Developer: Guerrilla Games
Platform(s): PS4, PS5 (Reviewed)
Gene(s): Action, RPG
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Horizon Forbidden West is the follow-up to the stunning and amazing game that is Horizon Zero Dawn. Horizon Zero Dawn was released in 2017 and is probably one of my favourite PS4 titles; it is a stunning game. If you are new to Horizon, I’d recommend playing the original game if you haven’t. Forbidden West story follows on from where Zero Dawn left off. One nice touch I liked was the quick overview of Zero Dawn before you begin Forbidden West. Think of a Netflix recap to help refresh all our memories. You play as Aloy (The Nora Warrior), the protagonist in this huge open-world behemoth of an RPG action game.
The cinematics are fantastic; Horizon has always managed to negotiate the fine line of being a fantastic game that feels like a movie that has the right balance of story to the game. A lush open world that extends endlessly makes the game seem never-ending. The array of characters, side missions, errands, jobs, and various other missions also give the sense of a living and breathing world. Aloy is just planted in this world to figure out all the nuances and what is going on. Every part of the world has something to do. These can vary from ancient ruins, new machines, hidden cities, hidden loot to rare weapons or armour. Despite having a huge map, the world is segmented into regions that are further subdivided; to make the game seem more manageable and not overwhelming. The scale of the game is massive.
The voice-overs and acting are superb. Every piece of dialogue and cutscene is engrossing, which adds to the story. Forbidden West continues the fantastic storytelling from Zero Dawn and improves on it. It’s all more polished; the sound, the voice, the lights, and the cinematics are superb. There are some breathtaking and jaw-dropping moments in the game.
Game mechanics are an action intensive puzzle-based RPG with a rich levelling up system; that allows you to customise your play to what suits you. Character levelling up is achieved; through side missions and the main quest, you can play stealth, an all-out action build or somewhere in between. It depends where you spend your skill tree points and what you prefer doing. My character build was a mix of stealth and tank build. The game has improved the levelling up mechanics, and a real focus can be seen in the combat mechanics. Everything gameplay-wise is richer and just more responsive. It enhances Zero Dawn but gives new life to the game too. There are new machines and each machine; looks superb.
PS5 graphics do support higher textures and detail throughout the game, in levels where it’s dark or underwater; the lighting is immense. The environments are stunning, detailed, and wonderful to explore. The game does support 4K 30 fps and at 60 fps at a lower resolution on the PS5. The dual sense is used to give richer sounds and enhance the in-game action. The haptic feedback for certain game mechanics also enriches the gameplay; these may be small things but again make the game even more immersive. For example, you will get a new tool, the pullcaster, early on, which adds another tool to Aloy’s arsenal. The pullcaster tool uses haptic feedback to give a real sensation that you are pulling and prying doors open. Haptic feedback is integrated throughout the game, from the parkour elements to battles the dinosaurs. When you are climbing the haptics, kick in too to make the game more immersive.
One thing to note is that SSD performance has been optimised for Forbidden West the load times are significantly reduced compared to Zero Dawn, and the game doesn’t get any slowdown from loading. Once you are in the game, the level and scene transition flow superbly.
The big huge bosses are still present in this game which make for amazing action-filled gameplay. The scanning of the bosses using the focus is even more detailed than Zero Dawn. Bosses’ defects are presented much clearer to Aloy. This extra level of detail makes the boss fights more compelling and in-depth. You will have to use your wits, guns and tools to beat these amazing huge bosses. The boss fights are next level.
I did have the odd graphical issue (disappeared after the patch) and some issues with collision detections in the map. A few times, I got stuck under the map, but this was a rare event, and with regular auto-saves, you were back the last save before you knew it. It’s hard to find fault; I have to nit-pick and pick tiny issues to draw criticisms. I have put more than 60 hours into the game, and I’m loving; it.
The game gives a rich, deep, immersive adventure to the player. Horizon Forbidden West is a work of art; it impresses on so many fronts, graphical, story-telling and cinematics spring to mind at first. There are lots of improvements and tweaks compared to the first game. The improved levelling up, improved graphics sounds and richer combat just, to name a few.
The game combines elements of film and games into this hugely immersive experience that is a pure joy to play. Aloy and the cast of characters just bring this dystopian future to life. It’s gameplay that is gripping and hard to put down, my favourite game on PS5 by a mile. Forbidden West is more than a worthy sequel to Zero Dawn; it’s amazing.