Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn
 
 

Horizon Zero Dawn is a departure for developer Guerrilla – not just in terms of perspective, but also design. Heated hunts and a solid progression structure, in tandem with a bold and colourful art style, propel it over its open-world peers – but drawbacks in camera control, encounter design, and traversal stop it from reaching the apex spot.

Humanity is all but extinct, following a nameless catastrophe that engulfed the planet. Fast-forward into the future, and primitive civilizations have risen from the ashes. Players take on the role of Aloy, as she combats an evil tribe with the ability to control metal machines. What follows is your typical hero’s journey, but with some interesting twists and turns along the way that stop it from becoming too familiar.

 
Ad FeedbackAdvertisement

Getting through the main story will take you about 20 hours, but there’s also a collection of side-quests available. Doing these will introduce you to new characters, and allow you to explore Aloy a bit. Headstrong, calculating, or thoughtful dialogue options can be selected via a Mass Effect-style wheel, but they don’t take away from any of her defining traits – she’s cool, confident, and witty. You aren’t making your own Aloy, you’re just seeing different facets of her personality.

The world that Guerrilla have created is indelible. Tribes live in the shadows of something much larger than themselves – not just the hollowed-out husks of our former civilization, but the robotic dinosaurs and jaguars that infest it. These creatures pose a real challenge, and make the world feel dangerous. You’ll be presented with encounters early on that will require you to run or hide to survive.

Fights with the local wildlife are one of Horizon Zero Dawn’s best elements. They start slow, as you scope out your surroundings and the structural weaknesses of the machines. You’ll methodically set up traps and tripwires around choke-points, and then wait for that one perfect shot to start the whole thing rolling. From there fights pivot, becoming fast and chaotic. Twitchy reactions are needed to avoid being trampled, and intimate knowledge of your tools and weapons are required to pry the protective plating from your foes.

The level of quality in encounter design does see a dip when human enemies are introduced, however. Bandits and raiders make up the bulk of what you’ll see here, and they occupy encampments, abandoned villages, and ruins. Opportunities to break line of sight are rare, and most fights devolve into you clumsily finding cover to hide behind. Your most reliable tactic is to exploit the game’s weak AI – calling enemies into bushes to be stealth killed, as they ignore the growing pile of bodies nearby.

The camera struggles in these fights too. In enclosed areas it’ll get snagged on geometry, and with no ability to swap the shoulder you’re aiming over, some tight corridors just become death traps. When executing melee strikes, Aloy gravitates towards her foes to make sure that attacks connect – but the camera doesn’t keep up. Successive melee strikes can make her fall off the screen entirely. Your viewpoint doesn’t recover snappily enough either, meaning you’ll have to aim your bow to reset the camera position.

The scrappy, scrounging nature of humanity is reflected well in the game’s progression systems though. You’re perpetually picking up ingredients and harvesting materials, so you can build more arrows, traps, or other tools. This is extended further by gear with different rarity ratings, modifications, and skill trees. The loop of hunting foes to acquire more resources, upgrading your gear, unlocking new abilities, and using that to target bigger creatures, is incredibly satisfying. There’s also a tangible jump in power between different tiers of gear. They don’t just offer higher damage numbers, but also present new ways to play the game, like elemental attacks.

Unfortunately, the game does a poor job of comparing relative stats of gear – meaning you’ll be jumping between a vendor’s window and your own inventory to see the scope of these benefits. It’s cumbersome, and something other games have figured out before.

But what the game lacks in user experience, it makes up for in its visual treatment. Expansive plains, derelict dustbowls, and steamy jungles are the backdrop for your journey, with small civilizations and cities dotted throughout. Each one carries its own unique flora, fauna, and colour scheme – but the flourishes presented by the time of day and weather conditions cement the game’s position as one of the prettiest titles on the market. Trees and grass undulate in digital winds, with specks of light dancing off them. Each frame of Horizon Zero Dawn is a painting.

These environments are a wonder to behold, but traversing them can be a hassle. Aloy is a bit of an acrobat, but she’s selective; only certain ledges can be grabbed, leaving you to ineffectually bunny hop up cliff-faces and waist-high terraces – things she shouldn’t have trouble clambering onto. Lengthy jaunts between areas can be handled via fast-travel, but treks to unexplored territory require you to hoof it. Early on, Aloy gains the ability to turn some creatures into mounts, but they don’t stick around for long – disappearing entirely after you’ve initiated a mission, or moved far enough away. All your quests into the unknown are soured by an initial bout of busy-work.

