It still seems crazy to think that the studio responsible for the Killzone series, a PlayStation mainstay for well over a decade, would make such a creative leap. From a dingy first-person shooter series of fluctuating quality to a vast, vibrant open world RPG, rarely do we see studios of Guerrilla’s size and reputation stray so far from their comfort zone. We’re very glad it did take a creative gamble, however, as Horizon: Zero Dawn is comfortably its best game, and can stand proud among this year’s most beloved titles.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle for Guerrilla to overcome was the story. The Killzone series has never been lauded for its narrative, but Aloy’s odyssey to uncover the mysteries of her world and her origins is a truly captivating tale. The history of the wonderful setting is fascinating, with every new development raising more questions until you’re finally treated to a phenomenal backstory that places everything into context. Okay, so it’s an exposition explosion, but it’s also a mind-blowing twist that you’ll be mulling over long after the credits roll.
It’s the world itself and its inhabitants that are the real winners, though. Aloy is a wonderful protagonist whom has already become synonymous with PlayStation, as have her robot dinosaur foes. All the characters in Horizon are well-designed, but these synthetic beasts are something else. From the raptor-like Watcher to the intimidating Thunderjaw, each creature is excellent, all with different behaviours and roles within the world.
Fighting them is even better, thanks to a dynamic combat system making battles one of the game’s best elements. The diversity of your arsenal and freedom in how you approach each encounter mean that you can be highly improvisational, or plot out your attack, scouting the area and laying traps in strategic places. When you also factor in weak spots, removable components, and elemental damage, combat becomes a complex yet intuitive part of Horizon, and is some of the best action to be had on PS4.
It helps that this all takes place in a breathtaking open environment. Surrounded by mountains, the landscape changes dramatically from snowy cliffs and takes you through grassy plains, woodlands, a desert, and even the ruins of a previous civilisation. It all looks marvellous, Guerrilla bringing its A-game on the technical side but also from an artistic point of view. This is a game that manages to always look good, no matter where you are or what you’re up to. It’s no wonder it comes with a fantastic Photo Mode so you can share the magnificent views.
In short, Horizon: Zero Dawn is a huge achievement for Guerrilla Games. It tackled an immensely ambitious game that forced the team to push its technical wizardry and bring its storytelling prowess up to speed, and it did so in great style. It feels like the start of a big new franchise for Sony, and we certainly can’t wait to see where the series goes next.
Was Horizon: Zero Dawn one of 2017's best games? Where would you like to see Guerrilla's franchise go next? Leave an audio log in the comments section below.