Horizon Zero Dawn Review


Ah, Horizon Zero Dawn, probably up there with UmJammer Lammy as one of the most bafflingly nonsensical and grammatically incorrect video game titles ever created if you haven’t already played or watched far enough into the game to know what the name is actually referring to...yes, I’ve mentioned multiple times in past reviews (Fallout 4 and Breath Of The Wild, to be exact) that this game is an absolute graphical behemoth and probably one of the best open-world games on the market, period.

So how, you may ask, does this game stack up to those seemingly outrageous claims? Let’s just say considerably better than most of TheTopTens community will ever know, even though pretty much the entire rest of the Internet went outright insane over this gem’s release. Let’s get started on covering it, shall we?

GRAPHICS: Sorry, Xbox One; the vast majority of your flashiest, specciest games have officially been visually upstaged. Seriously, if I could lick the graphics in this game, I would. And this is coming from someone who normally REALLY doesn’t care for the generic photorealistic art styles plaguing an alarmingly massive portion of non-Nintendo games nowadays. But being able to see every single glimmering detail of every single strand of every single character’s hair during gameplay (let alone cutscenes) isn’t everything, so here comes the-

STORY: Basically a modernized science-fiction counterpart to the Breath Of The Wild storyline (the fact that the two games came out at almost the exact same time is TOTALLY just a happy-go-lucky coincidence, trust me on this one), Horizon Zero Dawn begins with Aloy, an adorable young redheaded Indian bounty hunter in training under the loving supervision of her father Rost (many, many more character-naming puns where THESE two came from, believe me), grows up into a proud bow-and-arrow-wielding warrior queen of sorts for her tribe that she was originally banished from due to her scientific heritage (trust me, I really do want to explain what I mean by that, but can’t because of spoilers).

But alas, that’s only the beginning; why, I haven’t even mentioned WHAT the most valuable things that Aloy and her fellow tribes-people HUNT are! Yes indeed, as you may or may not have seen on the game’s rather questionably designed front cover, the entire post-apocalpytic United States jungle setting of this game is thoroughly infested with giant mechanical animals and dinosaurs that the characters refer to simply (and more than a little pretentiously) as “machines” that were presumably created as an attempt to protect America’s citizens from the majorly death-inducing horrors of war...that is, before going completely haywire.

Long story short, Aloy’s goal in this game is to gradually learn more and more of the truth behind the very clichédly amnesiac predicament she’s found herself in so that she can finally destroy the program that’s GIVING all of the machines their ferocious human bloodlust and save humanity once and for all.

To sum it all up, boring and predictable plot, but with some pretty interesting data logs.

SOUND: Forgettable, but perfectly executed; nothing more to say here. And now for this game’s most important aspect, the REAL reason it gets so much praise from reviewers-

GAMEPLAY: Okay, first things first, just to clear things up, I don’t care WHAT that stupid Jim Sterling says; core-gameplay-wise, as good as this game is, Breath Of The Wild was still WAY better (I’m sorry, Sony drones and X-Bots, but BOTW really is just THAT good).

That being said, however, what HZD lacks in core gameplay depth is greatly made up for by the vast multitude of interesting and unique gimmicks SURROUNDING its core gameplay. While it is true that, at the base level, this game really is nothing more than just running around a ridiculously oversized map, lighting up discovery icons, sneaking around, farming health, going on generic “kill all the dudes” quests straight out of Fallout, and most importantly shooting arrows at things (and, if you’re a complete pansy, outright cheating your way through large portions of the combat with the thankfully optional Shield Weaver armor), where it REALLY shines is in the incredibly understated amount of freedom that it gives to its players, particularly with regards to combat methods.

While Aloy unfortunately can’t climb walls like Spider-Man the way that Link could in BOTW, she CAN use strategic resource management to craft an astonishingly wide variety of arrow types (yes, including tripwire-post arrows) that all play to a whole mind-bogglingly detailed flowchart of different enemy weaknesses; when combined with the fact that the machines’ bodies are decorated with, in total, what seems like at least literally a solid THOUSAND different weak POINTS, this really does lend a shocking amount of depth to the combat.

Hell, if you want, you can even BEFRIEND quite a few of the machines (in fact, horseback-riding notwithstanding, the very clearly brontosaurus-inspired Tallnecks even function as a living, breathing form of Ubisoft’s infamous Far Cry watchtowers, allowing you to marvel at the game’s breathtakingly gorgeous scenery all the more. Do I really even need to say anything else at this point? Bravo, Guerrilla Games, bravo.

OVERALL: While I certainly won’t deny that Breath Of The Wild had a much more engaging CORE game to it than HZD does, HZD is overall a much better-rounded (albeit nowhere even remotely near as unique and memorable) package that combines quite possibly some of the absolute best-looking graphics to EVER grace a game (PERIOD) with an undeniably brilliant and engrossingly atmospheric setting that (combat-wise, at least) has well more than enough gameplay depth to make up for it; overall, I’d say it’s just about tied with BOTW as 2017’s Game Of The Year.

If there was a way to make it so that all of the bonus data logs were actually marked on the overworld, I would easily give this a 10/10 even as someone who normally considers it taboo to give the perfect score to games, but as it stands right now, 9.8/10