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Hands on: Horizon Zero Dawn

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Hands on: Horizon Zero Dawn

Ever since Horizon’s debut at PlayStation’s E3 2015 Showcase, Guerrilla Games has been steadily working towards its vision of a sprawling open-world action RPG set in a futuristic Earth ruled by towering machines.

Now that I’ve played the game, we’re seeing just how deep that RPG rabbit hole goes. And the answer is, pretty damned deep.

In picking up the controller, I was pleased to find a well-rounded crafting and equipment modification system, something we’ve only glimpsed in earlier looks at the game. By harvesting technology from downed machines, and looting or purchasing rare upgrade parts, I was able to customize a stealthier, more powerful Aloy that specialized in hit-and-run attacks and fire arrows.

Horizon Zero Dawn

A quick word about Horizon’s combat: it feels tight, responsive, and satisfying. Open-world games don’t always pack a visceral crunch, but I’m happy to report that Guerrilla has done their homework here. One-shotting a Watcher by drilling a well-paced arrow through its glass eye sent a shiver down my spine every single time. It’s a testament to Guerrilla’s long history in the FPS genre, and the tactile combat expands the game’s overall appeal immensely.

I was also heartened by the game’s colorful arsenal, which stands out amidst the me-too assault rifles and shotguns of so many other action games. In addition to Aloy’s iconic bow and arrow, I laid electrified tripwires, fired ropes to immobilize targets, and wielded a slingshot that launched powerful firebombs. These weapons all felt fresh, fun, and strategic, setting the stage for interesting emergent combat encounters.

I upgraded my weapons with mods that bestowed increased power, fire damage, and a stat called “Tear” that increases the odds Aloy’s attacks will knock valuable components from her mechanized enemies. And I harnessed specialized ammunition, from fire and shock arrows to ice bombs and more. Plenty to dig into there.

Horizon Zero Dawn

The game’s open-world RPG bonafides were on full display, too — NPCs doled out missions, merchants bought and sold gear, side quests speckled the expansive world map. I was surprised to discover a robust skill tree setup, which allowed me to further customize Aloy across three main pillars focusing on stealth, combat, and survival abilities.

Another surprise: early in the game, Aloy unearths a high-tech relic that can scan enemies, provide environmental information, and mark targets using a holographic-AR interface. The device, referred to as a “Focus,” can also download audio files from ancient high-tech ruins. These narrative bits provide players a bit of morbid context into humanity’s final days at the top of the food chain – I’m curious to see what we’ll find in the final game.

Horizon Zero Dawn

One moment that stood out particularly: jumping on and scaling the majestic Tallneck, an experience that evoked PS2 classic Shadow of the Colossus. They’re not just there for the view, either; the numerous tallnecks around the game world are constantly roaming and collecting terrain data. When Aloy overrides a Tallneck, she reveals a large swathe of the in-game map and unlocks points of interest the player might have otherwise missed. It’s a fun and rewarding mechanic that folds neatly into the world lore.

I’m interested to learn more about Cauldrons, high-level underground facilities that seem to serve as a breeding ground for the machines. Didn’t get much time to experience them, though they seem to be large.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Given Guerrilla’s well-known technical chops, it’s no surprise that Horizon is a feast for the eyes, serving up some of the finest visuals seen yet on PS4. Meanwhile, the PS4 Pro dynamic 4K presentation looked stunning, and appeared to be even more refined than its previous appearance during PS4 Pro’s September announce.

All in all, the game is looking promising, with a bit of something for everyone. Horizon is clearly Guerrilla’s most ambitious game – will it be its best as well? We’ll find out come February 28.

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40 Comments

  • I cant wait till Release pre-ordered and Payed in full

    • Can’t wait for this!

    • So hyped for Horizon.

    • *paid. You’re not on a ship hull with rope. If you don’t understand that, look it up.

    • I can hardly stand the wait, I rarely pre-order games these days, but I definitely want this on launch day.

      Guerrilla makes great games and I’m really glad to see them step outside their comfort zone to bring us what I feel to be one of the most refreshing looking settings I’ve seen in games for years!

      I definitely want to support Guerrilla with this and hope it becomes a huge success for them.

    • I know that this game will be fun to play so yeah when comes out in February 28th so wait unit it will come out

    • Really disappointed that this is the same game we have all been playing for years now. Another Ubisoft like game with the same mechanics but just different assets and style. Can’t wait for Nier Automata, I’ll pass on this release.

