What is Horizon: Zero Dawn?
Horizon: Zero Dawn is an action-orientated, open world game in which players step into the shoes of the red haired huntress, Aloy, in a post-apocalyptic, tribal world that's terrorised by machines. Aggressive robots roam the lands, threatening the future of the human race, who've been splintered into several competing tribes, struggling to survive. Shunned by her tribe thanks to the mysterious circumstances surrounding her birth, Aloy must fend for herself as she tries to uncover the secrets of her origins and the mechanical menace that terrorises humankind. Fighting for your survival against huge robotic beasts while exploring the dark, desolate and crumbling wastelands of a long-gone technologically advanced society, Horizon: Zero Dawn is an action-packed adventure.
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How do you play Horizon: Zero Dawn?
As an open world game, Horizon: Zero Dawn presents you with a huge land to explore, with desolate deserts, crumbling mountains and dank, dark forests to navigate on your search for answers. Beyond the main story missions and side quests, there are dungeons to explore, where you'll face off against powerful enemies, bandit camps to defeat, and huge creatures known as Tallnecks that you can scale to get more information about your surroundings. While many side missions are basic 'fetch me x item' or 'find my missing daughter/husband/father' affairs, story missions often offer more complex objectives.
Heavy on combat, a lot of your time in Horizon: Zero Dawn will be spent battling with the robotic enemies that roam the land. Enemies wander areas, often in packs, and you'll need a mixture of quick reactions and strategic planning in order to take them down without being swarmed yourself. Aloy has two main types of attack at her disposal - a long-range bow for hitting far away enemies, and a spear for whacking things up close. She also has a rather useful skill called Focus, a kind of enhanced vision that scans enemies to show you their weak points - and by taking advantage of your surroundings (hiding in the tall grass, you can whistle to lure enemies towards you), you should be able to take down most of your robotic foes by exploiting their weaknesses.
How easy is Horizon: Zero Dawn to pick up and play?
Requiring a lot of situational awareness and some quick reflexes, Horizon: Zero Dawn is definitely aimed at the more experienced player - especially as much of the game is left for you to figure out on your own. The game's prologue does walk you through the basic controls, such as crouching and jumping, while your adopted father figure, Rost, teaches you how to hunt and fight, but after that you're largely left to your own devices in a dangerous world.
In order to not end up as robot meat, you'll need to be fairly clever when it comes to taking on the various mechanised monsters that roam around, as each type requires a bit of a different strategy. Aloy's aforementioned Focus skill highlights enemy weaknesses, and tells you what ammo types are most effective - like fire arrows on birds, for example - while the ability to track the path of patrolling enemies comes in especially handy for laying down traps. As you battle, Aloy gets stronger and can learn new skills to make battling easier - the stealth attack Silent Strike, the ability to slow down time with Concentration and the ability to fire multiple arrows in a single shot are all good ones to go for when you're first starting out, for example.
Scavenging for spare parts and raw materials is also incredibly important. As it's how you'll upgrade your weapons, keep yourself alive with healing potions and create arrows to take out enemies, bypassing the crafting system is nigh on impossible. You'll also need to craft teleportation tokens if you want to fast travel around the island, zipping between the campfire save points to make getting around the world much easier.
In terms of reading, Horizon: Zero Dawn is pretty much fully voiced in all the key story sections. Light reading crops up in occasional dialogue options, where you can pick responses to certain questions or find out more about a particular mission, as well as in the description of your current objective or any button prompts that pop up.
- "Is something else bothering you?"
- "Gather the Salvebrush Berries."
- "Crouching in Tall Grass will make you invisible to unaware enemies."
In terms of mature content, Horizon: Zero Dawn sits somewhere in the middle. It does feature blood, violence and bad language, but none are overwhelming or extreme. Battles see players facing off mostly against robotic behemoths, although humans and animals do feature too; enemies emit puffs of red blood when struck, shot or stabbed, while one scene shows an abandoned campsite with blood stains on rocks and trees. It is also possible - indeed, almost necessary - to hunt down boars, foxes and other wild animals for the raw materials that are used to upgrade weapons and equipment, or to create specialised ammo or healing potions.
Occasional bad language rears its head in the form of a*s, b*stard and b*tch, while a single reference to sexual content pops up in "Eighteen months hard labour in exchange for lounging around Elysium watching porn?".
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4