Ever wondered why Aloy has abs so rippled they’d make a Greek statue blush? It turns out surviving the tribal world of Horizon is tough – as PSVR2 launch title Call of the Mountain can attest. This next-gen virtual reality effort from The Persistence developer Firesprite and famed first-party Guerrilla Games is unflinchingly physical, but its unique platforming gameplay and jaw-dropping vistas make it a perfect showpiece for Sony’s impressive new hardware.
Before we dig into the details, it’s imperative to underline exactly what this outing is: it’s a relatively linear platformer with an enormous emphasis on first-person climbing, and not an open world RPG like its console counterparts. While its story and lore is consistent with characters and events referenced in the likes of Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West, it’s very much a spin-off that pins its flag to its unique scrambling gameplay.
You play as a character called Ryas, a voiced protagonist with about as much personality as a cardboard box. The plot, if you choose to engage with it, demands knowledge of Horizon’s fiction – and it doesn’t spare any time to catch you up on events if you glossed over any of the main games. Personally, while we appreciated the cameos from characters like Aloy and Blameless Marad, we found it almost impossible to keep up with the politics, all involving the Carjas and the Red Raids.
That’s partly because existing alongside these characters in virtual reality is so dazzling that it’s difficult to pay attention to what they’re actually saying. Make no mistake, this is the mind blowing PSVR2 visual tour-de-force that Sony promised: the Horizon world has always looked extraordinary, owing to the series’ outstanding art direction, but existing within it is truly mesmerising – it cannot be overstated just how good parts of this game look.
The thing that’s most impressive is the release’s sense of scale, but surprisingly it’s not just the Tallnecks and Thunderjaws that provide the shock-and-awe. Indeed, you’ll spend a lot of your time in this game with your nose pinned up against a craggy wall, and the little patches of moss growing against the rock look dense and detailed in a way we hadn’t ever anticipated. Each individual leg of your climbs will conclude with an impressive vista, allowing you to breathe in the views while your heart rate stabilises.
As mentioned above, this is a physical game – regardless of whether you’re playing standing or seated, both of which work well. While you won’t have to deal with your body weight as you clamber up rock faces, you’ll spend a lot of time with your arms up in the air, clutching at hand-holds as you ascend the game world. The improved tracking of the PSVR2 Sense Controllers, paired with a largely forgiving lock-on system, truly will make you feel like an Olympic climber.
The platforming, which reminds us of a kind of first-person Uncharted, is fun on its own – but once you start unlocking different utilities, it’s elevated to a new level. There are obvious inclusions, like a hookshot, but you’ll also get tools like a rope caster – allowing you to create bespoke cable lines between points of interest. While the level design is largely linear and there’s rarely ever any danger of getting lost, it’s still entertaining scrambling your way through the world.
Some sections which would be relatively unremarkable in a flat-screen game are elevated thanks to virtual reality, too. For example, there’s one extended platforming sequence where you’re in a cavernous hollow being stalked by Watchers, the observant dinobots from the main games. These nimble hunks of metal will scan for you, and so you’ll need to scramble to the next point of cover while they’re not looking – a simple sequence, perhaps, but utterly incredible with PSVR2.
There are other similar set-pieces involving some of the larger metallic creatures, like the Thunderjaw. The game really amps up the immersion in these moments, utilising all of the headset’s tricks to create truly memorable encounters. For instance, when one of the creatures roars directly in your face, the haptic feedback in the headset itself pulsates, allowing you to physically feel the air being driven through your hair.
Every moment in the campaign has been tailor made to take advantage of the hardware, and we could overspill our word count just pointing these out. But it’s best to just let you feel the squeeze of the triggers as you clasp ropes, or the subtle shake in the controller as you reach for an arrow over your shoulder. We didn’t encounter too many issues with the unique control scheme, although the pickaxes can be finicky at accurately lodging into the appropriate surfaces at times.
The game also, surprisingly, has some performance issues which result in the odd noticeable chug. While we wouldn’t say it’s a deal-breaker by any stretch – it’s clearly pushing the hardware hard – these little inconsistencies are generally considered a big no-no in virtual reality, where smooth performance is king, and we suppose could lead to the odd upset stomach. The developer’s said a launch day patch should tighten up these little oversights.
