Yes, it’s another 3rd person action-adventure game. Yes, it’s ripe with cinematics showcasing the ever-developing push towards hyper-realistic graphics. But this is also a newer PlayStation exclusive franchise, and Horizon Forbidden West is just its second entry. Has it managed to cement itself as a strong and on-going staple?
…manages the mechanics excellently between stealth and strategic choice.
It’s important to always start with prominent notes: the game’s harder than it at first appears. If you’ve played Monster Hunter, you’ll quickly get where some of its riveting and exciting combat influences come from. Unfortunately, there’s a balancing act here right away. When it comes to ranged combat, this game manages the mechanics excellently between stealth and strategic choice, thus empowering you to make smart decisions. But when things heat up and close quarters combat starts coming into play, things get a little unpolished, to say the least. This lack of polish, also unfortunately, pervades into the platforming. These aren’t minor issues, either: platforming and CQC are recurring instances throughout the game. The combat is at its best when you are engaging from stealth and devising a strategy. It’s at its worst in close quarters. The exploration is at its best when it’s investigative around the open world. It’s at its worst with wonky platforming. Moving into the more RPG side of things is a fairly diverse arsenal, though you’ll quickly find certain weapons and moves more effective than others, and equipment overall can start to feel a bit extraneous when you have to fast travel around the map to upgrade them. In summary, there’s definitely a missing layer of polish primarily affecting melee combat and platforming, but that doesn’t stop the challenging combat from instilling that Monster Hunter excitement.
…we’re hitting Zelda-like lengths, here…
If you like smelling the machines, then you’ll find yourself taking somewhere between 30-35 hours to complete the main campaign. This makes me happy: we’re hitting Zelda-like lengths, here, which has mostly held the crown for a properly lengthy action adventure. But it doesn’t stop there: taking a hint from Ubisoft is an open world ripe with things to do on the map, and more importantly, properly fleshed-out side quests! If you love the game world, then you’ll easily double the hours. For once, despite my consistent disagreement with Sony’s $10 exclusive tax, this game is not a short one-and-done and I’m happy to report I’ll be diving back in when time permits.
…this is seriously impressive work.
Before we get into this, if you prefer performance mode, I highly recommend turning off motion blur due to the rendering method. Moving on, there’s no denying this is a pretty game, and using additional cinematic lighting, closeups have never been more detailed. The game world itself is also well-done: the sheer amount of “stuff” makes the world seem truly organic and real. Top that off with some of the best game world lighting and textures/assets, and this is seriously impressive work. However, that little demon known as “cross-gen” does still rear its head in the graphics engine. Not only does the same partial frame rendering technique from Killzone Shadow Fall cause ghosting, but there are clear moments of shadow pops and asset/lighting swaps that make it obvious the engine is accounting for scalability with lower available system resources, aka the PS4, which becomes readily apparent in the lack of water surface deformation. There is one more quibble worth mentioning, though it does not count against the game: Aloy’s hair weight physics are not quite done correctly. Yes, I know hair is hard to render, but when it’s clipping through her neck and various armor bits, people like me who pay attention to detail will find it rather jarring when the scene is so otherwise perfect. Hopefully these things get patched! Shifting focus to the story is where things follow the Uncharted path: dual story lines. The new world story is one of humanity’s strife just trying to survive and their inherent human condition that strangely makes them use Aloy like an errand-boy whereby she needlessly narrates virtually everything. But the old world story is where the meat and potatoes are, and without spoiling it, let’s just say I’m VERY interested to see what happens next.
…this is Sony’s answer to Zelda…
Yes, it’s another pretty, cinematic, 3rd person action-adventure game exclusive to PlayStation. That doesn’t stop it from having engaging combat akin to Monster Hunter, having properly healthy content that delivers on its exclusive tax price tag, and having one of the most beautifully crafted, real time generated game worlds which includes cinematics and closeups. This also doesn’t stop it from having unpolished close quarters combat and platforming, some cross-gen hiccups, and a world where Aloy is a chatty errand boy. But you know what? It’d better be an on-going, staple franchise because this is Sony’s answer to Zelda, and it’s a damned good one.