When this generation started, Guerilla Games was more or less defined by first person shooters. Killzone, a political space opera, was dubbed the “Halo Killer” of the PlayStation catalogue. Multiple sequels later, off cycle titles flirting on portable platforms, and a studio expansion and a half; Guerilla would go onto do something that’s rarely seen in the modern AAA industry: Redefine Itself.
Their next game, Horizon: Zero Dawn, an open world third person action RPG launched as a PS4 Exclusive in 2017. The game was a massive pivot for a studio that was more or less ingrained within the DNA of the shooter sphere. Gone were space Nazis, excessive machismo, and the same treaded ground. Enter a game that dared to flip the script on a studio’s comfort zone.
The rest as they say, “is history”. But history has a funny way of also taking risks. Earlier this year, rumors broke that Horizon: Zero Dawn, a PlayStation first party title, would be coming to PC. So I’d like to say Hello to Miss Alloy from the PC community and present our review: This is Remote Play’s review of Horizon: Zero Dawn.
The game has you controlling Aloy, an outcast since birth set in a post-apocalyptic 31st century Earth. Large dinosaur machines now populate and roam the land and at the start of the story, starts to get mysteriously deranged and becomes more aggressive towards humans. Aloy decides to find out the reason why, as she finds out more to what happened in the past that eradicated most of humanity, as well as the reasons for her mysterious birth.
Horizon Zero Dawn, like the studio’s previous Killzone series has amazing lore although thankfully the quality of the story has improved. It’s easy to lose yourself for hours in the first playthrough by trying to piece out what has happened to the world as well as the last remaining accounts taken from the audio diaries you find throughout the game. You are guided by all this with the usage of your focus tool, that gives you something akin to the Detective Mode mechanic found in Batman Arkham games.
They also hit it out of the park with the gameplay. While combat against human enemies are a little lackluster, fighting against the Machines are well worth it. Aloy is equipped with a bow and a plethora of trick arrows to help her get an advantage against the various machines, with each having its own weak spots, and AI behavior. Along with her staff that is attached with an Override Tool that enables her to turn machines into her allies, battles against machines get fun and chaotic although you can choose to stealth most encounters if you choose to.
Unfortunately, while the unlocks on the skill tree are helpful, upgrading and obtaining armor and materials are pretty basic. While it is improved from how the game was when it was first released thanks to patches by Guerilla Games, it never really becomes anything more than a chore to do.
Audio-wise this game is fantastic, with memorable music and some great voice acting in the game. There’s still the issue of lackluster animation work during the conversation scenes that bring it down though, even if it’s improved in the Frozen Wilds expansion that’s available in the game.
Horizon Zero Dawn was a looker back in 2017, and remains so until now. The graphics and aesthetics in this game is stellar with the futuristic machines and ruins contrasting well with how nature has taken over the earth. You get the feeling that while mankind has started to pave their way to restart civilization again, we aren’t at the top of the food chain anymore. The machines are impressively modeled and animated, and it’s even fascinating to watch them strolling around with each having its own function for being in the world.
There have been a couple of quality improvements made to the game for the PC port. Foliage, which other than one type that you could hide in couldn’t be interacted with at all in the PS4 version and react to Aloy’s model. Along with standard upgrades like higher quality effects, textures, support for 4k and ultra-wide resolutions; Horizon Zero Dawn’s visuals really pops with the increased image quality and clarity. The problem is, the port is a bit of a mess with many buyers complaining of crashes, stuttering, graphical glitches, even missing effects such as non deforming snow in the Frozen Wilds area of the game.
Horizon Zero Dawn was one of my favorite games in 2017, and even after already completing it back in the day, I really enjoyed my time with it again on PC. It’s a pity that there are issues that plague the PC port, but I have no issue with recommending the game to anyone. With the interesting lore and story, fun gameplay, gorgeous graphics both technical and aesthetic-wise, it’s a must play for anyone who enjoys action RPGs.
A Review code was provided by PlayStaion UK
Developer: Guerrilla Games / Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release date: 06/08/2020
Platforms: PlayStaion 4
Version Reviewed: PC