Launching a new IP in this market is very difficult: by now people are used to playing their favorite sagas already established. Launching a new IP Action-RPG after having created practically only first person shooters throughout your career could be madness: the guys from Guerrilla Games but they are crazy enough to conceive Horizon: Zero Dawn, PlayStation 4 exclusive that aims, unlike many games today, to do everything perfectly, from the plot to the gameplay, through graphics and sound. The risks are many, the hype is launched to the stars and everywhere we start talking about this possible future masterpiece dedicated to a brave heroine named Aloy. After an interesting press event and days dedicated entirely to exploring this battered land, we are finally able to draw conclusions on Horizon: Zero Dawn, a risk created by the creators of the various Killzone.
It must be said that it was interesting and at the same time difficult to pick up a new title, completely disconnected (perhaps) from all the other existing games, capable of knowing how to make a selection between necessary and superfluous, becoming something innovative from the first glance at the cover. and at the same time contemporary. A different game, capable of equaling great masterpieces: this double form of Horizon: Zero Dawn, produces a sense of amazement towards the user even before inserting the disc into our home console.
A lost world
Horizon: Zero Dawn is set in a dystopian future where, after a terrible cataclysm, nature has regained control of the earth: now unwanted guests, humans, find themselves catapulted into a new prehistoric era where mechanical animals dominate the scene like the main race of this planet. Our race is divided into tribes, with all the pros and cons that this situation generates, we know Aloy, an outcast who will find before her many of those questions to which she is obliged to answer and will be forced to wander in search of the latter. I don't want to spoil the pursuit of a complex and interesting plot with unnecessary spoilers: you just need to know that in the game there will not only be a narrative thread, but that more plots, such as a confluence of rivers, will come together in a high-level intertwining , capable of keeping you glued to the TV for hours.
Furthermore, an excellent characterization of the characters, both for Aloy and for the others, allows the player to fit into that universe, making you excited with well-made cutscenes and elaborate dialogues. The society that faces our heroine is mentally closed, sometimes linked to antiquated traditions, a free mind like hers will find it difficult to dialogue with some people. In some choices, mainly dictated by the character of Aloy, the player can intervene, choosing between three ways: that of the heart, the mind or the fist. Respectively, they will shift the protagonist's way of thinking towards more loving, smarter or more instinctive reasoning, changing future dialogues (but not changing the story). Also trained since childhood, Aloy will be able to climb some walls, jump between distant platforms and juggle in balance on cables stretched between two trees, creating an interesting verticality for the purposes of the game, especially for the fights.
The various locations will be divided between natural expanses (sunny, devastated or snow-covered, depending on the area), areas rich in tribal buildings and locations dedicated to the world of metal, formed by bunkers and cauldrons: the first will be small underground passages where objects and information related to the ancient world will wait to be discovered; the latter, on the other hand, will be real building bases where with an ever greater challenge you can unlock the possibility of using new forms of Override, which we will talk about later. The various areas, colonized by the Nora (tribe to which Aloy belongs), Carja, Carja of Shadows, Oseram e Banuk, will aesthetically show the beliefs, different and contrasting, of the various tribes, making everything much more realistic.
If there's one thing that sticks with you as you walk the green streets of Horizon: Zero Dawn, it's the visual impact of the world. Accustomed to post-apocalyptics determined by devastated expanses and greyness, the planet of the game is lush and green, as if to determine the now definitive supremacy of nature over man: few ruined structures will be present from time to time, within a map characterized by different weather conditions, different fauna and different flora.
Where the strongest wins
Aloy is certainly not the classic princess looking for help: on the contrary, a bit stubborn and cheeky, she reflects an image of the braggart hero with a heart of gold. It will be this heart that will lead her in search of the truth, through a long-lived storyline (with approx 30 hours and some secondary missions complete the title), intriguing and linked in a triple thread with the new humanity. If you want, with secondary missions and technological objects (detectable with the Focus), you can respectively expand the dynamics of the tribes that govern today's world and some details of the story before the apocalypse (which took place around 2046 of our time). Finally, some secondary missions will have their own storyline: this is the case of Hunting Lodge, a group that regulates some areas of the world and that, through three very demanding challenges, will allow you to win noteworthy prizes and make you access the Lodge itself.
Our Aloy will be able to survive in this world through three means: ranged weapons, that is bows, slings, cable launchers and other variants, the melee spear and the Focus. The latter, a medium coming from the technology of the ancient world, manages to analyze the machines and the surrounding environment, helping the heroine to better study what she has to face. This Focus will be used both to understand the weak points of the enemies, and to view digital files of the ancient world. Weapons, along with armor, can be purchased from merchants and upgraded with items that can, based on which ones you insert and find from fallen enemies, increase some stats. They will also be different both in terms of bonuses and aesthetics, based on the area of creation, taking with full hands references from the various tribes and often forcing the player to bring with them different armor and weapons, ready for use in various situations.
Already from here it is clear how the tactics is master in Horizon: Zero Dawn, requiring a painstaking study of what Aloy will wear and use to fight: many weapons later will use different ammunition, creating a variety of equipment characteristic for each style of the player. . To be able to buy weapons and armor (all with different aesthetics) from the merchants, however, you will need not only the in-game currency, the metal powder, but also some necessary items, which you can find in the carcasses of your robotic enemies.
