It’s arguably one of the biggest, if not the biggest video game release of 2022. But does Horizon Forbidden West meet player expectations?
It’s hard to imagine the game getting any bigger than Horizon Zero Dawn, but developers Guerrilla Games have taken everything from Zero Dawn and enhanced it to near perfection.
Horizon Forbidden West is coming to PlayStation on February 18, ahead of a dozen other AAA titles scheduled for release this year, all of which are preparing to challenge the latest in the Horizon series for the elusive game of the year title.
It’s clear that Horizon Forbidden West has the potential to claim victory. PlayStation Studios’ Guerrilla Games has once again hit the nail on the head.
As is the case with most games in the past few years, the pandemic slowed development and caused the studio to announce an inevitable delay
At long last, five years since the first game was released, Forbidden West is about to touch down.
Over 25 hours into the game and I’d barely scratched the surface. The scale of Forbidden West is of epic proportions.
Forbidden West kicks off shortly after Zero Dawn. You’re an established Aloy, weapons and abilities alike, but you clearly still have so much more to learn.
There’s a great intro to catch players up on the previous game: Who you are, what you’ve accomplished. But as we learned from the ending of the previous game, it’s all far from over.
I’d still recommend playing Horizon Zero Dawn before jumping into Forbidden West.
In line with the previous Horizon game, a major event kicks things into gear. Along your journey, you’ll meet many familiar faces and more than enough fresh ones.
Character voice acting and interaction are exceptional. The effort produced for even the smallest side quest should set the bar at a new high for open-world role-playing games.
Along Aloy’s journey, she learn new abilities, acquires new gear and meets several characters with which she will form strong new bonds.
I’ll be honest, I can’t speak to the game’s story conclusion as I haven’t made it that far just yet. Forbidden West is truly epic in scale. I’ll be sure to update my article should anything change dramatically.
The first question I asked before starting the game is: is there an ability reset of sorts? Will I be back to square one?
It wasn’t long before I found out. Aloy is just as tough, just as powerful, and still has her classic drive to not let anything stand in her way.
From the beginning, Aloy’s place in the world has been set, and she has so many more incredible abilities to learn as well as new challenges and enemies to defeat.
Traversing the world is easier than ever, with new tools at your disposal to make your way across the land. Aloy now has a grappling-hook-like weapon to access high areas faster, as well as a glider to float across the landscape and land safely.
But that’s not all. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t mention it in detail but there’s another huge game-changer enabling you to go from A to B, and it’s not fast-travel.
There are six new skill trees for Aloy to invest in, each with their own various special valor moves. Aloy earns skill points by levelling up or completing certain quests:
Warrior: This skill tree focuses on melee abilities and combos.
Trapper: Specialise and master various traps, as well as upgrade specific weapons such as the classic trip caster.
Hunter: Here’s where you’ll be able to upgrade your bow to its full potential. Including Aloy’s ability to slow time while concentrating.
Survivor: Increase Aloy’s effectiveness with healing items, potions, and low-health abilities.
Infiltrator: This is where you’ll be able to train Aloy’s stealth ability and master moves to escape large groups of enemies.
Machine Master: Upgrade your mounts to run faster, do more damage to machines and improve abilities relating to machines.
Puzzle mechanics are back, some similar to Zero Dawn, many unique in their own right.
The addition of swimming underwater has created several new and exciting challenges, while I’m certain I have many more to find.
The puzzles in Horizon Forbidden West aren’t anything that Uncharted or Tomb Raider have not done in the past — or even Assasin’s Creed Valhalla for that matter — yet in such a unique world, each puzzle offers a new and rewarding experience.
The mechanics beneath the surface are a welcome addition. Some games don’t do underwater swimming well, often making it difficult to navigate. But Forbidden West’s underwater exploration is user-friendly and fluid (no pun intended).
We’ve come a long way since Clanker’s Cavern.
Performance, graphics and bugs
Throughout my review period I experienced minimal bugs and graphical interruptions, but it wasn’t quite perfect.
Let’s talk about Horizon Forbidden West’s performance and graphics.
Players can choose from two visual settings, one of which favours performance and frame rate, the other focusing on resolution and visuals. For the primary duration of my review, I chose performance and frame rate.
It’s clear the main focus has been to make the world look as good as possible, and lighting plays a starring role.
The game’s lighting and shadows are on another level, even on performance mode. Different colours from various light settings are reflected across Aloy as she ventures throughout the world. Light pours through cracks in walls and reflects naturally off water and other surfaces.
It takes about two seconds on the PlayStation 5 to fast travel to another location. The game still feels the need to display game tips during this process, players needing to press X to move on.
During my time reviewing Forbidden West, I didn’t come across too many bugs, but on two occasions I did experience a significant drop in frame rate. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what triggered this to happen but on one occasion I was forced to reboot the game to continue playing — not something I’ve had to do with many games.
A day-one patch was applied for reviewers a week ago but I’d expect another in the coming days to rectify any further issues.
Animations in cutscenes are hard to fault, lip-syncing is on point and character movements look natural.
It’s incredible to think this game also runs on PlayStation 4 just as well as the first game but it’s PlayStation 5 players that will experience the finer details, from including individual peach fuzz hair on Aloy’s skin, to natural elements like moss and grass throughout the world — a feat which the developers thank the PS5 hardware for.
Extra good-looking grass isn’t a selling point by any means, but it’s that extra mile, that obvious attention to detail, that cements Forbidden West as one of the best games of the year.
It’s near impossible not to respect the intricate work at play.
This is one of those epic games that you’ll need to set aside a couple of hundred hours to platinum and every second will be worth it.
Horizon Forbidden West: 4.5/5 stars.
PlayStation Australia supplied 9News with an early access copy of the game for the purpose of this review.