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Horizon Forbidden West review: One of the best-looking PS5 games yet

The game proves the west coast is the beast coast

Jasper Pickering
Friday 18 February 2022 12:03
Comments
<p>The Playstation exclusive is out 18 February 2022 </p>

The Playstation exclusive is out 18 February 2022

Horizon Forbidden West was one of Sony’s most anticipated PS5 releases when it was first announced in June 2020, and now the game is finally hitting store shelves.

For those unfamiliar with the story of Horizon, a hunter of the Nora tribe, Aloy, must travel across the post-apocalyptic landscape of the United States to take down giant machines that nearly wiped out humanity a thousand years ago.

Horizon Forbidden West will expand on the original setting and take players further along the coast through California and Nevada. The game is being released on 18 February 2022 on both the PS4 and PS5 consoles.

Horizon Forbidden West will retail for £59.99 for the Playstation 4 version or £69.99 for the Playstation 5 version. Pre-orders are available from Playstation (£69.99, Playstation.co.uk), Amazon (£51.95, Amazon.co.uk), Argos (£69.99, Argos.co.uk) and Game (£69.99, Game.co.uk).

Read on for our full review of the game.

Read more

How we tested

A copy of Horizon Forbidden West on the PS5 was provided to us by the game’s publisher. We spent over 30 hours with the game, playing through the story, side quests and wandering around its vast open world, before being trampled by a tremortusk.

‘Horizon Forbidden West': £69.99, Playstation.co.uk

Rating: 9/10

  • Consoles: Playstation 4 and Playstation 5
  • Developer: Guerilla Games
  • Release Date: 18 February 2022
  • Price: £59.99 (PS4), £69.99 (PS5)

Story

Horizon Forbidden West is set a thousand years into the future after a man-made mass extinction event leads to the near-destruction of all life on earth. Humanity survived but the loss of knowledge after a millennia meant the remaining human settlements reverted back to primitive tribalism as large, roaming machines became the new apex predators.

The game follows Aloy, a hunter of the Nora tribe, six months after the events of the first game, Zero Dawn. A new plague known as the “Blight” is destroying organic life and causing widespread famine across the former United States. In an attempt to prevent the spread by restoring a back-up of a terraforming artificial intelligence known as “GAIA”, Aloy travels to “the forbidden west” to save the world.

Aloy will travel to the West Coast of the former United States

We’ll avoid spoiling the events that took place in Zero Dawn, but Aloy’s connection with the old world and access to its technology is a driving force in her determination to save it, stubbornly shouldering this burden despite a population unable to comprehend the consequences if she fails.

What has set Horizon apart from the numerous open-world action games is its world building. The cautionary tale of unfettered innovation in the name of profit are familiar themes in a world both enamoured and terrified by artificial intelligence, but in its depiction of a world reborn against all odds, uncovering the mysteries of its destruction is what makes it so intriguing.

Very rarely does a game make a compelling case to find every datapoint and audio log, but untangling the story of an old civilization in the throes of survival is half of what makes journeying through it so memorable.

Gameplay

The other half is its combat. Throughout the world of Horizon, bands of tribal warriors are an obvious threat, but the most pressing are its mechanical creatures, taking their appearances from natural predators such as crocodiles and hawks all the way through to prehistoric dinosaurs like velociraptors and T-rexes. In Forbidden West, there is much more variation in the local fauna and new creatures, such as giant snapping turtles and elephants, dominate the region.

New enemies known as “tremortusks” make a challenging new foe

Each machine is formidable in its own right and as many travel in herds, they can be overwhelming in their response to Aloy’s presence, attacking her on sight. Aloy can use her “Focus” (an old-world device that reads and transmits data of her surroundings) to locate each machine’s weak points and different parts that can be harvested if they are successfully removed before the machine is destroyed.

Using a mix of stealth, trapping, close and ranged weaponry before commencing each attack is recommended. Fights can become an intense flurry of defensive and offensive reactions. Creating space and knowing when to close in can feel complicated at first, as each machine can be relentless in their attacks, but using opportunities to create distance, stagger enemies, craft traps, heal and restock ammo quickly becomes second nature.

While the range of weaponry has expanded, the fighting mechanics have stayed consistent with Zero Dawn, but there are plenty of quality-of-life improvements that take players out of menus and allow them to craft resources in real-time.

Both in and out of combat, Aloy’s traversal has also been greatly improved, with a grappling hook that can be used to quickly ascend ledges as well as a hang glider which makes clearing long distances from high vantage points much less arduous. Through pre-release trailers and gameplay, there’s also been a higher emphasis on underwater exploration. While these sections of the game are a new feature for Horizon, they suffer the usual pitfalls of underwater levels, even if they are nice to look at.

Performance

Aesthetically, Horizon Forbidden West shares a lot of similarities with Zero Dawn, which is a testament to how good the first game looked when it was released in 2017.

The game looks exceptional on the PS5

There is a noticeable improvement in how the game runs as well as its lighting and water effects. Finer details such as facial animations also appear more natural than they did in the prequel, lending itself well to the quality performances from the colourful cast of characters.

Without question, Forbidden West is certainly one of the best-looking games currently available on the PS5.

Forbidden West also makes good use of the PS5’s dualsense controller. Loosing arrows, crafting and pulse-scanning all put the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback to the test.  Even if it doesn’t push the hardware to its limits like Astro’s Playroom, it does aid in bringing the immediacy of gameplay into the player’s hands.

The verdict: Horizon Forbidden West

In Horizon Forbidden West, Guerilla Games has developed its post-apocalyptic marriage of technology and nature to craft a beautifully realised vision of a world desperate for rebirth.

The story will take new players to unexpected and breathtaking places, and fans of Horizon Zero Dawn will have plenty of their questions answered.

While Horizon Forbidden West takes great leaps in its visual and story presentation, it stays the path with its gameplay, making small but notable additions that improve the experience.

Not much has changed since Zero Dawn, but when that gameplay revolves around hunting mechanical dinosaurs, why would you want it to?

‘Horizon Forbidden West'

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