Less likely to be updated is the combat, which is probably our least favourite part of the game. In order to make tracking such ginormous beasts manageable, the developer has fixed combat to a kind of ring, where you circle your aggressor. While firing arrows – with the aim of knocking off pieces of armour – feels quite gratifying, the foes are bullet sponges, and we found ourselves digging into the generous array of accessibility options to increase our damage output.
The campaign will take you roughly six to eight hours to beat, but this feels more than adequate in the headset, as it isn’t a game you’ll want to marathon anyway. Replay value is available in the form of collectible targets you need to locate and shoot down, as well as cairns that you need to manually stack in order to reach a desired height. There’s also a demo mode, called Machine Safari, which serves as a fantastic little five minute rollercoaster to show friends and family – and a surprisingly involved obstacle course minigame.
Horizon Call of the Mountain is not without its flaws, but it’s hard to imagine a better showcase of PSVR2’s potential than this. The core climbing gameplay is impressively executed, and it evolves just enough over the course of the campaign to remain fulfilling. We’re not a huge fan of the combat, and the plot is practically impenetrable unless you’re a franchise die-hard, but these niggles don’t necessarily deter from the overall satisfaction you’ll feel as you scale rock-faces several hundred metres into the sky.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or queries about this game, please let me know!
I think there's a tendency across high scores on VR releases and most of it appears to depend on the combat feel.
So exploration and little details are always cool but if you nail the combat you have a winner, and if not you have an amazing demo to showcase to friends.
On the plot... all I can say being blind is that I don't expect it to be as tough as Elden Ring's.
@lexveem The combat is definitely the weakest aspect in this game, but it's largely focused on exploration and platforming, so that's fine.
I enjoyed all of the little details and interactive flourishes along the journey.
It’s such a shame the combat is poor. I thought it would be. I’m glad the climbing is great, this should not have been a full price title with that kind of combat. It’s a good showcase, but with combat being a necessary part of they game and a large part of the franchise, it gives tech demo vibes as is. I’ll pick it up for cheap later on.
I think bundle of this with the system would have been better, and I mean bundle it like The Playroom. A solid showcase that won’t be ignited by a one because certain parts of the game scream “early VR that doesn’t know to do gameplay.”
@Jaz007 To be fair, the combat isn't a big part of this game. You maybe fight ten or so times in total. The focus is definitely on the platforming.
Mid as expected. Sony should let their top studios working on VR games.
I quite like the idea of it being focused on exploration rather than the combat, it'll be a nice way to ease myself back into VR before RE8 and I suspect it'll be one of those games I show to people who come round to try it out, I'm looking forward to all the little interactions using the new controllers
One question: Do you get the Focus device? Surely being able to physically gaze around with the in-game AR interface is made for VR!
So basically, just has always been the case with each new vr iteration. The gimmicky software doesn't justify the leap in hardware.
Just as before, if all PSVR2 offers is one or two average titles, dozens of aging ports, and a plethora of gimmick titles that don't even push the medium,.. We are just largely repeating an already trodden path here, for a large asking price.
The tech may be cutting edge in some aspects but if the software doesn't back it up, this will just be another thing collecting dust in one's home.
Sounds quite linear and more like an impressive PSVR2 tech demo requiring a patch to improve performance. Will pick up when its cheaper further down the line. I realise it was £40 if you picked up as a deal but for me it would be £60!!!
@Flora2122 It's not mid, it's a 7/10. Which on our scale is good!
@RadioHedgeFund Unfortunately you do not, at least not from what I've seen!
That's a bit disappointing, tbh. I was more interested in combat than exploration, so it's a pass for me after all, sadly.
Clearly, this isn’t the PSVR2 'killer app' we hoped it would be, making the need for Half-Life: Alyx more pertinent than ever. Let’s hope Sony are at least talking to Gabe and Co. My fingers are firmly crossed as I really want to want PSVR2.
@The_Pixel_King i don't think you'll see that right away at launch , but from what it sounds like it is a good start. the potential is there for something pretty cool. but i do agree i would love to see half life alyx on it , and i think we will.
