Community Review: Horizon Zero Dawn

We don't usually do two Community Reviews in a week - but it would be wholly unfair to not have a quick chat about Horizon: Zero Dawn.

It's almost criminal that a game as good as Horizon - and something that looks as good as it does - has been overshadowed a little. But that was always going to happen with the release of the Switch and Breath of the Wild, although I have a feeling later this year Horizon will appear in plenty of bundles with the PS4 Pro.

It's hard not to give more credit to Guerilla for how accomplished the tech is. But while the engine and the environments are stunning, the game's not completely without fault. Dealing with enemies can become a little rote, the human AI is ordinary at best (if not outright stupid) and boring to fight.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Kotaku Review

For years now, the latest console generation has been coasting on the idea that more raw power means better games. The PS4's newest exclusive, Horizon. Zero Dawn, is the rare game that delivers on that promise.

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Fortunately, the robot dinosaurs make up for the blandness of post-apocalyptic humanity. And the game is fun to explore, especially since you get rewarded (often decently) for engaging groups of targets. It removes the monotony open-world games sometimes have, where you're wandering from one side quests to another.

In Horizon, it's fun just wandering through the world. Or I've been having fun just wandering throughout the world, at least. And the photo mode is great fun to mess with, and it's probably the best argument for a PS4 Pro and HDR right now.

What do you think of Horizon: Zero Dawn so far?


Comments

    I'm really enjoying it. The camera can be tough but it's so much fun just cruising around the world.

    I very aware of 'open world fatigue' and I think I get it faster than most so I'm just playing in 40min bursts. I do resent the amount of picking plants etc that you do on these games. I hated MGSV at the end for all the busy work it made me do so I'm approaching this game differently because of this.

    I prb won't play BOTW or the new mass effect for a look time. Maybe even next year. I just don't have the time for games like this as much anymore.

    Combat is solid.
    Movement is good.
    Combat is fun (but the combat camera sucks).
    Climbing is *shit*. (You can only climb at marked areas, this is an archaic system that needs to *die*. Assassins Creed climbing is quite frankly the gold standard, the 'climb anything anywhere' method needs to be how it is, not "you can only climb the coloured area" method, especially in open worlds).
    Taming animals sucks, you can't take them around as pets goddammit.

    Storyline is solid, fun stuff.
    Length of the game is great, between 50-60 hours first play.
    Monsters look *amazing*
    Textures are great, especially on PSPro.
    Voice acting is cheesy but good in a 1980's fantasy movie way.

    Overall, 8/10.

      Nicely summed up, though you forgot to mention the platforming. In the cauldrons there's a lot of it and there's been too many times where it's poorly indicated on where you can and can't jump too.

      There was also one frustrating encounter where there was a barn with a locked door and what looked like a way to get in via the roof. All the signs where there, a rope to hold onto, a partially open door, and a building roof that you could climb onto with what appear to be an intentionally placed tree. Once I got up there I still couldn't get in. The solution? A key in the house across the courtyard. It just felt so dumb that they would deliberately place all those elements and fool you into thinking there might have been more than one way to approach.

    I'm enjoying it. The world is great and tech behind the game is some straight up wizardry.

    Best looking game I've played, combat is excellent, story has me hooked and something about it makes it seem LESS overwhelming and bloated compared to a lot of open worlds.. its a shame its getting overshadowed by BOTW but at the same time Sony is doing just fine and this game will make its way into many Ps4s

      I agree. I couldn't get into The Witcher 3 at all. But HZD I'm absolutely loving and devouring.

    I'm really enjoying it, which is surprising, as up until the first reviews were coming in I had a pretty strong case of the "meh"s.

    I'll start with the criticisms, since they're relatively few.

    - As Alex mentioned, the human combat is pretty damn dull.
    - While dialogue and lore is good, the actual story itself is just okay.
    - Minor, but some of the facial animations in cut scenes are seriously deep in the uncanny valley.