  • looks amazing

  • This is gonna GOTY 2017 I can’t wait to play this new masterpiece from Guerrilla Games Amazing SIE First Party Studios are delivering great fantastic experiences for the gamers.

  • Can’t wait to play this!

  • Can’t wait for this game. Glad to see February 28 at the end of the post, was a little worried since it hasn’t gone gold yet.

  • This is EASILY my most anticipated PS4 game of 2017, along with Spider-Man, the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. It’s awesome to be a gamer!

  • AHHHH!!! I can’t wait to play this game!

  • Wow the more I read the more I’m impressed. Ars Technica did a great write up recently getting hours hands on. My only question is how long (chapters) is the game?

  • You know nothing, Jon Snow.

  • Scaling a tall tower to unveil the map? Is this an Ubisoft game?

  • Between this game and Mass Effect Andromeda my 1st Quarter 2016 is set.

    1) Does this support 3D Audio via the Platinum headset? Been looking for reasons to pick this up.

    2) Killzone? Killzone? Killzone? Will we be waiting till PS5?

    • Probably e3 for KZ4.

    • I enjoy the Killzone series, but it needed a break, I don’t want to see it overdone like CoD. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another one not too far away, unless Horizon blows away Killzones sales records. Which I believe to be easily done for this game.

  • Will more Collector’s Editions be made available for pre-order through Amazon?

    • Yes, Amazon had the collector’s edition for quite a while now.
      But last time I checked they sold out, haven’t checked ever since.
      Maybe there are some back up, but I would not bring my hopes up.

  • I still don’t like the design of the main character (the concept art of the early design looked much better). Also, the idea of fighting robots (even if animal-like) with arrows just feels too out of place and unappealing (IMHO).

    • Good points that I agree with too! They’ve done a good job hyping this game, but so far all the hype has been limited into the same game sequence being shown over and over and over. This title is one to wait for reviews because I’m thinking the game is going to be very shallow. I could be wrong, but that’s the impression the gameplay and trailers make for it.

  • DID THEY FORGET TO POST ABOUT FEB. PLUS GAMES

    • No, they didn’t. The first update of February isn’t until next week. They post the month’s free games the Wednesday before the first update when the games go live. So by their standard schedule, they should be posting about the free games two days from now.

  • Looking good Mr. Carter. Preordered up and ready to go…!

  • GOTY 2017 BABY here we go!

  • Игра отличная, буду брать максимальное издание.

  • Looking forward to my Horizon’s Collectors edition!
    Got a feeling this will be my 2017 Game of the year for me. Now… Guerrilla Games needs to get started on a Meaty Expansion were we can craft our own robot Dinos with spare parts and have them accompany Aloy on her travels and fight alongside her!

    Chop chop! Get started!

    Also patiently waiting for the Next KillZone.

    My .02

  • Is this going to have 3D audio for those that bought the platinum headset??

  • I am very interested in this but am afraid it is going to be more like Witcher III and/or Dragon’s Age inquisition which I did not care for either of them and never even finished them. I am saying that because it seems every studio copies each other once a game wins some award. Mass Effect 2/3 had a great action rpg fluidity to everything I think and the ease of doing things without becoming overly complex or throwing 8 billion things in there that were never needed nor used but by the hardest core player (looking at witcher iii for that one). Fallout 4 had a very nice system also but with throwing in all the other building elements and such could get overwhelming at points but you did not have to build (almost, you had to do some missions) anything if you didnt want to.

    I will wait for an independent review, all of the reviews on here are glowing and praising of every game even if it bombs, and then decide if I want it. It does look cool though.

  • well ill be buying this thats for sure… i wasnt sure about this game but its looking better and better

  • I cannot wait to finally have Horizon installed and ready to play.I do believe Horizon has potential to be the best Guerrilla game yet…since the rumors of Horizon I already found it interesting and thought it could be great.Was surprised and very happy to see it going to the RPG side and now after reading this post I see that it’ll have all that good stuff games have been borrowing from RPGs…I hope that it has a lot of side-quests.I can’t wait to play I just can’t wait.

    GOTY 2017.

    PS:I’m also happy to know that it has this thing of revealing the map by doing something…ubi did a great job inserting this into games.Found really dumb that they removed it on WD2.

  • I can’t wait to play this game

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