I decided to pass on this one qhen pre ordering my VR. I nearly broke but after seeing the combat i decided to give it a miss. GT7 will be the big one for me.
@Flora2122 VR is a much more niche market than games made for the general audience, it would not make much sense to allocate top teams to projects most people are not going to see
Sounds like it sits just below Keith Courage in Alpha Zones on the all-time bundled launch title list.
I will just wait for the PSVR3. Until there are enough VR users out there who want actual good games the market will be filled with 7/10 mediocrities.
@KundaliniRising333 @DarkestHour It's literally one game you guys. I don't understand how you can write off something like this based on a single review. There's RE8 and GT7 also on release date and dozens of other games coming out this month too that already have fantastic reviews on Steam.
Let's be real here, none of you ever planned to buy this if you are this critical over one game.
@KaijuKaiser If you have enough experience with anything you will be able to notice certain trends and make educated decisions. Even now the 7/10 review of this game by IGN is bombarded with Sony drones insisting that this game is the greatest thing ever and deserved at least a 9.
If you are as cynical as me and you have high standards the PSVR2 is a product that you can safely skip for now. If I can hook it up to a PC then it's a must buy because then you will at least have access to infinite amount of content.
@DarkestHour Why be cynical though? In my opinion it's much better to be skeptical about things but at least be open towards new experiences. I don't recall anyone saying this game deserves a 9. None of us have played it. I just find it bizarre that some are so quickly to hate on a new product based on a single game. There's always going to be a space for these types of games, Kayak VR is another one of them. If you want the more traditional experience of gaming there's still so many on the PSVR2 that you can pick up on launch day.
@get2sammyb I notice that the pictures/screenshots from the game are pretty muted, but all the ones Sony and others pushed out previously seemed much more vibrant and pin-sharp. Is this a case of just difficulty of really capturing the quality of the picture inside the headset or are these pictures indicative of what you saw in it? Understand there will be a little screen door, but these screenshots seem to have much more washed out visuals than what I have seen. Thanks.
Interestingly IGN found the opposite - finding the climbing boring and the combat intact from the main game. Both sites reached the same 7/10 conclusion.
I have been pretty close to pre-ordering PSVR 2 and if this had been a 9 or 10 I would have probably crossed the line with it.
But right now I think (I think!!!) I'm going to hold fire...
@KaijuKaiser Because when you become cynical you have a great control over your free time. When Sony is trying to tell me that their 500$ dollar product can move mountains and is better than PC I can see right trough them because I wasn't born yesterday. As of right now and for the foreseeable future I don't see any reasons to pick up this device.
Maybe 2 years from now the PSVR2 library will have great games or pc modders will do their thing.
@Jettstyles It looks great in the headset, trust me. These screenshots are captured directly on the PS5, but don't really do it justice if I'm honest.
@Logonogo "VR is a much more niche market than games made for the general audience, it would not make much sense to allocate top teams to projects most people are not going to see"
The problem with this view is how do you ever build an audience for something and take it away from the niche market if you don't put your best foot forward.
If VR is ever going to be huge then someone needs to go all in.
@DarkestHour I genuinely don't understand how anyone could promote being cynical. It's simply a negative attitude, there's skepticism which is quite different but at least a more healthy approach. Anyway, I don't want to argue over definitions.
Did Sony come out any say that they are "better" than PC or are you just referring to one dev who said that their game performed 10% better?
@KaijuKaiser Being cynical is the best thing you can be. Or maybe second best after rich.
One day you will lean that everyone is just trying to sell you stuff. Buying into the PSVR2 right now(or pre ordering it) and expecting good games is like buying an Ubisoft game and expecting quality.
Dont feed the trolls.
We all know they wont buy a psvr2.
I think neither of them owns a ps5.
@KaijuKaiser tbf the criticism makes sense. Sony studio, working on Sony tech averaging about 75% for their flagship release game is meh.
if a Sony game was hitting 75% score for a flat game, it would be widely criticised.
thats before even mentioning VR robo dino's that you barely battle? it does read as a pretty tech demo. even comments that say they are going to use it for that.
feels like a missed opportunity imo.
