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The reviews for Horizon Zero Dawn, a PS4 exclusive set to release on February 28, 2017, are coming in already. At the time this article goes up, the game's Metacritic score is sitting at 89, and the reviews are mostly positive.
Across a vast and beautiful open world, Horizon Zero Dawn juggles many moving parts with polish and finesse. Its main activity - combat - is extremely satisfying thanks to the varied design and behaviors of machine-creatures that roam its lands, each of which needs to be taken down with careful consideration. Though side questing could have been more imaginative, its missions are compelling thanks to a central mystery that led me down a deep rabbit hole to a genuinely surprising - and moving - conclusion.
This is first departure from the Killzone series for developer Guerilla Games, and though you might think the team took a risk by stepping out of its FPS comfort zone to create a third-person open-world action game, you'd never know it was their first rodeo. For every minor imperfection, there's an element of greatness that recharges your desire to keep fighting and exploring Zero Dawn's beautiful and perilous world. Guerilla Games has delivered one of the best open-world games of this generation, and redefined its team's reputation in the process.
Those duller moments are a footnote, however, and they did little to slow down the game's momentum and my interest in it. Horizon Zero Dawn thrums with the energy of a creative team finally allowed to explore something new. It builds on elements of open-world and loot-and-craft gameplay that we've seen before, but it does so within a context, a setting and a style that feel fresh. Horizon Zero Dawn discovers a stronger sense of its own personality in one game than Killzone ever managed across half a dozen. Guerrilla Games has long been developing some of the most buzzed-about games in the industry; with Horizon, it feels like it has finally found its own voice, one worthy of all that buzz.
TechRadar Play it now:
Without gushing too much about the game, Horizon: Zero Dawn is truly excellent. It’s the first must-own game of 2017, and one that will certainly be in contention for a Game of the Year award.
The complaints we could see others having are that the game’s story – especially in the beginning – feels a bit clichéd, and boss battles are almost always way too hard, even on easier difficulty settings. The camera feels too close for comfort, especially when you’re already stuck in confined areas like the various caves, and weapon selection should be more varied. There’s also the odd glitch here and there, as well as one or two poorly synced voiceover tracks – although this is something Sony says the game’s developer is working to fix.
However, these are minor complaints about a game that overall really impressed us with its outstanding presentation and gameplay. We highly recommend it.
Giant Bomb 5/5:
Horizon: Zero Dawn is familiar but also really refreshing. It's not a short game (I spent around 30 hours with it), but the storytelling still feels concise and efficient. The combat has some nice options that make encounters fun, even when you're just stacking up stealth kills from the relative safety of a bush. And the presentation end of the game holds up its end of things with a solid soundtrack, great voice acting, and a cohesive design that makes all its disparate parts fit together. All in all, it's a great game, it's Guerrilla's strongest release to date, and I suspect I'll go back in after the fact to clean up whatever side quests and errands I have remaining, if only to spend a little more time in that world.
The Verge Scoreless:
Horizon is a game about a woman racing through an archaic future to save it from an advanced past. It tells a story both personal and epic, touching on everything Aloy’s birth to the future of the species, and how those things intersect. And it uses this setup to connect a vast and strange world that’s as dangerous as it is intriguing. At times it tries to do too much, but its ambition is refreshing, as is the fact that it somehow manages to pull almost all of its grand ideas off.
At the outset it may remind you of games you’ve played before, but — like the genre-blending world it takes place in — Horizon ultimately proves that combining the familiar can lead to something new.
I picked up a few other minor gripes along Aloy's lengthy journey, from a sketchy map system that is often more trouble than it's worth, to annoying NPCs that look like roadies for a post-apocalyptic grunge band. Aloy herself can be a real wet blanket sometimes, complaining about everything from the weather to her boots being wet. Like the need to scrounge for crafting items, these problems are small bumps that are easily forgiven and forgotten on Horizon's long and winding road.
None of Horizon's faults stopped me from sinking 55 hours into the game, or walking away supremely satisfied with the experience. Horizon may not be a revolution for the open-world genre, but it is a highly polished and compelling adventure that proves Guerrilla is more than a single franchise.
This is far, far from a bad game - it's enjoyable in its own way, and you're certainly never short of things to do. There are zip-lines to chase down, towers to climb, dialogue trees to wander through, items to craft and a tech tree to explore; it's an exhaustive checklist of every trope of the modern day open world game where every component is at the very least competent. The core combat and aesthetic of Horizon: Zero Dawn have been placed in fine focus; the rest, though, is something of an indistinguishable blur.
Horizon: Zero Dawn is a work of considerable finesse and technical bravado, but it falls into the trap of past Guerrilla games in being all too forgettable. For all its skin-deep dynamism it lacks spark; somewhat like the robotic dinosaurs that stalk its arrestingly beautiful open world, this is a mimic that's all dazzle, steel and neon yet can feel like it's operating without a heart of its own.
Lest you think corners were cut rushing an open world game out of the door, think again. The day and night cycle, which plays out even during multiple mission failures, is beautiful, as is the weather system. It's stunning with 4K and HDR support (on a Pro),and although the 30FPS cap does sting at times, it's mostly stable. Turning off the HUD and invoking the now Sony-standard camera mode also played a huge part in my decision to spend a lot of my time doing nothing in particular.
Horizon Zero Dawn is a fascinating premise wrapped in a tortilla of tropes. It has detective vision, radio towers, skill trees, masked load screens (Tony Hawk's American Wasteland gets no credit for popularizing this in 2005, by the way), and a world map littered with billions of points of interest -- all stuff you've seen before. But after you set up and execute a cunning plan to decimate a pack of giant robot crocodiles and that smile hits your face, it's more excusable.