    Now for the good stuff.

    - The monster combat is fantastic and if you're playing on a reasonably high difficulty, somewhat challenging as well. You really have to make use of every tool in your arsenal. The feeling of using your ropecaster to tie down a Thunderjaw while you use Tearblast arrows to rip off particular components, followed by pummeling it with its own disc launcher is so good.
    - Aloy is a great protagonist, and while the story itself may be only okay, the dialogue, character relationships and lore building are great.
    - The environment is utterly gorgeous, and plays well too (ignoring the limited climbing opportunities at least).
    - Apparently a former CD Projekt Red dev (from The Witcher 3) worked on a lot of the side quests, and you can tell. They're lower in quantity than something like Skyrim, but generally very good. Even the quests that are essentially fetch quests at least have a reasonable amount of dialogue and reasoning behind why you're fetching the thing.
    - Lots of great little Quality of Life things - e.g. being able to set custom quests for particular resources/parts that you need.

    Overall there's certainly some minor (and one or two moderate) niggles, but overall it's excellent. I'd give it a 9/10.

    Last edited 07/03/17 11:59 am

    I love it so goddamn much.

    Combat is amazing.

    World is beautiful.

    Universe building is great.

    It takes so many things that other games do well, and puts it together really cohesively and still manages to feel fresh and unique.

    Writing is good. For a video game.

    I think I might like it more than Zelda, even though that comparison is stupid and I'm sorry I ever wrote this sentence.

      You have a point regarding the glass ceiling devs seem to have relating to script writing and story planning. Like, it's good ENOUGH. I feel that with Horizon. Could've done better, but it's "only a game".

      Never have that issue with Naughty Dog and CD Project Red.

        Really? The plots for all of the Uncharted's were pretty bad. 3 & 4 in particular were straight up awful.

        The dialogue is good yes, but the actual plot?

          I wouldnt say they were bad. They were standard plots for the genre. Nothing groundbreaking but they were enjoyable enough rides.

            Everytime you found something great, that you'd gone on this amazingly torturous route to get to, that only 3or 4 people in the world would be skilled enough to find, enemy troops would just fall from the sky.

            The 4th time it happened in Uncharted 3 I just thought 'this is ridiculous'. I picked it every time. Find treasure. Plot twist. Or heavy combat. Usually heavy combat.

            TLOU is a work of art though. My god. What an experience.

              I'm a writer. Plot holes and hokey dialogue shit me more than formulaic gameplay tropes. Having said that... Horizon suffers from them quite badly, too.

                Cool man. Me too. What do you write? I do films mostly. Unpaid as yet but I write almost everyday and left full time work for part time so I would have more time for writing.

                It's funny because I'm just not judging horizon on it's writing at all. I skip most conversations and I don't follow any prompts that I don't need to. I just like the world they've created. They told the story really well at the beginning I thought though. Really brought out Rost clearly as the stakes character.

                The tough thing about sci fi is avoiding tropes. I've got a feature script on my HDD and all I can see when re-reading it is the influences that lead to the ideas. The story is definitely my own though.

                  Good stuff!

                  I'm a novelist. My first is called "Afterglow". It'll release later in the year, one way or another. I'll let everyone know on TAY.

                  I've done a few scripts, and am eager to delve into stand-up :)

                  As per the rest of your comment, what is originality, I suppose? My work is highly derivative. I guess time will tell if it's been done well... but in the end, you're a slave to the story. Though that means many things to a variety of different creatives.

                  Good luck :)

                  @slyph nice man! A novel is a big accomplishment, even if it goes nowhere. I don't think anyone but writers realise how time consuming it is to get ideas down but then remove everything that's unnecessary and polish them until they shine.

                  It's good that you know your stuff is derivative. I think throwing out the idea that everything has to be original is the first step to actually getting good. We're all a mix of our previous experiences and that's what comes out when we create. What we're really judged on, is how well we execute :)

                  Good luck with it too dude!