Aloy’s quest through the post-post-apocalypse is one of pros and cons. Encounters with robotic wildlife are equal parts tactical and reflexive, but fights against humans are awkward, and the camera is unwieldly. The world is lush and gorgeous, but traversing it can be a chore. Horizon Zero Dawn is a breath of fresh air, and a welcome departure from Guerrilla’s previous offerings – but the journey takes some missteps.


Keith received a physical copy of Horizon Zero Dawn from PlayStation NZ. The game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro.


Horizon Zero Dawn
"A journey of pros and cons, but it's one worth taking."
- Horizon Zero Dawn
8.0
Great
 
Follow Own it? Rating: M   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 1 Hour


 

Relevant Articles

 

Comments Comments (43)

 
Posted by mchumdinghy
On Monday 20 Feb 2017 9:08 PM
5
Great review and nicely written Keith :) Looking forward to picking this up. Still so long to wait!
 
 
 
Posted by Nick2016NZ
On Monday 20 Feb 2017 9:36 PM
1
Keith, got a question for ya. You gave Call of Duty Infinite Warfare an 8.5, and this an 8. In your opinion, do you really believe Infinite Warfare is better than this? Cmon...
 
 
 
Posted by LukeB
On Monday 20 Feb 2017 9:48 PM
3
Well I'm sold.

I've been wanting a new epic PS4 exclusive since UC4, so I'll be glad to wipe the dust off and give this a few weeks of play :)
 
 
 
Posted by AdamC
On Monday 20 Feb 2017 10:19 PM
4
20 February 2017, 09:36 PM Reply to Nick2016NZ
Keith, got a question for ya. You gave Call of Duty Infinite Warfare an 8.5, and this an 8. In your opinion, do you really believe Infinite Warfare is better than this? Cmon...
Im interested in the answer to this.
 
 
 
Posted by Paorio
On Monday 20 Feb 2017 10:27 PM
11
20 February 2017, 09:36 PM Reply to Nick2016NZ
Keith, got a question for ya. You gave Call of Duty Infinite Warfare an 8.5, and this an 8. In your opinion, do you really believe Infinite Warfare is better than this? Cmon...
You can't compare scores as time passes, anyway this game isn't even out yet you might even agree with his score
 
 
 
Posted by Jonathan-OverWorld
On Monday 20 Feb 2017 11:31 PM
8
20 February 2017, 09:36 PM Reply to Nick2016NZ
Keith, got a question for ya. You gave Call of Duty Infinite Warfare an 8.5, and this an 8. In your opinion, do you really believe Infinite Warfare is better than this? Cmon...
POINT FIVE NZGAMER REVIEW SCORES LOWER THAN ANOTHER GAME!?! Get out yer pitchforks everyone.
 
 
 
Posted by guido
On Monday 20 Feb 2017 11:33 PM
8
Calling enemies into bushes to be stealth killed, as they ignore the growing pile of bodies nearby is my favourite game-play mechanic!
 
 
 
Posted by Outlaw213
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 1:06 AM
3
Positive reviews all around, a few 10's, lots of 9's and 8's.

Might just have to pick this up on day 1 rather than later.
 
 
 
Posted by AdamC
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 7:08 AM
-1
20 February 2017, 11:31 PM Reply to Jonathan-OverWorld
POINT FIVE NZGAMER REVIEW SCORES LOWER THAN ANOTHER GAME!?! Get out yer pitchforks everyone.
I think he is just curious if they really feel it's worse than the last COD. Ignoring the c'mon at the end.
 
 
 
Posted by drunk_monk
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 7:43 AM
2
Seems like a clear consensus the game is hot garbage.

But seriously that 20ish hours main campaign length sounds perfect. Great review Keith.
 
 
 
Posted by CoffeeAddict
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 8:15 AM
2
Nice review, cannot wait until next week to get my greasy mitts onto this. I love the hidden in the bushes luring enemies in tactic! In order to complete the review in time for the embargo to lift did you spend much time doing the side quests? If so is a decent volume of backstory is unlocked this way?
 
