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Game review: Horizon Forbidden West (PS5)

By Damian Seeto
Wed 16 Feb 2022

Guerrilla Games hit the jackpot when the developer released Horizon Zero Dawn for the PS4 back in 2017. The developer’s previous Killzone series was well-received, but Horizon Zero Dawn earned the studio lots of GOTY awards.

Horizon Zero Dawn was a perfect game which is why FutureFive NZ awarded it a rare 10/10 score. The game played really well, but the story was the most intriguing thing about it.

But can Guerrilla Games strike lightning twice with Horizon Forbidden West releasing this year on PS5 and PS4?

Well, if we talk about graphics, I’m glad to report that Horizon Forbidden West looks gorgeous running on a PS5 console. You can play the game via two different graphical modes. One is ‘resolution’, where you get full 4K running at only 30 fps. The second option is ‘performance’, where you can play at a 4K resolution, but the game runs smoother at 60 fps.

The environments look lovely, just as beautiful as in the original game. You get the usual biomes such as the jungle and desert areas. New to this game, though, is clear underwater segments and coastal beach areas. If you want to play an authentic next-gen PS5 experience, you should buy this game ASAP.

As for the game itself, Horizon Forbidden West takes place only six months after the original one. After Aloy saved Meridian from certain destruction, she now has to try and save the entire Earth from a nagging blight. To do this, she has to restore the AI named GAIA to fix Earth and its resources.

Aloy is not alone in this game as she has a base of operations and a group of friends to help her out. That being said, most missions require her to be by herself, although her friends do help her during some quests.

The story doesn’t have the same mystery and intrigue as the first game, although you will want to play through the 30-hour campaign to find out what happens. There are even hints that a sequel might be released in the future as the fight isn’t completely over.

In terms of gameplay, Horizon Forbidden West plays similarly to Horizon Zero Dawn, as Aloy’s main weapons are a bow and arrow and her spear. You can use the spear to perform melee attacks, while the bow and arrow is helpful if you want to exploit the weaknesses of the robotic animal enemies.

Many of the robots have elemental weaknesses, so you can craft ammo like fire, acid, ice, and more arrows to give you an advantage in battle. There are also some traps that you can lay out on the floor to lure enemies to danger.

A lot of the same robots make a return in this game, such as the T-rex-like Thunderjaw, as well as several others from the original. However, there are some new enemies added to the mix, such as a mammoth, velociraptors, and even baboons, just to name a few.

Even though the controls are mostly the same, Guerrilla Games has increased the difficulty of the game to give all players a tougher challenge. In the first game, I was able to kill enemies with ease using the spear, but now you need to really strategise what weapons you need to use to defeat certain robots.

Thankfully, the game offers tons of resources that Aloy can uncover to help her craft the necessary weapons and ammo she needs to kill robots. The game offers some human enemies, too, although they’re relatively easier to kill because they don’t have tough armour like the robots.

Combat isn’t the only thing this game offers because a ton of gameplay is dedicated to exploration. Aloy has some new gadgets that allow her to explore the environment more freely. One device is a pullcaster that allows Aloy to grapple hook to higher areas. She can also use it to clear debris to access vents and other small areas.

My favourite new gadget in the game is the shield parachute. If you see yourself climbing a very steep mountain, Aloy can now easily drop to the bottom using the parachute. I remember it was annoying getting down mountains in the first game without the parachute!

Exploration becomes less tedious and time-consuming once you are able to get mounts. The first mount that Aloy can override is a bull, and she can use it to travel around the countryside like a horse. Near the end of the game, she can override a Sunwing, allowing her to fly across the map with ease. The latter is especially one of the best new things about this sequel!

As for quests, there are around 17 main missions, and this should take most people around 30 hours to finish. If you are playing on a harder difficulty and want to do more side-quests, the game can take over 40 hours to complete.

I cannot estimate how long it will take you to 100% the game, though. I finished the main story in 30 hours, and I only completed 35% of the game! The game is quite long if you want to tackle ALL of the side missions because they’ve added much more content in this sequel.

Even though I liked most aspects of Horizon Forbidden West, I don’t think it’s as focused or concise as the original game was. There were times when the exploration felt long and tedious because you had to travel far distances. I also did not appreciate the new underwater sections as it gave me bad memories of Ocarina of Time’s water temple!

Another thing that might upset some people is that this sequel has a lot more drawn-out dialogue scenes. It almost felt like I was playing a Metal Gear Solid game watching all of the conversations taking place. Thankfully, some dialogue scenes are optional, although it’s way more talking than the first game.

Overall, Horizon Forbidden West is a worthy sequel that fans of the original game should check out. It has one of the best-looking graphics on PS5, and the gameplay is mostly enjoyable. It’s not as perfect as the first game, but it’s still very fun-to-play.

Verdict: 9.5/10

A code was offered to us by PlayStation NZ for review purposes.

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