              Uncharted isnt the only game that does this. Also, irrespective of the plot issues, the story hung together reasonably well and it was a fun ride. I personally had no issues with the stories in those games.

              Also, not sure why you brought up TLOU...you're basically panning Naughty Dog by saying the Uncharted plots were rubbish, and then turn around and say they did amazing work with TLOU. What are you trying to say?

                I brought up TLOU because IMO it's the high point for writing in games so far.

                You don't have to like every game that a studio brings out y'know. You're allowed to pick your favourites.

                Uncharted plots were bad. TLOUT was amazing. Ummmm. I just paraphrased your question but that's exactly what I'm saying.

                  Fair I suppose, I just interpreted your first reply as saying "Naughty Dog made Uncharted and those plots were rubbish therefore they are bad", since Slyph never mentioned any games in particular. You then sort of contradicted yourself by saying "but actually TLOU was great!"

                  I guess it's probably just how I read your replies. Either way, it's great you enjoyed TLOU. I'm just of the opinion that Uncharted 3/4 weren't as bad as you're making them out to be, but hey, you're entitled to your opinion as well. I actually understand where you're coming from in regards to how the plot follows a pretty standard pattern. I just thought that it didnt detract from the game that much and I had a lot of fun with it. But to each their own. :)

                  @rowan can't comment above, so...

                  No, it's not easy. Given most teach themselves. I've gotten to the point that I really only do as much as I can stomach, then hand it to an editor. Book 2 will be a much more streamlined affair :)

      Writing is good. For a video game.

      This is the part I'm struggling with. Some of the dialogue seems really contrived.

      There's also bits where I find it hard to imagine the characters as being real, when their actions seem so unrealistic.

      For instance when you visit Meridian and Erend had no qualms with believing you after only having had a 5 minute conversation prior, and then proceeding to let you destroy his long term "friend's" house whilst making silly jokes. Granted he was drunk and clearly has a crush on you, but still, it's hard to suspend disbelief in the world when this happens.

      On the other hand the overarching story is great so far.

      BURN THE HERETIC!!

      Seriously though I enjoyed the 2 days i had with H: ZD but once i started playing Zelda i have no immediate desire to go back to Horizon because while it's fun and the combat is good there's just something about the discovery and exploration in Zelda that just keeps me playing.

      I look forward to continuing with H: ZD and it's a great game worth playing but damn man, Nintendo knocked it out of the park with Zelda.

    Combat is great, although it could use a target-lock system (a la FFXV, FromSoft games, etc) to keep what you're fighting on screen - so many times I've been blindsided because I lost sight of a stormbird that then proceeded to crush me from above. I make do with a "when in doubt, roll until you relocate your quarry" policy, however a lock-on system would certainly make the combat less annoying in that regard.

    I did find the first 15-or-so hours rather boring - things didn't really pick up until the first Hunter's Lodge quests in Meridian, which introduce you to the more dangerous machines. The crafting system is the same as Far Cry 3's, right down to requiring specific animal parts to make a bigger bag... why I specifically need fox bones to make a larger quiver is something I'm still confused by.

    Oh, and tearblast arrows are broken as hell - there's something immensely satisfying about trapping a thunderjaw and blowing it to hell with its own disc launchers. :P

      I feel like target lock hasn't been implemented to keep things frenetic.

      Which bow lets you use Tearblast arrows?

        Sharpshooter. I think you need the Shadow version to get access to all the arrow variants though.

        A purple sharpshooter of some sort... Carja sharpshooter bow, iirc. I completely ignored tearblast arrows until I randomly experimented by shooting one at a ravager - it popped the turret clean off its back with one arrow, so I tried it on something a little larger :P).

        A tearblast arrow on a thunderjaw's disc launcher will pop it off - tie the machine down with a few ropecaster shots, grab the disc launcher, and unleash hell.

