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Horizon: Forbidden West, PS5 Review

If anyone had doubts that Playstation is the unquestionable home of top-tier, master-class, 3rd person action games, then Horizon: Forbidden West will put any remaining scepticism to rest. Guerrilla have taken the awesome 2017 ‘Horizon’ I.P and improved on every single element. Not so much as to lose what was unique about Zero Dawn though, they have just refined the overall formula to get about as close to perfection in the Open World genre as one could hope for.

Forbidden West is a direct sequel to the 2017 game, Zero Dawn which I reviewed and loved. It picks up following Zero Dawn a few months after Aloy’s defeat of Hades at Meridian.

Actually, before I get ahead of myself, this should be made very clear. Horizon Forbidden West delivers its story under the assumption that gamers have played and finished Zero Dawn. If you haven’t played it, then… you are crazy! Stop reading and go and play it first!! Or at the very least watch a good story run-down on YouTube.

We’re going on an adventure!

In Aloy’s new adventure, a strange blight is killing animals, plants and crops. She understands that this is the precursor to the impending death of Earths biome. Aloy must recover and reboot the A.I planetary support system “Gaia”, to bring balance back to the natural world. This mission takes her West, into new lands, with new enemies, new landscapes, new quests and importantly all new Machine Beasts to hunt…and ride!!

Mechanically the gameplay will feel VERY familiar to fans of 2017s Zero Dawn. Bow and Sling hunting with traps, potions and stealth systems, remain largely unchanged. That said, returning players will note many, many minor refinements to almost every game system. Their effect cannot be understated. What Guerrilla have done is leant into player choice. I platinumed the first game and like most Zero Dawn players, I quickly found the default combo of weapons and there was little reason to alter it after the first 10hrs. Forbidden West is very different. It has so many powerful architypes available and skill trees, that character build options are finally a real possibility. Weapons in particular are more plentiful, diverse and have new Alt-fires which are unlocked via the 5 tiered skill tree.

Horizon: Upgraded Skill Trees

The skill trees lend themselves more towards builds, which did not exist in the first game. These builds are now in fact needed, as each Machine (Particularly the high level beasts) are far more complex , each posing their own unique challenge.  Also, the machines are now in simple terms, potential “loot chests”. Scanning machines will show their weaknesses and their various components. Some components are exceptionally valuable and in the games Codex, these components have “%” drop rate and rarity scores. So, each beast is an opportunity to loot valuable items for currency or more importantly resources to upgrade Aloys gear to higher levels. It’s the depth that the original game lacked in its later stages and its slickly implemented with Aloys A.R Focus interface.

As an RPG-lite, action game, story and characters continue to be core to the experiance. Narratively the story is just excellent. Easy to follow, mysterious and constantly moving forward.  My only real complaint from the first game was the emotionally inert roster of characters, and that included Aloy if I’m honest. All voice acting was well delivered, don’t get me wrong! But seldom did emotions seem to boil to match the strain of given situation. Pleasingly, this is not the case in Forbidden West. Ashley Birch who voices Aloy has been let off the lease and delivers some cutting dialogue sequences. As does some of the other characters when called for. I think there could still be more done in that space. But overall the calibre of the voice acting for both the main characters and supporting quest givers, is far more believable than the first game.

Horizon: Forbidden West is stunning, gorgeous, and jaw dropping

Horizon: Zero Dawn was gorgeous on PS4, but what Guerrilla have delivered on PS5 with Horizon: Forbidden West is jaw dropping. The overall art design of the “West” is stunning, I don’t really know what else to say, to be frank. This is an absolute show piece of what the PS5 can deliver. The game has a 60fps Performance and 4K Quality mode which I’m sure has differences, both look great to me. I have played in Performance mode as solid frame-rates is always my personal preference. I will leave it to Digital Foundry to give an experts determination on what’s the better of the two modes. As a laymen, I am still disappointed that I have to make the choice at all! Give me 4K/60fps and be done with it.

After 25-30 hours of adventuring in the Forbidden West with Aloy, I am still yet to see the endgame. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a side-quest. But I feel confident to provide a qualified opinion on this game. Nits to pick are thin on the ground, but here are a couple of things. I think its ‘normal’ difficulty is a bit too easy, so if experienced gamers want to be pushed into using the clever combat systems, they should up the challenge. Also, there are the odd very minor technical glitch, which I strongly suspect a day one patch will sort. But thats about it, that’s all I’ve got.

Horizon: Final Word

Simply put though, it is an absolute must play for PS5 owners. The attention to detail in every aspect of the game is amazing. From the graphics to gameplay mechanics to underlying world systems….every single part has been tuned to perfection.

Wow….just wow.