@DarkestHour Ubisoft is one developer. PSVR2 is hardware that has plenty of developers working on games for it. How is this even a fair comparison? If there's one dev you don't care for then simply don't buy their games and do research into another that sounds more appealing to you.
I'm fine with people saying that VR just isn't for them but when you have people saying that one game scoring a 7 our of 10 means the future is doomed I just cant understand that logic. There's dozens of games at launch.
Sad when some have the mentality that 7/10 is a write off for a game and hardware.
@stvevan Oh and that's completely okay with me. Nothing I said was about the criticism of this game. If people don't like it that's fine but I find it absurd that someone writes off the entire future of PSVR2 based on a single title. There's dozens of games coming out at launch and after launch that already have high scores. There's also titles like Switchback VR and Firewall Ultra that look very promising. RE4 content is being worked on too and then we'll have more at a showcase or State of Play.
If people want to hold off and wait on it then that's their decision but the doomer mentality is a bit too much. Anyway, I still stand by that people who are that negative never intended to buy it anyway or don't have the money for it.
@KaijuKaiser When I was a kid I played a lot of stuff, but nowadays I need quality.
I am not about to waste hours of my life and space in my house to play Horizon or that goofy Star Wars shooter. Those are the types of games that should have died out during the PSVR1 gen, but here we are in 2023 and we are still getting mediocrity that can only impress kids and grandmas.
Being cynical is awesome.
@AdamNovice depends who you are though.
For me I don't have a huge amount of time to play and if a game is a 7/10 then I have to really want to play it to spend my precious time on it when I will likely have to forgo something else.
When there are so many great games out there some needing hundreds of hours to complete and they are scoring 8s, 9s or 10s then a 7 isn't going to cut it.
@AdamNovice I think it's because people look at the score system the same as they do school grades where a 7 out of 10 is actually a C instead of a pretty good game. Personally for me a 5 is an average and anything higher than that is above average. This is how I've always looked at scores.
10 - Amazing
9 - Great
8 - Good
7 - Pretty Good
5 - Okay
4 - Mediocre
3 - Bad
1 - Do not touch
Which vr games is hundreds of hours you are playing or gonna play?
@DarkestHour You wish your grandma was into VR so you could afford one =P.
Haha. Knew it. 7/10. Massive fail Fony!
I’ve cancelled my preorder and emailed Fony asking them to delete any games that support this epic fail hat from my account.
As if any gamers want this plastic head garbage.
On a side note. 6 DAYS TO GO!!!!
@DarkestHour yup. Haven't you heard? Cynical people are the happiest ones. A recent study showed clearly that. Source: 404
@Neverwild VR games aren't the only games in the world.
@KaijuKaiser The headset is only 500 bucks. Literally everyone can afford one.
Not everything is worth buying kid.
@naruball but If my standards are so high that I can't enjoy mediocrity I won't be happy while using a PSVR2
Looks like a fun time. Shame the combat is so poorly implemented, but hey, if the climbing is fun then that's a plus!
Nice review I'm looking forward to gt7 and resi 8 more
@KaijuKaiser This wasn't my most anticipated game I'm looking at gt7 and resi 8 that's where most of my time will be going but have purchased horizon as well
Since when is 7/10 mediocre? Calm down people...on the flipside, I've seen this get stellar reviews elsewhere too (Upload, Eurogamer, GamesRadar), but if this isn't your cup of tea, no need to condeem an entire headset, you got GT7, RE8, Switchback and plenty more. Personally the appeal of strapping on a headset and immersing myself in Horizon's setting with top tier tech, is well worth it even if (according this review) its flawed. To each their own though...
@Flora2122 when it comes to VR, Firespirite is their top tier most experienced studio actually (with Insomniac, Team Asobi and Studio London not far behind).
@get2sammyb As someone that really wants to get into VR but the old headset made them sick, in your opinion does the new features help? Wondering if someone at push square falls into this category as well and could give a take on if enough has been done to now make it more enjoyable for us squeamish?
@ILikeStake For me it really depends on the game and the comfort options you use. I was able to play Horizon for a couple of hours no issues, but others may struggle.
It's really hard to say because it's so subjective.
I do think the higher resolution will help you a little bit, as everything is cleaner and clearer in general, which puts less strain on your eyes.
