Horizon Forbidden West Review – A Game For a Generation

Horizon Forbidden West is only the second game in the Horizon franchise, yet already the franchise is one of the most important in Sony’s roster. Horizon Zero Dawn came out of nowhere in 2017 to challenge Sony heavyweights like Uncharted, Ratchet & Clankand god of war for the exclusivity crown. Now, Guerilla Games is trying to solidify that position with Forbidden West. While in the years since Horizon Zero Dawn was released, the series has become a Sony staple, can the second game live up to the pressure? Find out in this review of Horizon Forbidden West.

Horizon Forbidden West was played on PlayStation 5 for this review. The game is also available on PlayStation 4.

Horizon Forbidden West: A True Sequel

Horizon Forbidden West’s story reminded me heavily of movies like Empire Strikes Back and games like Mass Effect 2. That is, Forbidden West is the quintessential mid-point of a trilogy. That isn’t a bad thing. The great thing about a good sequel is that it can improve upon the original and expand the story without overstaying its welcome. Horizon Forbidden West does precisely that. The story in Horizon Forbidden West is fun, engaging, emotional, and enjoyable. Yet, the story beats aren’t necessarily what makes Forbidden West’s story great. It’s how the story is brought to life by the phenomenal acting. Ashly Burch, who plays Aloy, brings the protagonist to life in a way I’ve never seen done in video games before. For much of Forbidden West, watching the cutscenes was like watching a great movie. The way Guerilla Games has translated the actor’s performances into the game is nothing short of incredible. Motion capture acting in games has been around for years now, but I don’t believe it has ever been done as well as in Forbidden West. This game sets a new bar for storytelling in gaming because of how alive the characters feel.

A Sight to Behold

Of course, part of what makes the characters feel alive is the incredible graphics. As good as the motion capture performances are, the graphics are necessary to bring them to life. In shorts, Horizon Forbidden West is one of the most graphically satisfying games I’ve ever played. For this review, I tested both the quality mode and the performance mode. After deciding between the two, I ended up playing the entire game in performance mode. A solid 60 FPS framerate is obviously great, but I never felt myself having to use quality mode because the game looks so amazing. Character’s faces, foliage, machines, lighting. All of it looks superb. Forbidden West in performance mode looks better than most other games’ quality modes.

This game is really showing off what next-gen hardware is capable of. Some people may feel as though the PS4 version of the game has “held back” the PS5 version. If that’s the case, I can’t see it. Forbidden West is the new standard for graphics on the PS5. Also, let’s not forget that the PS5 is only a little over a year old. Yew this is the graphical quality we’re getting now, I can’t wait to see what developers are putting out in 2-3 years.

Something that can be overlooked when discussing the presentation of a game is sound. Everyone can look at a pretty picture and say that a game has great graphics. But the sound is what ties the whole package together. The orchestral performances in Horizon Forbidden West are well done. There isn’t a standout piece of music like Uncharted gold Halo, but the soundtrack is uplifting in the right places solemn in others. It does its job well. Aside from the music, Horizon is a treat to listen to, and the atmospheric sounds are what stand out. The game fills floor-standing speakers and headphones alike. The music, combined with the sounds of the world, machines, and conversation between characters, draw you into the game, especially when playing with a good sound setup. I reviewed the game mostly on a high-end surround sound setup and tested it with high-end headphones. While not necessary to enjoy Forbidden Westa good way to listen to the game and will enhance the experience.

The Hunted Becomes The Hunter

Horizon Forbidden West can look pretty, sound great, and have a good story, but all of that would be for nothing if it weren’t for the excellent gameplay. Forbidden West has a pleasing mixture of combat, exploration, hunting, and gathering. Hunting machines is fun and addictive. To upgrade many of the weapons and armor in the game, players need to find specific parts. This gives players a reason to go out hunting to gather the parts necessary to purchase or upgrade the item they desire. It’s easy to lose track of time as you hunt down one more machine or go in search of one more part. It helps that once the combat system is mastered, it is incredibly satisfying to play. There is a learning curve to the game. Different machines have different weaknesses and will require different strategies to take down. That’s a lot of the fun of the gameplay, though. Being able to take down a gigantic machine that destroyed you earlier because you figured out its weaknesses and attack patterns is very rewarding.

Exploring the vast open-world is a key part of the game too. Forbidden West gives players new ways to traverse the landscape, which I won’t spoil here. Suffice it to say, it makes traveling through the west a lot of fun. It’s almost like Breath of the Wild where you see something in the distance and want to head over there to check it out. One minor issue I do have with the game is the climbing. It feels too rigid for a game that has so much freedom in every other area. Aloy can only climb mountains, walls, etc., when there are specific handhelds for her to do so. Like Uncharted. It’s kind of silly when Aloy can climb up one wall but not another despite them looking almost the same. I would have preferred if climbing was more free-form like Breath of the Wild gold Dying Light 2. If you can see a ledge, you should be able to climb it. The inability to climb makes it feel like the game is limiting players just for the sake of it.

Horizon Forbidden West Review Verdict

Horizon Forbidden West is a game of the year contender. Heck, by the end of this generation of consoles, it will probably still be a contender for one of the best games on PS5. The graphics, gameplay, story, and world all add up to a truly wonderful experience. Horizon Forbidden West is a necessity for any PlayStation owner. Uncharted 2 is one of the games that defined the PS3 generation. God of War (2018) is one of the games that defined the PS4 generation. Horizon Forbidden West will be one of the games that define the PS5 generation.

Horizon Forbidden West is an action role-playing video game developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

Pros:

  • Some of the best acting of any game
  • A new standard for graphical fidelity
  • Rewarding fight
  • Rock-solid 60 FPS in performance mode

Cons:

  • Climbing could be improved

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