A biomorphic mechanics
The peculiarity of these enemy machines, capable of destroying Aloy with a few hits, is precisely the shape. Although these creatures are entirely made of metal (with synthetic liquids, which flow inside them as if to simulate blood and organs), their shape is inspired by real animals, also copying some attitudes and uses: this will allow the protagonist to understand both how to attack them. that how to use them through a technique, theOverride, to its advantage: a Corsair (similar to a horse) will be an excellent means of displacement, the Star (of the robotic Velociraptors) will begin attacking surrounding enemies, i Collilunghi (gigantic giraffes) can be used to analyze the place.
The Focus also, powerful support of Aloy, will analyze the enemies by delineating critical points and trajectories: by studying their steps you can catch the fearful being by surprise, hitting it with a devastating spear attack. If that fails, targeting weak spots with the right weapon can create catastrophic effects. To help you in all this, there are three skill branches respectively dedicated to support, assault attack and stealth, they will improve your life with slowing down time, quieter steps and improved healing (which will allow you to recharge the bar vital quickly, essential in dangerous situations).
An extremely high tactical dose will therefore be required if you do not want to fall into sudden death. While not too punishing, poor choices may soon find you surrounded by enemies. To top it all off, members of enemy tribes and brigands will brighten up the day with showers of arrows in the most disparate places. It will be against both that it will become necessary to master the aiming system: a well-aimed shot can be worth more than 10 arrows fired at the same time, blocking an enemy who would have cunningly warned others, fired explosives or set traps.
A living world
Even if we are faced with a devastated world, it is frighteningly alive: NPCs scattered in the most disparate places and an AI capable of moving allies and brigands on the maps (creating always different situations), they approach the mind of mechanical animals, each with their own technological routines so similar to those of their animal counterpart, as if to distract the player's perception from the real world, creating a paradoxical inversion of the poles of reality. The cities, well made, welcome many characters who will not hide their superstition, anger, pain, joy: they will show themselves human, and will lead you to empathize strongly with all of them (or almost).
Furthermore, Aloy's growth, typical of this kind of adventures, proves to be very realistic, exploiting everything as a great mystery that needs to be solved and that only her courage can reveal: this incipit, strong and driving, it will be the deus ex machina that will move all the threads at stake towards something greater than Aloy herself.
Who does it by himself, makes for three
In a prehistoric-like world, it is normal that weapons need a system of ammunition creation: no machinery can help the heroine, who will have to find any material around the world! Legnetti will be able to help you prepare arrows, berries to heal you, exotic mechanisms torn from the bowels of enemies will be able to enhance your weapons and armor, while precious objects (some dating back to the ancient world) will make you earn metal powders. To season with variety will be the variants of ammunition, numerous and always useful, which will oblige the player to understand which weapons to equip, and which objects to keep in order to manufacture the raw material.
A wonderful world
The graphics engine Tenth does its job perfectly: extremely beautiful graphics complete the production of what looks like a title that will make history: realistic reflections, impressive lights, colorful and dynamic flora, detailed animals (both real and mechanical) and a character noteworthy designs add up to produce one of the best graphics renders seen so far PlayStation 4. The whole becomes even more accentuated on PlayStation 4 Pro, not capable of reaching 60 fps, but of giving a veil of additional liveliness to a bipolar world, which blends a luxuriant nature with a disastrous humanity. The audio that accompanies the game is fantastic, showing gusts of wind mixed with mechanical but suggestive verses of the various technological beasts, also enjoying a dubbing in other languages really well done, fitting perfectly on every primary character.
Of course, small smudges are present: the melee is not well elaborated, often creating interpenetrations that risk making you die (in game), and in some cases the AI does not excel showing weaknesses in an innocent way. All this, however, falls into the background in the overall. Guerrilla Games with Horizon: Zero Dawn has risked creating a new, fresh, modern work full of interesting ideas: many software houses in their place have created average products with very good ideas. Guerrilla, on the other hand, had some excellent ideas, and applied them creating a sublime product, so much so that it was difficult to complain. The risk that could arise was in the open world, which could prove to be too bare, yet it is more alive than what was really expected, never touching the peak of boredom.
There is absolutely no type of multiplayer mode: the game focuses on a pressing game experience, without overdoing it or showing useless modes for the purposes of the design itself. A multiplayer would only spoil the overall experience, creating the wrong artifacts for a product that shows itself for what it is: a great story with great gameplay. Guerrilla Games demonstrated how a well-crafted story can blend with fun gameplay, marking the checkmate against all those who have tried it before. Aloy she is ready to go on a journey, but she is not alone. The player, the true protagonist, indelible soul of the heroine, will have to make decisions, choose how to approach the enemy and how to equip himself towards mysteries far greater than her. This sensation, more unique than rare, is something that the video game world has been missing for a long time, to the point of forcing many software houses to squeeze milk from existing brands: apparently (and Horizon: Zero Dawn is the proof) creativity still exists, interesting ideas still permeate the gaming market, waiting to be taken as stars in the distant sky by game designers ready to take risks.
Modus Operandi: the review you just read was written based on the physical version for PlayStation 4 of the title (playing it on PlayStation 4 Pro) after trying it at the Review Event on Wednesday 15 February, and after completing the main campaign in its entirety, along with some side missions and challenges.