfying fights that will truly test you.

Speaking of immensely satisfying, the other thing Horizon nails is how to tell a story. Now, if someone wrote the plot of Horizon out and handing it to me, I don’t know if I would think it’s some amazing post-apocalyptic fiction. That said, Guerrilla Games understands how to string you along and keep you invested.

Countless times during my playthrough I found myself saying, “just one more quest”. Horizon’s drip feed of information is as close to perfect as I’ve seen in a video game. Every answered question comes with more questions and you have to know the answers. And, while the game doesn’t completely stick the landing, it does better than just about any other video game narrative I’ve seen.

On top of these two gigantic pluses in Horizon’s “pros and cons” sheet, the game looks incredible. The skyboxes are breath-taking and Aloy’s hair might be the best in gaming. Sure, the facial animations are a little stiff and the voice sync gets off from time-to-time, but those are minor complaints. If you want a game to show off your PS4 (or your Pro), this is a great option.

So, as you can see, I’m pretty high on this game. It became my second platinum (though the other one is Fallout 4, which is a game I kind of hate) last week and I’m currently rocking the platinum theme. I think this game is more than worth your time. It’s ability to stand out even during my open-world/action game overload made it a game I’d recommend to everyone. Do yourself a favor and pick it up, if you haven’t already.