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Horizon: Zero Dawn Is A Machine-Infested Masterpiece

First things first, if you happen to own a lovely PlayStation 4, do yourself a favour and purchase Horizon: Zero Dawn right now. Now that you’re waiting for the game to install, sit back and read our review.

Taking the tastiest ingredients from the best open-world action RPG titles to date, developers Guerilla Games (best known for the Killzone series, which frankly pales in comparison) have set this year’s benchmark very high. If Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is half as elegant, engrossing, and exhilarating as Horizon, 2017 is going to be a watershed year for gaming.

Without spoiling much of the story, you play as Aloy, a female warrior of the wild, whose sarcastic outlook and resistance to the wild feels like a cross between Uncharted’s Nathan Drake and Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft. In many ways, Horizon takes the best elements from both of those games to create a sprawling sandbox overflowing with side missions, puzzles, errands, artifacts, and other tasks that will keep you glued to the screen long after completing the game’s very meaty main quest.

Apart from its spectacular setting and memorable cast of characters (and creatures) that inhabit it, Horizon doesn’t reinvent the open-world wheel, it perfects it. This is one of those games that pushes the envelope in terms of what current-gen hardware is capable of, and our expectations for these types of games will forever change.

Like many games of its ilk, there’s the option to fast travel, yet wandering on foot (or steed) never gets old here. One can’t stress enough how huge the map is and how seamlessly its diverse backdrops meld together. Running at just 30 frames per second even on PS4 Pro (which thankfully delivers a notable 4K upgrade), no environment feels short-changed. Whether you’re hiking across lush forests, ascending snowy mountaintops, trekking vast desserts, or exploring tech-infested “Cauldrons” (which serve as robotic breeding grounds and bring to mind Zion from The Matrix), Horizon’s post-apocalyptic world feels like it was ripped from the pages of some great science fiction novel.

Within these vast areas you’ll encounter 26 distinct species of animalistic machines that possess different fighting tactics and scannable weak points. From cranky crocodiles, to wily raptors, to a hulking Tyrannosaurus, it’s impressive how much enemy variety Horizon offers.

On the note of scanning, a tech called “Focus” will not only allow you to uncover an enemy’s vulnerability, but also its movement pattern. Most significant, however, is its ability to override a machine to use as your partner in battle, or as a quick and powerful mount.

As you may have realized by now, there are myriad ways to tackle Horizon, depending on your gaming style, upgrades, and artillery. While a bow and arrow attack is the tried and true option, there are several weapons to wield for short and long range attacks, and well as traps and tripwires for your prey to stumble onto. The latter is easily the most satisfying to pull off, especially when you find yourself in a David and Goliath situation against a massive, fuming machine. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful new franchise.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is out February 28 exclusively on PlayStation 4. Check out the Story Trailer below: