As a child, I was obsessed with dinosaurs. The Jurassic Park movies instilled a sense of wonder in me that no other experience has replicated… until now. Horizon Zero Dawn takes place in a dystopian future where John Hammond, the fictional mastermind behind Jurassic Park, thought to himself “You know what would be cooler than dinosaurs? Robot dinosaurs.” To quote Jeff Goldblum’s character, Ian Malcolm: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” If life has taught me anything, it’s that Jeff Goldblum is always right.
Thus, the world of Horizon was created, with mysterious high-tech fossils of the Old Ones littering the landscape – the ruins of our real world. A distant future where civilisation has been reduced to ruin and robotic, prehistoric creatures now roam the earth. You play as Aloy, whose role is an outcast in a matriarchal society. She struggles with her own identity, striving to find out who her parents were and why she was abandoned at birth. She is placed under the care of Rost, another outcast from the Nora tribe, who teaches her to hunt and survive off the land, though she is aided by a device called the Focus which lets her interpret and interact with the world around her. At risk of spoiling the game, I shan’t say any more about the story, as it is genuinely intriguing, and I encourage those of you who haven’t played the game to experience it for yourself.
First of all, I want to mention how stunning this game is. This is the first game which I have been able to utilise my 4k TV to play, and the results were mesmeric. I genuinely spent an hour simply walking through the grass to see how it gave way beneath my feet, or looking at how the light shone through the branches of the trees. To my surprise, the game runs perfectly smooth when running at this higher resolution, and I did not notice any dips in performance. The world of Horizon Zero Dawn is vast and it offers plenty of quests, be they main quests, side missions or user created goals to hunt down resources and improve your equipment.
The main attraction of the game is obviously the robot dinosaurs, and to my delight they are as epic as I had hoped. The game has several boss battles, whether it be the first Sawtooth you face, which is the equivalent to a sabre tooth tiger, or the Thunderjaw, which is the Tyrannosaurus Rex of the robotic world – and like its prehistoric counterpart, it still reigns supreme. The game offers many approaches to combat; stealthily eliminating weaker enemies whilst laying traps to stagger and take down the bigger opponents, or going full Leeroy Jenkins and rushing into battle with spear in hand. Combat is fun and engaging and you can upgrade your abilities as you progress. Aloy can learn powerful new moves which allow her to dispatch of enemies quickly or create mayhem in the heat of battle.
Horizon Zero Dawn is emblematic of what the PS4 is capable of. In my eyes, it rivals Uncharted 4 as the best PlayStation exclusive of this console generation. I’m sure this is the start of what is to become a hit new franchise for Guerrilla Games.