    Really good game! A shame it's kinda come at a time when I'm feeling a bit burnt out by open world too and fro. Still great, though :)

    Don't know what it is, but I just really adore this game. I'll think about a particular aspect being the best part and then I'm like "hang on this aspect is pretty amazing as well" and it goes like that for pretty much every component part. The game is just incredibly solid on all levels. Good start to the year, if I had to rate it as of now I'd sit between an 8-9/10

    Generally loving it.

    Pros
    The fighting. The Robots. Photo mode. The experience of the whole thing. The sheer beauty. Quick loads.

    Cons
    The lack of saves/camp combo. (if you are going to put them every few steps, you might as well just put a quick save button in)
    The style of loot. The lack of variety. The bland acting. The lack of interesting things like data recordings and view points (which while a great idea look really really cheap). The Far Cry elements like crafting and showing hunting zones. No item compare feature. There feels like no reason to explore further than what the map shows because nothing really appears out of nowhere, yet(? I am 20 hours in)

    Really loving it. But the whole story, acting, data stuff just feels underwhelming. (maybe I can just blame the fact I have been playing Witcher 3). The cut scenes are great just voice acting rather weak.

    Last edited 07/03/17 1:10 pm

    At least as pretty as the Witcher 3, but no where near as polished.
    Pros
    Fun, engaging combat.
    Decent enough side quests.
    Solid story.

    Cons
    Human animation is average, lots of teleporting NPCs into scripted poses
    Climbing and platforming is below average
    Too much time required harvesting health herbs / animal meat for potions

      You've got to be joking....right?

      You're entitled to your opinion, but IMHO The Witcher 3 has nothing on HZD in almost all aspects.

        more complex world, more complex multiple main plots. More diverse weather and colours. (there really are only a few in HZD). Much more real characters, acting, lore. Loot system. The main character. A sense of morality and real choices that not only change the main plots, and minor ones but make an even bigger impact on the player own sense of morality. Horizon is story on the rails.

        Look I love HZD but Witcher 3 eclipses it and virtually every other for the last decade. Credit where credit is due. I never went into Horizon to makes its standards I like it for its own thing but that doesnt change it is no where near as advanced as Witcher is.

        but thats my opinion.

        PS Horizon's combat is simply stunning on almost all levels.

        Last edited 07/03/17 3:18 pm

    Platinumed yesterday and love every minute, how its sitting on 88 and botw is 98 is beyond me but oh well, it had some minor annoyances like climbing only in set points but other then that i thought it was awesome

      Platinumed yesterday? How long's it been out, a week? Do you not have a job or something? That's nuts!

        shift worker so i had 5 days off coinciding with release

          Respect man. That's a serious push on one title!

            i just honestly loved it, even picked up a switch and botw in those days off played about 2 hours and was back to hzd, some games just click i guess, luckily i dont binge game very often so the mrs didn't mind

            Last edited 07/03/17 8:03 pm

    The one thing that still annoys me about this game is the lack of expression in the cutscenes or conversations. If they used MoCap, they really didn't have enough reference points on the actors. I swear that Aloy only ever had a look of wide-eyed bewilderment that got old very fast.

    Side Note: Does anyone else feel like Child Aloy looked really weird? As in, adult head on a somewhat childlike body? It actually kind of put me off, not sure why...

      It's not just you. That Child Aloy head was all kinds of wrong.

      Definitely the facial animation etc is really disappointing, considering how great the game looks otherwise. Whenever I see people talking now it rips me right out of the game cause everyone looks so weird/bland.

    I havent played a whole lot because I've been tied up a bit recently, but I got a couple of hours in over the weekend.

    Pros:
    1. Combat is satisfying. Even so early in the game there are cool weapons to use and experiment with. It also gives you a reason to use some of the extra weapons, unlike other open world games where you end up with this stacked inventory that never gets used. The weapons feel pretty good to use, and the enemies are pretty interesting to fight against.