 
 
Posted by czk51
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 8:20 AM
3
Preordered :)
 
 
 
Posted by Xaphriel
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 8:41 AM
4
Feeling really good about that Collector's Edition now.
 
 
 
Posted by ericaf95
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 9:02 AM
7
20 February 2017, 10:27 PM Reply to Paorio
You can't compare scores as time passes, anyway this game isn't even out yet you might even agree with his score
It's also a bit ridiculous to compare scores of two games in completely different genres. Reviewers have to make consideration for the kind of game the game is supposed to be, which makes comparing something like COD with something like Horizon a bit like comparing apples and oranges.
 
 
 
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 9:19 AM
6
Definitely look forward to jumping into this one.
Great start for a fresh IP, and hopefully its successful enough for a sequel for them to built on the IP even more.
 
 
 
Posted by Bank
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 10:06 AM
6
20 February 2017, 09:36 PM Reply to Nick2016NZ
Keith, got a question for ya. You gave Call of Duty Infinite Warfare an 8.5, and this an 8. In your opinion, do you really believe Infinite Warfare is better than this? Cmon...
Your criticisms have gotten flimsy in recent times man. They were hard-boiled and constructive but this one had a lot of intent.
 
 
 
Posted by drunk_monk
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 10:40 AM
5
21 February 2017, 09:02 AM Reply to ericaf95
It's also a bit ridiculous to compare scores of two games in completely different genres. Reviewers have to make consideration for the kind of game the game is supposed to be, which makes comparing something like COD with something like Horizon a bit like comparing apples and oranges.
Oranges 9.2
Apples 8.9

Oranges are superior I'm every way except pie, but pie doesn't provide enough substance to stay, as opposed to oranges which are well worth the price point.
 
 
 
Posted by CoffeeAddict
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 11:14 AM
4
21 February 2017, 10:40 AM Reply to drunk_monk
Oranges 9.2
Apples 8.9

Oranges are superior I'm every way except pie, but pie doesn't provide enough substance to stay, as opposed to oranges which are well worth the price point.
I disagree entirely so you must be wrong! Apples win especially covered in toffee, in pies and in juiced form. Apples 9.5 oranges 7.
 
 
 
Posted by drunk_monk
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 11:39 AM
11
21 February 2017, 11:14 AM Reply to CoffeeAddict
I disagree entirely so you must be wrong! Apples win especially covered in toffee, in pies and in juiced form. Apples 9.5 oranges 7.
But last year you rated a Lambo 8.9.

Are you saying that apples are .6 better than a lamborghini?
 
 
 
Posted by I3ridgeI3urner
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 11:52 AM
2
20 February 2017, 09:36 PM Reply to Nick2016NZ
Keith, got a question for ya. You gave Call of Duty Infinite Warfare an 8.5, and this an 8. In your opinion, do you really believe Infinite Warfare is better than this? Cmon...
Yes, but Infinite Warfare added a double jump from walls that the previous one did not have; you could only single jump from walls. That is true innovation compared to building a new IP from scratch, therefore the extra .5
 
 
 
Posted by AdamC
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 12:20 PM
1
21 February 2017, 10:40 AM Reply to drunk_monk
Oranges 9.2
Apples 8.9

Oranges are superior I'm every way except pie, but pie doesn't provide enough substance to stay, as opposed to oranges which are well worth the price point.
I think it's a tie. Apple pie = Orange juice
 
 
 
Posted by Coddfish
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 1:22 PM
5
BACK ON TOPIC

Good review, Keith :)
 
 
 
Posted by ericaf95
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 2:22 PM
-
I've gotten around to comparing this review with reviews from other gaming news sites and it looks like this is actually one of the lower ones, which is very exciting to me. I'm going to try to smash out as much of it as I can before Mass Effect comes out.
 
