If ever there was an old and busted video game setting in 2017 then it’s for sure the post-apocalypse.
Gamers have scrounged the barren wastes, solved messy moral quandaries, and sifted through the ashes and relics of a world left to rot for far too long. You’ll find a world where zombies are the lazy genre du jour for horror, so are the ruins and remains of harsh dystopias waiting for a savior of some kind to show them the error of their savage ways.
Grade: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
System: PlayStation 4
No. Players: 1
Published by: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developed by: Guerrilla Games
ESRB Rating: Teen
Grades: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Outstanding; ★ ★ ★ ★ Very Good; ★ ★ ★ Good; ★ ★ Fair; ★ Poor
That is what makes the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn stand out among the throngs of Fallout and Metro 2033 wannabes: The world that main character Aloy traverses is a post, post-apocalypse.
A bright, lush, and diverse series of landscapes await players in Horizon, showcasing a setting that skips past the clichéd, “struggling to put the pieces back together” story you’d expect.
This isn’t to say that the mystery of why robot dinosaurs roam the lands and cultists want to cut our red-haired heroine down doesn’t matter. Our heroine Aloy’s search for the clues that not only explain her own origins but those of this ravaged Earth are the breadcrumbs that lead players around an engrossing, diverse world, and one of the best original, open-world adventures in years.
The thrill of the hunt is key in Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Aloy is more than prepared to bring down her mechanized quarry. Spears, explosive slingshots, flaming arrows, and more await a slew of enemies along Aloy’s quest for answers about her own birth and the state of this world. Even with a complete armory, Aloy is still mere hits from death, as her prey strike hard, fast, and often in large numbers.
Where last year’s Far Cry Primal failed to channel the duality of being hunter and target at the same time, Horizon: Zero Dawn makes it clear that Aloy is still human. Thus, the rolling hills and flourishing fields of this planet aren’t just a beautiful landscape; they’re a means for stealth.
The combat of Horizon strikes a perfect balance between giving the players enough tools and abilities to feel cool while also keeping the potential for danger established. Without a plan, rolling up on a pack of robotic sabertooth tigers will end in a swift death and a run back from the last bonfire visited.
The sheer variety in which Aloy mounts an offensive keeps the combat from ever feeling stale or recycled. Setting explosives to run herds army of enemies through electric wire traps is as valid a strategy as hacking a robotic target and using your new friend to deal massive damage.
They’re also all satisfying, as surviving a rough encounter thrills the soul, but also reminds you that your pulse is thumping at a tremendous rate. The art design plays a large role in keeping the tension and suspense of battle intact, as Horizon might be the best-looking game of the current console generation.
From frigid mountaintops and blasting snow to sun-scraped canyons, the environments in Horizon are an astounding achievement in video game locations. More than a few times, I stopped my skulking through a moonlit field of flowers or trek through a dark jungle to take in the environment and snap a picture using the game’s wonderful photo mode.
The game’s mystery-laced story will take Aloy across these locales over and again, which also include sprawling cities and remains of the old world past. This blend of untouched, almost tribal locations and high-tech ruins makes for an interesting dichotomy that sells the fact that Aloy is of two world, and neither at the same time.
Unlike most open-world narratives, Aloy’s story comes to a definite conclusion while still leaving the door open for future visits. Around the 20th hour, the main story’s mystery called to me, keeping me awake into the late hours of the night. As a negative, the side quests become banal at a point, especially as the main plot’s continued reveals call for more of your attention.
The plight of some guy wanting you to find his fruit basket pales in comparison to uncovering the reasons why this world is covered in robot animals. Crazy, right?
Never would I have thought that the developer behind the Killzone series was capable of such a beautiful, haunting world and narrative. Yet, here I am in awe of Horizon: Zero Dawn and the way its monopolized my free time.
Horizon manages to take aspects of the open-world adventure genre that we’ve seen time and again and fine-tune them into a cohesive, singular piece of art that deserves the attention of every PlayStation 4 owner. Horizon: Zero Dawn stands out among an already crowded 2017 release schedule as a game that demands to your time.
A copy of the game was provided to The Blade by the publisher for the purposes of review.
Contact Will Harrison at: DoubleUHarrison@gmail.com or on Twitter @DoubleUHarrison.
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