Exploration and the graphical wow factor is exactly what I wanted here. It’s why I also got Kayak VR. A great introduction, but it feels like they originally intended it to be a tech showcase that got too big so they decided to charge for it. Would have been much better as part of a demo disc I feel.
Wow. Was a bit surprised by the good review. The game and tech looks cool indeed.
Hope it will sell.
That read more like an 8 or 9 so a little surprised with the 7. Doesn't matter as it was a good review.
@get2sammyb should I play HFW first? Does it spoil anything in that game?
I'm waiting till next year before I invest in this as hoping for a price drop 🤞
@Neverwild I have literally 1000's of hours in NMS PC VR 😅 Where did those years go....
This does sound much more like a tech demo akin to VR Worlds than a full blown game in its own right. It does sound cool, but it doesn't sound like it's the game that it possibly should have been. A good hardware showcase, but not a $60 stand-alone game. Still looking forward to it, but somewhat disappointed it's not quite the scope I expected it to be.
Side note, though, anyone else find it funny that "climbing is janky" was a sticking point in most reviews for HZD and HFW, and now we have a whole Horizon game where the climbing is the entire game? There's a meta commentary in this somewhere
@Wheatly It sounds overpriced for what it is, but, on the same side, for a 6-8 hour experience, if it were a theme park attraction you paid to experience for half an hour it's the kind of thing people would pay $15 for. It doesn't sound like "wasted gaming time" but a cool experience that probably should be just that and not attempt to be a full priced game.
TBH not getting price points right is one mistake Sony keeps making with new products. Not the VR headset itself, but this game, Returnal, etc, I think trying to milk software for more money than it's worth keeps biting their potential audience reach with new products in the back side.
@KaijuKaiser I'm probably the biggest cynic on this site.....yet I'm hyped....
@WCB Can't say for sure, but this seems to be 100% based in HZD's locale (Sacred Mountain, Meridian) not HFW's locales in Cali, so I'd assume HZD story is involved but HFWs is not. I made sure to 100% finish up HZD before this came out, just in case, but haven't started HFW yet.
@neonpizza I'm still hoping for a Hitman3 VR port. IDK how good the VR was in that game but I'd rebuy and replay it on PS for that) (bought on XB the first time.)
@neonpizza I will probably stop playing games entirely or get drafted before I start playing sh*t like Horizon Call Of The Mountain so I am willing to wait.
@NEStalgia yeah, I just fully 100% completed HZD recently myself.
So, basically this would be a horrible game if it didn't have the VR aspect. A 7/10 seems very generous for a game that has a horrible protagonist, bad storytelling, and bad combat. Granted it's sitting at a 79 average right now Metacritic, but that doesn't seem right either going by this review.
I was likely going to pass on the PSVR2, at least initially, but my biggest reason to even consider it being a big Horizon fan ending up being mediocre at best makes it an easy pass for now.
@NEStalgia price is honestly less of a factor than time vs quality.
Every game I play is a choice between that and another game, a movie, just chilling listening to some music, a good walk, hitting the gym, having a nap or any of the work/home/study stuff that needs doing.
As a result I don't touch many things that fall below a certain bar because it is rarely worth what I have to give up.
But I play a lot less these days and I'm becoming way more picky about my games so this is in part a reaction to that.
@get2sammyb it sucks because thats the main issue of vr headsets , screen shots will never do it justice because its always something you have to experience first hand.
@DarkestHour We may not get a PSVR3 if this fails though
@Wheatly @KilloWertz I can't say I'm not disappointed that this is more tech demo than meaty game, and that might be what makes this a disappointment, but otoh, I don't think the same standards that make a good 2d game are necessarily the same characteristics that make a good vr game. A 2d game is either all about tight action, or all about telling a story. Vr titles are more about an interactive experience than either of those things. I don't think I really want a cinematic story type game in vr because the having a defined protagonist aspect doesn't work well, in a vr game you're literally playing as yourself because you're literally inside the game. I kind of think this character having a voice is... Problematic for vr. I'm kind of bored of pure tech demos. On vr1 that's the mob story, shark dive, Batman game, etc. Though those are some of the most amazing things in it, too.
