Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
If variety is the most cherished of all attributes, then Horizon's duopoly of forest and snowy rock areas falls short. The camera, too, can be a bit distracting in the way it pulls in and out, or switches from one side of the player character to the other. But these minor critiques pale in the face of Guerilla Games' latest technological marvel, which prototypically bottles the modern-game method of fine texture resolutions and grandiose pixel counts, glazed with slathers of post processing effects, and finished with a heaping of wonderful and intuitive-- yet not overbearing and overcrowding-- visual feedback indicators.
Ashly Burch, the ever-anxious gamer-girl-cum-voice-actress with the seemingly misspelled first name, positively knocks the voice of protagonist "Aloy" out of the park, providing an excellent balance of drama, emotionalism, and sternness. And it's a good thing for that, because Horizon doesn't have much else going for it in the aural department; like most modern games the music is utterly forgettable Hollywood background noise drivel, and the sounds which emanate from the game's robotic antagonists are surprisingly uninspired-- a real missed opportunity.
At its core, Horizon Zero Dawn is simply yet another "Shadow of Mordor" clone: there are towers which reveal map icons, plants which are foraged to craft ammo, bandit bases to clear, and skill trees to slowly unlock via the accumulation of experience points. And while that's not a bad formula by itself, what differentiates Horizon mechanically is its user interface, which is probably the best this reviewer has ever encountered in a video game. It may sound superficial, but it almost makes this style of game feel like a different genre, so impacted by it is the core game loop.
By itself, Horizon Zero Dawn's core game loop isn't as engaging as the aforementioned Mordor's, or Avalanche Studios' "Mad Max". But it doesn't necessarily need to be, because its world building is simply out of
this world: the game's lengthy opening sequence and first dozen or so hours is so absolutely engrossing that it takes an almost startlingly long time for the genre's tropes to actually become unmasked for what they are! The world traversal's eclectic mix of stealth and action ably shuffles the player from flash point to flash point, with the nearly transcendental aesthetic marking a real high mark for the open world genre.