Published on April 10th, 2022 | by Zorbz
REVIEW – HORIZON: FORBIDDEN WEST
Horizon: Forbidden West is a direct sequel to the much beloved and critically acclaimed Horizon: Zero Dawn released originally on PS4 and then ported to PC.
Let’s jump in to how this sequel stands up against its predecessor with the bar already raised so high.
Story/Concept: *Spoiler Warning*
Following on directly from Zero Dawn, you see yourself once again taking on the role of Aloy, a clone of Elisabet Sobek who was responsible for seeing the earth start a new once humanity was wiped out by machines.
Without getting into too many spoilers, Aloy must see through her mission of bringing Gaia back online (an A.I system with the knowledge and means to repopulate and terraform the earth in order to continue and sustain life).
Due to rogue systems caused by an unknown signal, everything has gone haywire making Aloys journey a lot more difficult and faced with a new threat known as the Zenith, the overall story/plot takes a huge turn with some really interesting and engaging revelations.
The story had me consumed from start to finish, wanting to always know more. This level of engagement I felt was on par with the previous game and with some interesting side mission stories unrelated to the main plot, I found this to be even more engaging then the first title.
Graphics: Forbidden West on PS5 has to be one of the best graphical showcases I’ve ever seen on console to date. The amount of detail is actually mind-blowing and can be seen everywhere, from environmental assets like the dirt, snow, sand, water and especially grass/foliage, to buildings, armour, weapons, machines and enemies to all the characters from Mains right through to NPCs. The developers literally treated every asset like it was equally important and this goes to create a world that feels alive and breathing. The way the grass and plants sway in the wind to being blown about in storms. The way water interacts with your character and foams up at the base of a waterfall. Things like metal surfaces show different levels of rust and weather affected areas. It blows my mind and any footage you may have seen online will not do it justice as you need to see this in person on a 4K display to really appreciate the depth of work on display.
It just amazed me how different the environments are as well from lush/dense forests to snowy mountain peaks to old, abandoned buildings eroding due to the water levels that have risen and nature taking over. Again, it can’t be understated how much the team at Guerrilla Games poured into the visuals, this is truly something to show off the current gen hardware and is significantly better than Horizon: Zero Dawn which still to this day is visually stunning.
Aside from raw visuals, character animations are also top notch with Aloy and supporting cast animating realistically from both body language to subtle facial expressions. The characters never look deadpanned or out of place and the weight of what is going on can be seen purely in their facial expressions alone. It’s truly remarkable.
Gameplay: If you have played Horizon Zero Dawn or even the recent Tomb Raided games you will feel right at home playing Forbidden West as it is a 3rd person action game with a heavy focus on exploring and crafting.
Aloy’s primary means of taking down robo dino’s and human enemies alike is by way of her trusty bow and melee spear. Whilst the spear can be upgraded via a skill tree to inflict more damage, Aloy can acquire multiple different bows all with their own strengths and weaknesses as well as certain bows that have specific elemental ammo such as fire, armour piercing, frost, poison and many more arrow types.
These can be awarded through side missions, looting hidden chests and even purchasing through merchants. Other weapons such as explosive spears and machine gun like weapons can also be extremely useful, but personally I found myself using the bow and spear for most of the game, only relying on explosive spears towards the end game. There are other weapons such as the rope caster or trip wires that I honestly didn’t even touch. This isn’t to say they are bad weapons but are really down to personal choice on how you want to tackle each enemy you face.
You also have traps you can craft at your disposal like bombs that explode on impact or lightning rods that will strike flying enemies down from the sky, once again, I only really started using towards the end game when I felt I needed that extra edge.
Apart from just weapons, Aloy has a bunch of skill trees that you can choose to spend skill points you’ve obtained, by levelling up and completing missions along her journey. You can choose to focus on stealth perks, upgrading the damage your mount can take, new melee combos to unlock as well as specific weapon perks such as raining down arrows or setting explosive charges and a whole lot more.
Aloy now also has Valor charges which act as a special ability to help turn the tide of a fight. You will fill a meter allowing you to use one of these Valor charges that you have unlocked and equipped such as huge health regeneration, increasing your damage and critical chance, to even a stealth module.