On one hand it's "only a 7", otoh you're ACTUALLY in Devil's Thirst staring at a sawtooth with the Metal Devil looming in the distance..... Hard to put a 7 on that if you love that world.
TBH I was on the fence about preordering, and was going to wait and see, but it just so happened I jumped back into horizon and then they announced GT7. The ability to actually be inside that world in a "7" game is kind of a "9" experience. It's better than that overpriced Parisian horizon Cafe. "It's a ten, but it's only a tech demo" 🤣
I think consumers not into vr kind of don't get that factor and keep waiting for the same types of games on 2d to be translated to vr. And I think a lot of cr devs get confused by that and keep trying to make the same kinds of games that don't lean into vr being a different medium that you interact with a lot more intimately. Moss probably remains the ultimate balance of being a traditional game they also respects that you're yourself inside it's world. Astrobo too, but I feel like astro really follows Moss's lead.
All that having been said though, I do wish this was more game and less demo, but we'll see soon enough! @neonpizza keeps comparing it to a dark ride. Cant help but think, considering the price of a trip and tickets to go to the Nintendo theme park, this is a bargain if it pulls off the dark ride experience for 8 hours
Gutted about this review as this was the game that was going to get me to commit to pre-ordering. I'll wait until there are more titles that interest me or if Half-Life: Alyx drops (a man can dream).
@DarkestHour if your standards are so high, then you may just not enjoy anything and simply focus on the negatives. It's what cynical people do after all.
@KilloWertz reviews are relative. The IGN reviewer thinks combat is great, so each person will likely feel differently about it. Overall, it sounds good, but not fantastic.
@naruball I am able to overlook flaws if the game has a good base. For example I love the original Deus Ex. It plays and looks like a game from the year 2000, but the writing and level design are far superior than any game this gen so far. And you won't fall asleep playing it because of long cutscenes filled with cliches.
@neonpizza the general consensus is around a 7. I find that I can read most reviews and discern whether it would be more of a 6 or an 8 for me.
The fact that there are so few big experiences is just another reason to hold off on VR.
Fine if you want the 1 hour experiences, but at £60?
I really wish I had more money to spare to get the VR device and this game. I love Horizon world, one of the best recent franchises of gaming.
@neonpizza I played RE village PC VR (VR MOD) and it was great. The dev version is going to be even better. RE games play really well with VR. It will have been well worth the wait.
Ahh I really want a PSVR 2 but so far I’m not seeing justification to spend £530. I’m not saying it is or isn’t value for money. It’s just still £530! It’s also really disappointing it’s not backwards compatible. I get that it’s for new PSVR experiences but can’t they just patch games to be playable? I’m not even expecting better graphics or anything I just feel like my PSVR and the tons of games I’ve got for it will just rot away unfortunately.
@Neverwild Assetto Corsa, MFS2020, AMS2, ACC - hundreds of hours in each. VR imho is made for SIMs.
I'd be very surprised to see anything that claims as many user hours as GT7 does on this.
Really needs the killer app other than SIMs though, as SIMs aint for everybody.
@Alpine021 thankfully, they're patching some, either for free, for a small fee, or full price. If you haven't bought some of them in the first place, then the last option shouldn't be a problem. It's the case for me with Moss II.
@Wheatly demand has to come before supply
@Logonogo nope. Demand can be created.
@naruball is there a list of these upgrades somewhere? I’d probably pay a small fee rather than my games go to waste!
The lists will keep getting updated. Can't find one at the moment with all the additional games you can get for an extra fee, though.
@Flora2122 A score of 7 isn’t ‘mid’. There are literally loads of games which have 6 or 7 scores which are amazing for the right player or demographic.
I'm having alot of fun with this game, but I think a 7/10 is a VERY fair score that I can agree with. I'd say this is 1 notch above a "tech demo" as there is alot of content on here.
I feel the storytelling is surprisingly good for a VR spinoff. While the gameplay loop itself is kind of paced awkwardly, i do enjoy the climbing (admittedly it won't be for everyone), combat & exploration.
@Arnna Very true. I remember alot of twin stick shooters getting 6, 6.5, or 7...and while i think those score were fair (didn't push the medium forward), it clearly doesn't represent fun factor.
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