    2. The enemies are dangerous. Like if you get spotted you're likely to be using health packs etc frequently, and it's not necessarily easy to escape if you're not already far away. This makes stealth/combat exciting. It also makes sense, since you're up against machines.

    3. The world looks fantastic. I prefer city based open worlds because I just like cities, but this world looks ridiculously good, and the map is huge. Also, some of the machine designs are awesome. The details are amazing too, like the grass moving in the wind and stuff like that. I'm only playing on regular PS4 and it still looks incredible.

    Cons:
    1. Character Faces/Facial animations. Wow, some of these characters look derpy to the max, especially Aloy as a child. Seriously whenever I talk to someone I'm immediately ripped out of the immersion because of ridiculous uncanny valley syndrome, or facial animations that just look downright rubbish. Lip syncing is a problem on occasion as well. It seems really odd they'd have this problem when the rest of the animations/graphics in general are so great.

    2. Stealth. Dont know if I'm just to early in the game or not but stealth seems super duper easy right now. Man I'm sick of games giving you an "Eagle Vision" or 6th sense mode in game. Yes they can explain it in this one with "forbidden tech", but enabling it is just boring, since you can see everything. Not only that, but the catch all "hide in the tall grass so no one can see you" makes it super boring as well. Not to mention the machines follow a standard path all the time so it's easy enough to wait a minute or 2 and figure out the pattern before moving.

    3. Camera. Maybe it's me coming from playing Overwatch, but good lord is the camera annoying as shit to use. It could be that I'm playing on the controller and it takes 5 minutes to turn around, but the amount of times you're sitting there trying to fight the camera so that you can aim and the tiny weakspot on a machine's head, only for it to move and then you have to start over is painful. I suppose this is more an issue with console generally, but it's still annoying. Is there a sensitivity option in game that I'm missing? This also makes the combat more frustrating, because the machines generally move pretty fast, and following them with the camera is frustrating to say the least.

    Misc:
    1. So far, story is pretty dull. Standard sort of story for the genre. Although I havent played long enough to really get a handle on this though so we shall see if it gets better.

    2. The interface takes a bit of getting used to. I found it to be a bit unintuitive initially, in one case even running out of fire arrows because I didnt realise what I'd set the wheel to. It doesnt take long, but I feel like it's a bit too stylised and doesnt accentuate stuff that it probably should enough. I minor nitpick though that other people probably wont have an issue with.

    Overall, I'd give it probably a 7ish/10 so far. It's already a million times better looking and more fun that FFXV, but so far doesnt really compare with the best of the best open world games I've played (MGSV, GTAV for example). There are enough issues though to pull me out of the game, and immersion is the whole point of open world games. I'd definitely recommend people try it and see what they think, especially if you're used to playing these games on console. But for me, so far the best time I've had is just running around not interacting with anything, because thats when you can truly appreciate the level of detail and effort they've put into the open world.

    And to think I wasn't even that interested in this all the way up until it was released! Oh boy was I wrong. Some of the best dialogue skip options I have ever seen (heard? Lol) if u skip the audio, cos u have already read the subtitles it seems to have a short sentence at the start that still fit if you cut off the rest of the answer. I'm sure it is on purpose and it is bloody brilliant. Oh and you can access the settings menu from cutscenes. A lot of the game is like that. They've just polished basic things that are usually minor irritations, but god damn if it doesn't all add up to make an extremely enjoyable, flowing experience. Highly recommended.

    Is Horizon really getting overshadowed by Breath of the wild? Considering how many ps4's are in circulation and how many Nintendo Switch's are currently in living rooms. I'd be inclined to say Horizon would have higher sales.
    Three of my friends have bought ps4's in the last week just for this game and well I don't know one personal friend who has bought a switch or Zelda for that matter. Safe to say Zelda is receiving more media attention due to the fact of it debuting on a new console

    I got it from EB last Friday, planning to do the seven-day rental thing. But damn it all if I might not just keep it. It's sucked me in good and proper, against all my intentions. Addictive game!

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