Developer(s) – Guerrilla Games
Publisher(s) – Sony Interactive Entertainment
Director(s) – Mathis de Jonge
Producer(s) – Lambert Wolterbeek Muller
PEGI – 16
Developed by Guerrilla Games and being six years in the making, Horizon: Zero Dawn is an open-world action-adventure game, which relies heavily on creativity in battle and presents a very stern challenge similar to games of the same ilk like Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Assassin’s Creed. Personally, I was blown away by how great this game is. I had high expectations of it in the first place, but it did exceptionally well to surpass those expectations and deliver one of the best gaming experiences of the eighth generation.
Graphics – 10/10
The game’s visuals are phenomenal from both a technical and conceptual perspective. The level of detail is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on even the PlayStation 4, which is saying a lot since I’ve played a great deal of technically marvelous games on the system like InFamous: Second Son and Killzone: Shadow Fall. But more impressive than this, the game’s universe is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth whereby humanity has regressed to prehistoric culture, but the wild is infested with dangerous robotic animals made with technology that was widespread before the events of the game. The world in this title is extremely impressive to look at, and to me, it sets a new standard within the industry in terms of cutting-edge graphics.
Gameplay – 8.5/10
Outside the main story and various side quests, The object of the game is to hunt animals around the world in order to develop the character and to discover new materials used to upgrade equipment, weapons, and storage capacity. There is great freedom to be had in terms of choice of how to approach combat; the player can choose to take a more stealthy approach and use environmental hazards to subdue enemies without being detected, or they may choose to take the less subtle route and go in all guns blazing. Upgrades provide the player with new abilities to assist them whilst taking all these different approaches towards combat. Morality mechanics also play a part in the game similar to Mass Effect whereby the decisions the player makes affect the outcome of the story and the player’s influence over NPCs. Whilst it’s a little bare compared to some other open-world game, which is ultimately why I would have to place Breath of the Wild above it when comparing the two games, there is still a lot of things to do within the game that will keep players entertained for an extraordinary amount of time.
Controls – 10/10
In terms of controls, the game doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel. However, there are no unnecessary frustrations to be experienced with the control scheme, so it is deserved a perfect score in this aspect. It’s also quite clever how the developers were able to implement the mechanic of scanning enemies and environments in order to assist players in how they choose to approach the situation, despite the fact that it isn’t the first game of its kind to implement such a feature.
Lifespan – 9/10
With plenty to do throughout the game beyond the main story, it can be easily made to last at least 60 hours. It’s actually quite surprising to me that a game of this level of technical innovation can encompass an open world of this size. I was impressed with how Far Cry 4 was able to accomplish a similar feat to this, but this game goes far beyond what the latter was capable of.
Storyline – 9/10
The story of the games follows a young hunter named Aloy, who has been shunned her entire life as an outcast to every other tribe situated throughout her homelands. As she has grown up, she sets out to prove herself as a member of the Nora tribe. But she soon discovers that she is only part of a greater destiny, and so she sets out to uncover it, and to also uncover the history of her world. Horizon Zero Dawn is very much a coming of age story reminiscent of a lot of Studio Ghibli films and goes beyond that of a typical story found in many open-world games. It’s immersing, emotionally charged, and deals with the wonders and complications of a young woman trying to find her way in the world. Watching the development of Aloy’s character, in particular, was a pleasure from beginning to end.
Originality – 8/10
The game is definitely more evolutionary than revolutionary. It’s not the first game of its kind to do many of the things that it doesn’t, but it does do them bigger, and all at once, one-upping the likes of Shadow of Mordor in my opinion. Where it truly stands out is in aspects such as its conceptual design, and variety in combat, which makes me feel reassured that innovation is not just happening within the indie industry, but also in the mainstream scene as well.
Overall Horizon: Zero Dawn is one of the best games of 2017, and unanimously my favorite PlayStation 4 exclusive of that year. I’ve been impressed with many others such as InFamous: Second Son, Infamous: First Light, and The Last Guardian, but to me, this game surpasses them all, making for a better IP than Killzone ever was.