Horizon Zero Dawn Review – PS4’s Best New IP Yet!

We live in a time where it is so hard to remain positive for overly hyped AAA titles. There are more than a handful of examples where games proved nothing but balloons inflated with hype. Ubisoft, Microsoft, Activision, and others have done nothing but release mediocre games in the past few years.

However, when it comes to Sony and its first party titles, over 90% of the projects have been game of the year contenders and were received really well by the critics. Uncharted 4 is one of the best games to release this generation but sadly it also ended the reign of Nathan Drake as the face of PlayStation.

We were looking for the heir to Drake’s throne and it looks like we finally have one in Aloy!

Horizon Zero Dawn Review

Horizon Zero Dawn is just a few days away from hitting retail and although the reviews are out pretty much everywhere, I wanted to spend more time with this beautiful game before finalizing this review.

Good or bad, Horizon Zero Dawn is a massive achievement for Guerilla Games. For the first time, Guerilla Games has worked on something other than Killzone and my god, the studio has come up with a masterpiece. A studio that has worked on a linear shooter for the entirety of its creation allowed to work on a game like Zero Dawn is a testament to the fact that Sony’s belief in its first party studios has no parallel.

Horizon Zero Dawn is the dawn of a new future for Guerilla Games. Gone are the days when we found ourselves hunting the Helghast on linear levels. Guerilla Games has created lavish, gorgeous open world environment where the player is free to explore and unravel the mystery that destroyed the human civilization.

Well thought out side quests, amazing artwork and enemy design is a big shift from Guerilla’s conventional methods of game development.

For a Back to the Future fan like me, the future will always be a combination of hover crafts, hoverboards, flying cars and funky clothes. However, Earth and its future we visit in Horizon Zero Dawn is nothing people like me would imagine.

The human race, or whatever remains of it, is divided into different tribes and taken back to the primitive times. These tribes face one common enemy, the mechanical beings that roam the lands. Players are put in the primitive shoes of a young woman named Aloy.

Aloy is a curious young woman who is looking for answers to what happened to the human race. People close to her mostly talk cryptic which has only raised her curiosity and boosted her commitment to finding the truth.

The world as we know it ended centuries ago. Each tribe that is carrying on the legacy of those who came before have their own set of customs, beliefs, enemies, and allies. Those who knew the truth apparently never bothered to pass it along to the newer generation, no one knows how and why these machines are here.

Aloy was born under strange circumstances and is now raised by the Nora tribe. Some look down upon her while others see her as a blessing from the “All-Mother.”

Zero Dawn has a simple yet compelling story, it is all in the implementation from Guerilla Games. From the get go, you are thrown into the open world where you have access to a number of side quests early on.

During exploration, you can meet a number of different characters as well, take side quests from them, and look for crafting items in the wild. You can unlock a host of different items while doing so.

The main story slows down a bit during the middle but side quests will keep you entertained during this period. Each plot twist and revelation as to why these machines are here and how they came to be, makes sense. It is similar to how Uncharted games work, maintaining the level of engagement while boosting intensity with each passing level and plot twist.

Interactions with different NPCs have been nicely crafted with branching dialogue and often life or death decisions to be made by Aloy. During your playthrough, you would need to earn favors and help certain characters in the game. Earning favors and loyalty from tribes means you will have some help in the upcoming battles.

Horizon Zero Dawn offers a decent amount of challenge. Each encounter with the enemy is handled well. These beasts are loud, different from one another, and after a couple of battles you sort of start feeling like a Witcher, but the one who hunts down mechanical beasts.

The vast open world is filled with different types of enemies and unfortunately, robots are not the only threat as humans are just as dangerous. Killing enemies is a great way to level up.

Developers have set up checkpoints throughout the game map and those act as fast travel points. Watchers are probably the most common enemy type – they are low level and easy to defeat but it is best to stay away from the likes of Thunderjaw and Snapmaw until you reach a higher level.

Horizon: Zero Dawn Release Date

The game won’t hold your finger at each step of the way, there is a brief tutorial that explains the controls. After the tutorial is done, you are on your own. It is up to the player to decide what is the best way to take down the enemy. For example, the best way to take down a watcher is stealth. Creep up behind it or use a hiding spot for a stealth kill.

There are three ways you can go about combat – stealth, force, and a mix of both.

To take down the robots, you need weapons and thankfully, there is a decent variety of weapons. The weapons are primitive and so are their upgrades, still, they are very powerful and effective while facing the robots. Your bow can throw different types of arrows including exploding arrows.

More often than you think you would need to plan your attacks. Throwing rocks or making noise to attract your enemies, luring them into a quite place, is just one aspect that gives depth to Horizon Zero Dawn’s gameplay.

The amount of options you have to take down your enemies is delightful and will surely make players happy and feel satisfied. You can even set up traps to take down bigger enemies and surprise them.

Leveling up will reward you skill points which you can spend towards upgrading Aloy’s abilities.  You can upgrade abilities based on your playstyle – stealth, force, or a mix of both. The good thing is that you do not need a couple of playthroughs to unlock all abilities. By the end of the main campaign, you can unlock all abilities, which means you are free to complete your remaining side quests using upgraded abilities.

Horizon Zero Dawn story trailer

There is a fine balance between the difficulty of the game and how powerful you can become by upgrading your abilities. Developers have made sure that you are never too overpowered for any situation which keeps things interesting, and you are always on the edge of your seat during battle.

You can switch between active quests which will make things more manageable. As you move through the world you will gather resources like herbs and berries. You can use these to heal yourself and store any extras for later. You will also find parts of the fallen robots which can be used to upgrade or trade with the merchant back home.

You can upgrade your carrying capacity for various weapons using the items you find, you can modify your outfit, or upgrade your weapons with one of the three available upgrades for each depending on the rarity of the outfit or weapon.

Modifying outfits is not just for visual appeal. Some outfits can protect you from certain types of damage. For example, there is an outfit that will protect you from freeze damage.

As for graphics, Horizon Zero Dawn as of now is the best looking PlayStation 4 game. Its beauty is only enhanced to a new level if you are using the PlayStation 4 Pro. From the lush green forest to the snowy mountains, Zero Dawn’s graphics and art will often leave you in awe.

However you see Horizon Zero Dawn, it is a Masterpiece, a marvel of a video game that showcases the immense talent of the developers and delivers a compelling story with well-crafted gameplay mechanics in an immersive environment full of awe-inspiring moments.


Horizon: Zero Dawn

The most ambitious and exceptionally executed PS4 exclusive to date.

Sarmad is our Senior Editor, and is also one of the more refined and cultured among us. He's 25, a finance major, and having the time of his life writing about videogames.