Horizon Zero Dawn (2017) PlayStation 4 Review

Horizon Zero Dawn captures is players from the get go. Whether it’s the breath-taking scenery, interesting characters or engaging narrative, Horizon Zero Dawn takes you on a journey you won’t forget for a long time coming.

In the age of powerful video game narratives rather than your typical point and shoot game-play, Horizon Zero Dawn has joined the ranks of video game favourites – mine included. The science fiction PlayStation 4 exclusive combines futuristic technology and stone age qualities to create an aesthetically pleasing and stimulating world.

Living in a world overrun by robotic beasts, protagonist Aloy lives as an outcast with a desire to find out why that is. Her coming of age story is exciting and emotional, set in a mysterious and curious post-apocalyptic world. You as a player and are there to help Aloy discover what happened all those years ago and hopefully shed some light on everything that is going on in the present day too.

Like a breath of fresh air, Aloy takes the helm and immediately became one of my favourite video game characters. Her vulnerability balanced with her ability to kick ass (like Nathan Drake or Lara Croft) is both interesting to explore and realistic. It seems like an odd thing to point out but the ability to form an emotional connection between a story’s characters and its players isn’t always present. It would also have to be one of my biggest desires for a successful narrative. Horizon Zero Dawn nails this spot on.

In terms of the game-play and combat, there are options to be stealthy, throw yourself straight into the action or strategize. As someone who usually stays away from strategy, wants to be stealthy but usually ends up being thrown into the action, Horizon Zero Dawn allowed me to experiment through both my weapons of choice and the way I approached the battle.

Over the past decade or so, the simple act of allowing players to make their own decisions through various scenarios has skyrocketed and has become a lot of fun to play around with. For Horizon Zero Dawn, the combat was both challenging and thought-provoking. It recognized that taking down machines was no easy feet and shouldn’t be for Aloy either. The use of Aloy’s ‘focus’ was also great to play around with and granted Aloy and the player the chance to inspect the area and the creatures that roamed in it before diving in head first. Crafting and levelling also had an impact on how players controlled the battlefield with multiple weapons, traps and potions to choose from.

The day-night cycle for Horizon Zero Dawn may have seemed positive in theory, but didn’t feel as cleanly executed as it could have been. The main reason being was that the fast cutting between day and night often happened when I was merely running throughout the open world. Main questlines aside, I found it jarring whenever I’d cross an invisible line and suddenly be thrust into night time or day time and couldn’t reset it by travelling to a fast point.

Time consuming dialogue was also a conflict and although it managed to cleverly reveal the story’s secrets over time, it slowly started to drag on soon enough. Despite this, I do wonder if perhaps it is a pitfall that most narrative based games fall in to. Fast paced cut scenes allow for variation and excitement but when we contrast that with idle, over the shoulder conversations, it’s no wonder players struggle to keep attentive in these quieter moments.

When you’re given a setting such as the one in Horizon Zero Dawn, photo mode is a must. There’s something so beautiful and intricate when pausing a video game to stop, look around and frame the picture. Some of my favourite moments were captured with a focus on Aloy and her reaction to the environment around her e.g. squinting her face against a snow storm or stretching her arms out and looking up at the rain. Moments like these are what helps define a video game and I’m glad I got to capture them.

With a memorable narrative, likable protagonist and challenging game-play, Horizon Zero Dawn will leave you wanting more. After you’ve taken Aloy on her main mission, you’ll no doubt want to explore every nook and cranny you may have missed on your journey. If you’re looking for an adventure, you’ve found one in Horizon Zero Dawn. It may have been an ambitious game, but it was an ambitious game that paid off.