- SPONSORED -
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
*Review copy supplied by publisher*
I used to think Guerrilla Games were a one-trick pony, capable only of producing generic shooters that look pretty but have nothing else going for them. Seriously, no one is going to go out of their way to say Killzone is their favourite game series. Horizon Zero Dawn was a significant risk for Guerrilla, but it has paid off with one of the finest open world games of recent years.
Set over a thousand years since a mass calamity caused human civilisation to collapse, giant fearsome machines control the land. The surviving pockets of humanity regressed into tribal societies, their technologically advanced ancestors passing into legend. Playing as Aloy, an outcast from the Nora tribe, you can explore the world, discover the secrets of the past and, of course, fight giant robots.
Giant. Fucking. Robots. That explode.
I adore the universe created for this game. Combining a primitive, tribal aesthetic with the mechanical, futuristic look of the machines is a masterstroke of design that ties the world together. Everything about the game world is an absolute treat for the eyes, with a ton of variety in the geography and plenty of colour to go around (which will look even better if you have a PS4 Pro and a TV with high dynamic range capability). The creature designs, most of them modelled after animals, are fantastic in that they somehow manage to fit right in with the landscape, and yet still stand out enough to be presented as a great threat. The anthropologist in me loves how the game world works, how the characters deal with each other and with the artefacts of the world left to them. Something that looks futuristic to us is, for them, a remnant of the ancient past; how cool is that?
The nitty-gritty of the game’s story is about Aloy going on a journey of self-discovery, venturing beyond the only home she has ever known to find the truth about her past. You’ll be spending 30 hours or more with her, but there is more than enough intrigue to keep you going through the main quest line. Dialogue choices give you the opportunity to shape Aloy’s personality to your liking, though she retains a fierce sense of independence no matter what you choose. Being a female lead there are obviously high expectations, and Aloy surpasses them. However, while Ashly Burch does fine voicing our lead, some of the other voice acting is a bit dodgy, and it doesn’t help that the lip-sync makes it feel like I’m watching a bad anime dub.
But oh my god, the combat! Stealth might be the key to survival in this world, but the weapons at your disposal don’t mess around when it comes to fucking up some robots. There is nothing more satisfying than sneaking up on a Watcher, shooting an arrow into its eye and watching it flop about, before doing the same to his mate. Or catching a Sawtooth with an electric tripwire, firing a flaming arrow into a canister on its belly and then watching as it explodes, killing everything in sight. Or circling a Corrupter as you fire ropes into its body to tie it down, then taking it out with a few fire bombs. Holy shit, there is just so much potential for awesome kills.
Horizon Zero Dawn is a triumph for Guerrilla and a damn good reason to own a PS4. It doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but it does almost everything so well that it doesn’t need to. It is an early Game of the Year contender and well worth investing your time into.