Art Direction

Amazing art direction that makes you want to plaster your walls in fancy prints of your screenshots.

Graphics

This is the type of game you show your new TV off to your friends with. It looks that good.

Soundtrack

This game has an outstanding soundtrack. You'll probably want the vinyl.

Story

Like a good book, the story will have you wondering why it's 2am when you thought it was 6pm.

Controls

Controls like a dream. No controller breaking to be found here.

Horizon Zero Dawn Review

They say everything  old is new again, or there's nothing new under the sun, or something fancy like that. It's remarkably accurate though, because after so many endless years of story telling it's nigh on impossible to be truly thematically unique. What really sets many stories apart then, for me anyway, is how well the writers mold those previously visited themes and ideas to the point they're hardly recognizable. Horizon Zero Dawn mostly gets this right with a story that heavily leans on oft used story elements, but despite some minor shortcomings delivers a surprisingly thoughtful experience that left me impressed. Oh, and it's one of the most polished overall games I've played in years – in case you were wondering.

By now you are likely acquainted with the star of the show, Aloy. I can't say that I've personally ever got a chance to play a red head, female leading role in a game before but if this was to be the first go at it, it's a hell of a start. Essentially Aloy's personal goal is to discover who her mother is, which wonderfully ties itself to the greater happenings of the world at large. It's a real brain teaser as you haphazardly travel trying to imagine what could possibly have landed humans back in a tribalist society with robotic fauna both large and small roaming the land and sky. Aloy is a great character with a hell of a backstory but as usual I'll be making this review as spoiler free as possible so I'll leave it there. While the rest of the cast of characters you'll come across in your travels are rarely as interesting as Aloy, there are some really fantastic personalities that make up for the mostly lackluster supporting cast. There aren't any real horribly written characters, there's just an exaggerated sense of filler to almost anyone not directly related to the most critical of plot points. But hey, who cares about that! We get to fight massive robots!

It's likely a safe assumption that most people were immediately intrigued when the first trailer for Horizon hit online. I can remember being mind blown about how beautiful it looked to the point I questioned how much of it was really running off the PS4. Playing the game on a PS4PRO in 1080p which had a patch for increased performance and a minor boost to visuals, I feel confident in saying Horizon Zero Dawn is the best overall looking game currently on the market – that includes the PC. Yes, it's that good. The complete package is mind blowing. There may be games that individually have better textures, better facial animation, or better looking character models but they will not hold up against Horizon's total offering. Facial animations are wildly inconsistent in quality, unfortunately, but it's the only less than stellar animation on display.

The soundtrack is also beautifully done. It's been more common for me as of late to feel like a game's soundtrack was an after thought that just serves its purpose and nothing more. Horizon's score is not that at all. There is a wonderful mix of music on display here that ranges from epic to haunting, all of which perfectly fit what is happening on screen. It's the kind of soundtrack I could likely recommend buying separately.

Besides it looking and sounding gorgeous, it was kind of hard to miss the massive robots. I was so curious about how well the gameplay would translate when I first saw it and was concerned the mechanics would fall apart in bigger skirmishes and lose it's luster. Thankfully that is not at all the case. Going to battle with any of the robots you'll come across is remarkable when you get a moment to soak in how incredibly well done the animations and AI are. Everything reacts so well to the environment and what's happening around it. I could try and do it justice in writing but it wouldn't work. It's the kind of polish that is so good you forget you've barely been told how to do anything. Everything sort of just works exactly how you'd imagine it would and looks so damn good while it's happening. I lost count of how many times I said out loud as sarcastically as possible, "It's a shame this game is so ugly." It's not all sunshine and rainbows, though it's pretty damn close. No, there are in fact some nagging bits to be picked at but none of them are likely to be deal breakers.

I've already mentioned a couple of these points in the mediocre nature of the vast majority of secondary characters and the less than consistent and sometimes downright brutal facial animations. Neither of these really hampered my enjoyment in any way and I'm an asshole, so they can't be THAT bad. Outside of that there are only a few wish list items or nags I had. Above all I'd have enjoyed the story being more evenly spread across the missions. As it stands it is heavily weighted in the last handful of missions which, in a positive light, allows for punch after punch of major hits. Even still I think there'd have been just as much weight to these moments if they'd have been more evenly distributed. At it's worst it feels like you're playing two different, unrelated stories. At it's best it's the first game in years that had me wide-eyed on more than one occasion.

It's also mildly aggravating when you can't just climb everything. It's always seemed silly to me in games where apparently at some point in time a magnanimous individual forged a path of highlighted hand-holds for future users to climb only the really important stuff. I totally get it's to keep gameplay simple and level design less complex for the developer but it always seems jarring to me. While combat is nearly flawless the camera can struggle to keep up occasionally. This only led to me dying a handful of times but when the combat is so good for so much of the time, when it's really bad it stands out so much more. Combat is also a bit marginalized by the weapon selection. There's a bevy of things to do battle with to fit a wide range of play styles but there is a subset that are so efficient, many of the weapons will likely be ignored which is more of a shame than a negative, really. That's kind of how I feel about almost all the downsides – they're more of a shame than a real game breaking issue. Considering this is a new IP in a genre Guerrilla Games hasn't really had much (if any) experience in, it's a remarkably short list of shortcomings if you can even call most of them that.

The long short of it is that Horizon Zero Dawn is greater than the sum of its parts. Individually the bits that make up Horizon range from disappointing to stellar but the entirety of what you get put in front of you is far above almost anything you'll likely play this year. In a gaming year that is shaping up to be one of the hardest hitting in a very long time, Guerrilla Games should be proud of their work in Horizon Zero Dawn. It's beautiful, it's thoughtful, and while not perfect it's an easy recommendation for anyone who has a PS4 on hand. Go fight some robots!

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Adam Morehouse

Adam Morehouse

I play games and write stuff about them! Blessed with an amazing online community for many years now. One half of the LAGTV duo.
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