Horizon: Zero Dawn Hands On – A Game I Never Wanted To Stop Playing
Experiencing the world of the wild machines.
It’s not very often that a game comes along that you just don’t want to stop playing. Horizon: Zero Dawn from developers Guerrilla Games — best known for the Killzone series — is that game. On the show floor of PlayStation Experience 2016, the game was playable in HDR.
With the intriguing story of the human race nearly wiped out and a new world emerges controlled by beasts made of steel and machinery, this story cries originality. Getting my hands on this game has been a long time coming. Right away you eyes are swept up in the beauty of the world all around. Swaying leaves rustle around the shrubs and the trees, light glistens from the rocks nearby as the grass folds over from the incoming winds. When your jaw drops to the floor there isn’t a moment where you want to pick it back up again. It is that amazingly gorgeous.
The demo involves the main protagonist Aloy as she readies her equipment to hunt down these mechanized animals that roam the lands freely as the humans stay in hiding. Why is she hunting them down? It’s not answered in the demo as to why, but once I got my hands on the controls, it didn’t matter. With a smooth and precise configuration I hadn’t felt a third person adventure game with controls this good in a long time.
There were opportunities where I had to go hunting so I gave the old weapon a try. Aloy’s bow just had that feel, that, not only did it work perfectly it felt as though it knew how comfortable with it, especially when running or sneaking through the demo. The bow had a weight to it, a feel as though pulling back on it gave me the time I needed to look at exactly what I needed to take down, and it gave me the opportunity rather than feeling as though my pull back force amounted to nothing.
"You knew, without looking at the mechanized animals that this was in the future somehow, somewhere, and you knew the humans were at a major disadvantage. But with those weapons from the past that met the future, you knew that the humans still had that one quality that made them superior to others species: invention."
All of Aloy’s primitively designed weapons had a futuristic quality to them, bows had electricity which makes this game more than just Far Cry: Primal. You knew, without looking at the mechanized animals that this was in the future somehow, somewhere, and you knew the humans were at a major disadvantage. But with those weapons from the past that met the future, you knew that the humans still had that one quality that made them superior to others species: invention. While playing there is that primitive sense that lies deep in our roots that says, “we may be at a disadvantage, but we have always come out on top.” Well, maybe the thought process didn’t go that far, but it’s thoughts like those that this game invokes.
Aloy’s weapon selections can also be used to melee enemies when they up close — something I don’t recommend; there are also finishing moves for when an enemy is weakened to the point of near death. The bow is the most commonly used weapon I used while playing through demo, along with a weapon that can fling elemental bombs around such as fire and ice that make a devastating boom on impact.
Moments in the game allow Aloy to trap the metal beasts and take them down with the finishing move right away. It felt good, it felt natural. As the camera was facing not only on Aloy and her red locks fluttering in the strong breeze, but also on the clouds and the sun trying to break through from behind, it was a mesmerizing moment when I could see the magnificent beauty of the landscape far beyond my reaches of the demo. Then I was told that HDR wasn’t even on yet. Those who have HDR enabled TVs, this neat little feature will add a little something extra to the overall experience.
"It is clearly one of those games that I wanted to keep on playing and that enough is a testament to the quality that Guerrilla Games is aiming for with Horizon Zero Dawn."
A quick switch presented the game in pure HDR and the clouds actually separated into their own spaces. Instead of one big cloud cluster surrounding the run, layers could then be made. I could tell the distance in the cloud layers and just how far back the sun was within those layers. Beams of light showered down rainbows of gold and silver through the clouds. It was something to behold. HDR isn’t a game changer, but boy it definitely adds some more depth to the image quality.
Overall, Horizon: Zero Dawn should have no one worries at this point. If you were going into this thinking that it may just be a showpiece that has no depth or value — well, I can’t speak on the depth from a single demo — but what I can say is that this may be a game that a lot of people will be interested in playing very soon. It is clearly one of those games that I wanted to keep on playing and that enough is a testament to the quality that Guerrilla Games is aiming for with Horizon Zero Dawn.