Horizon Forbidden West has been one of the most anticipated upcoming games since it was announced in June 2020 and it absolutely lives up to the hype.
Before we get into this it's definitely worth noting that I played this on the PS5 so some of this may not be accurate to the PS4 version of the game.
The main thing everyone has been talking about with Forbidden West is how it looks, and it's right up there with the best looking games of all time. The world looks absolutely amazing, it's maybe the best looking game setting of all time (Red Dead Redemption 2 is definitely a contender though). The water, the sand, the plants, the cliff faces are all gorgeously detailed and at times look indistuingishably close to photorealistic, it's all definitely a showcase for what the Playstation 5 can achieve. Animals are all shockingly well detailed too, every squirrel has indvidual whiskers, every lizard has individual scales, hermit crabs have little hairs on their legs and claws (actually called setae but I'm calling it hair). Aloy's character model is pretty great too as well, her face is incredibly well rendered as is her outfit and hair (to an extent and we'll get into that in a second), aside from the characters in recent Naughty Dog games she's possibly the most detailed video game character I've ever seen. The one thing I will say is that hair movement is one of the biggest killers of realism in games, I've still never seen a game that absolutely gets it right, it's always slightly off in the way it moves and sits on characters and that is the one flaw I did notice with Aloy here (that and the way she jumps). I would genuinely recommend this game for it's graphical quality alone, it is phenomenal.
The gameplay is very fun and is a huge improvement on the first game. It all feels a lot smoother to play and the movement and shooting mechanincs are a lot more refined this time round which is great, I wasn't a huge fan of the way that Zero Dawn played if I'm completely honest. The climbing and traversal is nowhere near as satisfying as in games like Uncharted but it's easily on a par with the recent Assassin's Creed games which is an absolute achievement considering the fact that traversal is their whole thing. Combat is very simple and relatively easy too (as long as you collect enough parts to craft enough arrows) which is great, it's becoming a bit of a trend to make combat as hard as possible but it's great to see a blockbuster game that makes it accessible and fun. The whole game is great to play, from exploring ancient ruins to hunting robot mammoths, everything just feels so great to play. That's not to say it's doing anything particularly new on a gameplay front but it does do everything right.
The game makes great use of the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers of the DualSense controller. At this point it's nothing new and every game is doing it but it's always great to see developers fully utilise these features at every opportunity. My favourite use of it is with the pull caster and grappling hooks, both of which feel so great to use with the way the PS5 controller rumbles and judders to give them a proper weighty feeling to them. Maybe it would be nice if the heavy attacks on the R2 button used them too, it is quite noticeable when one thing doesn't do the thing that everything else does, but that's not an actual criticism of the game itself.
There's not a huge amount in the way of mission or story variation, it pretty much boils down to 'go here and kill X or Y' or 'go and collect X amount of resources' but then I don't think it would be fair to expect much more from a game about hunting robots. To complain about this would be like complaining because the new Forza is solely about driving. It might be nice to see a little but more, maybe a bit more world building via missions or maybe some more multi-objective missions but I'm happy with what there is, all I found myself doing was wanting to explore and the way the missions are set out absolutely encourages this.
To be completely honest I was half expecting this game to be a bit underwhelming and during the first part of the intro section I thought this might have been the case but when the game gets going and really starts to open up you get a sense of what makes this game so great. It's ambitious, it's a proper look at what developers can do in 2022 and it's phenomenal. The whole game world is immaculately crafted, the variation in enemies and creatures is amazing and the gameplay is super refined this time round, all that and it loads fully in a matter of seconds. Horizon Forbidden West might not go down in history in the same way that a game like Grand Theft Auto V has but it is nonetheless an absolutely mind-blowing technical achievement. I've played for about four hours and I feel like I've barely scraped the surface of what the game has to offer. I can confidently say that Horizon Forbidden West is one of the best games that has come out for years and it's a ridiculously good showcase for the Playstation exclusive games.
This game is one that is truly hard to do justice to with writing, you really need to watch or better yet play it to experience just what makes it so great. I could write about it for hours and put thousands of words into it and I still couldn't capture how special it really is. It's not the best game of all time (but really that's up to opinion) and it does have its little flaws (for example the game gets briefly weirdly saturated when you turn the camera) but it really does feel like a rare type of game that everyone should try out. Maybe the fact that I wasn't too optimistic about it helped, maybe my slightly lowered expectations mean that I'm overly surprised by how great it is but I don't think that's the case. It's so good that this review was supposed to come out in the morning but I got so carried away that I only actually started writing it in the evening, I literally couldn't stop playing it and I'll go straight back to it as soon as I finish up on writing this.
I'm going to cut straight to the chase on the rating side of things. Horizon Forbidden West is a 10/10. It's phenomenal, simple as that. To clarify this 10/10 doesn't mean that Horizon Forbidden West and OlliOlli World are equivalent in quality or scale or anything like that but it does mean that I would absilutely recommend this game to anyone who is able to get it and I feel that's the best thing I could ever say about a game.