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Horizon Forbidden West Review


 

Developer: Guerrilla Games

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Reviewed on: PS5

Also available on: PS4

Release: 18 February 2022

Rating: M

 

Horizon Forbidden West is an action RPG developed by Guerrilla Games. A sequel to the 2017 release Horizon Zero Dawn, Forbidden west is set in a similarly dystopian world, once again this post-apocalyptic United States is one of the stars of the show. Players control Aloy, the same protagonist as the previous title. Aloy is a huntress on a mission across this machine-hybrid riddled landscape known as the forbidden west. While Aloy defeated the damaging AI aka HADES in Zero Dawn, too much damage was caused to the earth's biosphere meaning Aloy must search for even more ancient tech, this time to fix the damage that's being caused by the blight spreading rampantly and killing both creatures great and small.



I'll be the first to admit, I wasn't the biggest fan of Horizon Zero Dawn, did I enjoy it? Sure, but I never really saw why people called it “one of the best games on the PS4”. Maybe that's because I was a little late to the party with Zero Dawn and didn't actually play it until a few years down the track. Maybe it's because I had just finished playing Dying Light on repeat which is probably my favorite game of the last 10 years. I don't know, all I know is that compared to Dying Light, the vastness of Horizon Zero Dawn felt kinda empty, almost a bit too big for its own good.


Horizon Forbidden West however, is a whole different kettle of fish. While this open world is in fact even bigger, it definitely does a great job of feeling fuller. There are more explorable caves, caverns and buildings as well as much more abundant “machine wildlife”. Another thing I struggled with in the first game was its pacing, it seemed to take an age to get to an enjoyable stage of the game, this one however, is enjoyable from the get go. The biggest fear I had for Forbidden west though, was that it would do what a lot of sequels do, and fails to build on your characters progression from the original game. That is not the case though this time round. Sure you start off with very little in terms of gear, but this is actually addressed with a few simple lines of dialogue, Aloy states that she ran into some trouble along the way and lost a lot of her stuff. But more importantly, Aloy feels much more accomplished this time round, you don't feel like you're starting from scratch and that there is a certain progression from the last game. Which is a big win for returning players.



Straight away I was sufficiently wowed by just how gorgeous this game looks, from the landscape, to the character models there's just so much to look at and love here with Horizon Forbidden west. Without a doubt one of the best looking games ever made, Forbidden West consists of a Resolution and a Performance mode. Usually, I almost always opt for the performance mode with an increasing number of games supporting up to 120fps, so the slight loss of resolution is a worthwhile trade off, Horizon: Forbidden West however does not support 120fps even in performance mode and quite frankly the loss of resolution and/or visual fidelity here is far too big to be worth it. See our video below for just one example of this loss of fidelity.



Excuse the poor quality due to bad compression but mainly focus in on the powder/spores that are being secreted from the red plants. As you can see initially, these spores looks just like you imagine spores would. This is "resolution mode", once I switch it to performance mode however, not only does the overall picture become much more pixelated (maybe not evident due to the compression), but the small details such as these spores become a pixelated mess and is even more prominent in game than it is in this video.


Resolution mode however, runs at a smooth 4K and as mentioned previously, delivers some of the most stunning visuals I’ve ever seen. The landscapes are vibrant, the character models border on lifelike and the machines look so clean and crisp, there's really not a lot I can fault the game for when it comes to its visuals, it just looks phenomenal.


Screenshot taken in game

One of the things Horizon Forbidden West does best is that it really drives you to explore by not only having some really cool and interesting side quests, but having some really compelling, character developing encounters along the way. From funny interactions between a couple of real characters, one of whom is trapped under the corpse of one of the newly introduced machines that I won't mention here for the purpose of preventing any spoilers, to some truly odd characters along the journey. Forbidden West isn't necessarily chock full of content, but the content that exists, is both well thought out and perfectly implemented in a way that really makes the entire experience quite a compelling one.


In terms of gameplay, I feel like Forbidden west is pretty much an across the board improvement over Zero Dawn. The climbing is vastly improved however after spending nearly 100 hours reviewing Dying Light 2 recently, the traversal in Forbidden West could still use a few improvements and does feel a little clunky at times in comparison. The combat is very similar to the first however this time round Aloy does give that feeling of being a little more accomplished in the way she goes about it which makes it all the more satisfying. There are a larger range of weapons this time round, and the amount of different ammo types borders on the absurd at times.



In addition to the improvements to existing features, Forbidden west also welcomes a flurry of new ways to explore this post-apocalyptic playground, these include a very useful grapple hook, a paraglider (pretty much a requirement for an open world game these days) and the ability to swim into some extremely well designed and interesting submerged environments. This adds to the traversal and makes exploring both way more accessible and much more fun.


The sign of a truly excellent open world game is that you spend hours completing side missions and just blindly exploring the beautifully created world rather than doing story missions. Horizon Forbidden West is one of the best examples of this I've ever experienced. I literally spend my first 10-12 hours just exploring, killing machines and collecting materials etc. Not once during this time was I ever bored. This is a true testament to how good doing this really is.


I am not going to mention any story elements here to avoid spoilers, however I will say that while the story isn't quite as epic as the last game, it's still very good and extremely compelling, one that hooks you almost immediately and doesn't let you go.



Overall Horizon Forbidden West is an excellent example of why Guerrilla Games has the stellar reputation they have. The visuals, the story and the gameplay are all as good as just about any other game on the market but when combined make Horizon Forbidden West something truly special. Definitely a GOTY contender!


If you're looking to pick up Horizon Forbidden West on release day, check out our bargain guide for all the information you need to get the cheapest copy possible.



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