 
 
Posted by M-to-the-T
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 2:22 PM
2
Excellent review, 8.0 apples out of a possible 11.0 oranges is indeed a great score
 
 
 
Posted by twisterjamz
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 6:26 PM
1
Just preordered this yesterday, only one week away, can't wait
 
 
 
Posted by Paorio
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 7:42 PM
4
oh hey look a successful console exclusive and undead guy isn't here what a coincidence
 
 
 
Posted by M-to-the-T
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 8:07 PM
2
21 February 2017, 07:42 PM Reply to Paorio
oh hey look a successful console exclusive and undead guy isn't here what a coincidence
Shhhhhhh here he comes......... don't mention frame rates
 
 
 
Posted by Rocky1986
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 8:56 PM
1
cheers for the review. looks awesome
 
 
 
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 9:13 PM
5
21 February 2017, 11:39 AM Reply to drunk_monk
But last year you rated a Lambo 8.9.

Are you saying that apples are .6 better than a lamborghini?
/thread.
This was the winning comment lol
 
 
 
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 9:21 PM
6
21 February 2017, 07:42 PM Reply to Paorio
oh hey look a successful console exclusive and undead guy isn't here what a coincidence
Yup you just cursed it, mr negativity will be here anytime to tell us for the 2000th time why console sucks and PC is better. #samesh*tdifferentpost
 
 
 
Posted by captain X nz
On Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 11:07 PM
2
What I like is that we haven't waited more than 2 E3s since the reveal, it's bang on time for going gold early, reviewers got it 2 weeks out rather than day 1, the first patch is minimal and it felt finished back in October when I got some hands on.

In fact back in October it felt better than any recent Assassins Creed I'd played, so Guerrilla have been enjoying themselves polishing it off.

This is how you launch a new IP and build a following.
 
 
 
Posted by ptys
On Wednesday 22 Feb 2017 7:31 AM
2
Wow only 8.0, I'd hate to have to buy you an Xmas gift :)
 
 
 
Posted by Bardst3r
On Wednesday 22 Feb 2017 10:46 AM
2
21 February 2017, 12:20 PM Reply to AdamC
I think it's a tie. Apple pie = Orange juice
It would have been a very different scene in American Pie if orange juice was used.
 
 
 
Posted by cortez72
On Wednesday 22 Feb 2017 11:55 AM
1
I've skipped the review, not because it's not worth reading, but because I have no expectation if I never find out anything about the title. The 10mins video I saw of this game last year had me intrigued, but without expectation. So an 8 is a good enough score for me to turn that expectation into an enjoyable romp I'm sure! Really looking forward to it.
 
 
 
Posted by atipuss
On Thursday 23 Feb 2017 1:46 PM
-
Thanks for review! Looking forward to it! :D
 
 
 
Posted by kniteowl
On Friday 24 Feb 2017 2:43 PM
2
Glad for Guerrilla Games that it's so successful. I really enjoyed their world building for Killzone (especially the Jin-Roh like Helghast designs), so looking forward to this one.
 
 
 
Posted by xBOOZEMONEYx
On Friday 24 Feb 2017 5:19 PM
1
Looks really cool. Probably wait to pick it up though. Definitely a different game. Kind of reminds me of Turok in a way.
 
 
 
Posted by Bunnny
On Tuesday 28 Feb 2017 10:20 AM
-
Did I just stumble into real life Thank you for Smoking?
 
 
 
Posted by topcatnz67
On Friday 3 Mar 2017 6:28 PM
-
This game looks amazing, I can't wait to play it.
 
 
 
Posted by Nick2016NZ
On Wednesday 8 Mar 2017 5:09 PM
-
Best PS4 game yet and one of the best Playstation exclusives ever. Easy 10 out of 10.
 
 
 
Posted by Nick2016NZ
On Wednesday 8 Mar 2017 5:14 PM
-
21 February 2017, 10:06 AM Reply to Bank
Your criticisms have gotten flimsy in recent times man. They were hard-boiled and constructive but this one had a lot of intent.
Had no intent whatsoever mate, It was a genuine question because I'm genuinely curious, and a bit puzzled about it. Some members just can't help themselves with their White Knighting and smartasd responses for upvotes though, which is sad.
 
 
 
Posted by Wilkinstein
On Saturday 11 Mar 2017 5:17 PM
-
I'd really like to play this game! Looks good.
 
 
 
Posted by HiddenNijaNZ
On Tuesday 14 Mar 2017 10:06 PM
-
Started getting bored of open world games but this may get me back into it.