Combat whilst improved on doesn’t necessarily feel too different from the previous game. What is new however is Aloy now has the ability to glide when jumping off any mountain or cliffside with her trusty Shieldwing glider. Combine this with almost all terrain being able to be climbed up and you can see where the influence has come from. Traversal feels so much more like Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and that is not a bad thing.
So what are some of the downsides, well personally I felt, much like i did with Horizon Zero Dawn, that fighting the machine dinos can honestly be a bit of a chore and started to really grind down on me, especially when a lot of upgrades to weapons rely on parts you need to loot by destroying them. It’s always fun learning how to take on new machines, but when you’re fighting the same enemies constantly and especially when you’re just trying to explore outside of a mission, I found it to be quite tedious. It more comes down to fatigue due to the game being so lengthy, with my playtime to completion hitting just over 70hours.
Another gripe was Aloy seemingly getting stuck on sections of cliffsides or even ledges where she wouldn’t just up further and just seemingly got stuck and would hang from the ledge. It happened way too often to be a slight oversight. There was also a lot of times where jumping towards a platform she would overshoot or do something stupid like not grab a ledge etc. It just felt very glitchy at times and not as tight and responsive as I would have liked.
The traversal can also be frustrating as there is pauses between climbing up different sections of a mountain or any surface really, leaving you frustrated thinking ‘Can you please just hurry up’ It just lacks a free flowing motion that some of the newer Assassins Creed Games have achieved. I understand the developers try to make it more realistic, but in my opinion games should be fun and things that cause unneeded frustration just to create a sense of realism don’t need to be implemented.
Now as these gripes can be really frustrating, they aren’t for the most part really noticeable until the fatigue and repetition sets in. I found that I only really noticed them during the late game as I think by that point you know what to expect of the game and how Aloy controls, so when frustrating glitches happen they become more noticeable. Another thing to keep in mind is that this is a HUGE game with a massive map, so bugs and glitches are more likely to happen in an open world experience as opposed to a streamlined experience.
Sound: First up, the voice acting is absolutely outstanding, and that just isn’t for Aloy and the main supporting cast, but honestly everyone I engaged with in side missions too. Mix this in with the amazing visuals and subtle facial animations that really bring out the emotions portrayed, it’s honestly set the bar for what voice acting in games should strive to be.
Now to be fair we do have a Hollywood heavyweight in Carrie-Anne Moss voicing once of the characters, but aside from her, everyone from purely voice actors to up start actors in showbiz all bring the same amount of quality to their work, It’s truly exceptional.
On the music front there isn’t much in the way of the main gameplay beats as you will be hearing a lot of natural environmental sounds from the wind blowing through the trees, insects croaking, birds chirping, to machines roaring and scuttling around. It all comes together to make you really feel a part of the world around you and when using the PlayStation 3D pulse audio headset…damn does it sound good.
When the music does kick in for certain moments it is used to perfection acting as an enhancement and never a distraction. The Audio team at Guerrilla Games should be commended on their outstanding work.
Awesomeness: This game is long! I was able to get the platinum trophy after finishing the main campaign, many side missions and challenges resulting in a near 70hour playthrough with only 82% total completion. So even after getting the platinum trophy there was still so much left to do, more side missions, more gear to unlock and locations to explore.
The one downside to this though is once I was finished, I was really fatigued with the game and was glad for it to be over. I can’t say if this is something I might want to jump back into to replay in the future and there is no real incentive to do so. Whilst there isn’t any difficulty trophies attached, games like Milles Morales had second playthrough specific trophies to get you to jump back in. Horizon however has all trophies available in the first playthrough. So, whilst it’s long and has a lot of content, it kind of feels like a one and done, and that is totally fine because I got more than I hoped for out of it. Here’s hoping for a future expansion pack though.
Final Word: As a direct sequel to a huge new IP, Horizon: Forbidden West came out with a bang! The team should be commended for creating a new world more beautiful, a story just as or in my case kore appealing and characters scattered throughout that had real motives and emotion behind them. This is a must own for every PlayStation owner, both on the previous and current gen systems. Remember if you have the game on PS4 you can get a free upgrade to the PS5 version as well for those soon to upgrade.
Out of 5 Bugs!