Horizon Zero Dawn released earlier this week and it’s so good that I don’t even care that we get a new Zelda in the same week. Well, almost, I mean it’s Zelda. But in the end I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it’s these two games knocking at each other for Game of the Year Honors come December. That said here are 5 things you should know about HZD. Some of them you may know already. Others I didn’t know until I was a few hours in.
1) This Game is Beautiful
I don’t just mean beautiful for a PS4 game. I mean it is beautiful for any game. It is quite possibly the best looking game I have ever played on any system be it console or PC. I play the game on a PS4 Pro and do have a 4K TV. I have the settings turned on for visuals over performance but even then I still haven’t even noticed frame drop and I’ve encountered giant boss battles and had numerous enemies running around the screen at the same time. I’m not a techno wizard so I can’t explain to you how all of this works but I’m honestly surprised they can squeeze this much performance out of the PS4. Something else that makes the game really stand out is the hair is fantastic. While another recent game like Final Fantasy XV looked good the hair was just not right. HZD blows it out of the water. Even the characters skin is realistic. The pores on Aloy's cheeks blow my mind and the scar on her forehead isn’t some big garish thing like it would be in other games. Instead after 10 years it’s faded into a pockmark that you would see in real life.
2) The World is Alive
Too often the world in games can be washed out or full of browns and feel dead or boring. That isn’t the case here. The world is large, open, and full of things to see and interact with. Whether that is the mundane like picking sticks to make arrows, the fanciful like stopping to watch a villager sing a song to entertain a pub, or the heroic like tackle giant dinosaur robots. The world of HZD is amazing and helps tell the story of Aloy and her quest.
3) Diversity of Characters
Horizon Zero Dawn tells the story of a young girl seeking answers about her past and a reason for her to go forward and help her tribe even when they have been so cold to her. She shares a familial bond with her caretaker Rost who raises her from a babe as a single man even though he isn’t her father. The diverseness of the characters doesn’t stop there. The tribe Aloy hails from is a matriarchy but has male and female braves. People of color are well represented and take leading roles. Aloy even overhears a memory early in the game involving a LGBT couple. None of these representations feel token either. They just are, which is the way it should be.
4) It’s not all about Robot Dinosaurs
From most of the marketing surrounding the game it would be easy to think that HZD is all about fighting robot animals. While you will spend a good amount of your time doing just that you’ll quickly find that sometimes people are the most devious animals out there. Aloy’s tribe of the Nora aren’t the only group still around. The tribes are varied in their beliefs and this inevitably leads to conflict.
5) Photo Mode
What better way to admire a beautiful game then to incorporate a photo mode? Photo mode essential pauses the game to let you take better screenshots. There are a variety of sliders that allow you to add effects to the screenshot as well. From the simple like a boarder to different lens filters and angle adjustments. You can even take Aloy out of the picture so you can capture a vista unobstructed. This tool will definitely make screenshot hounds happy.
This could be the first must have PS4 game. Not only does this game look great but it plays great too. My only real complain is that it may ape on the Tomb Raider franchise a little too much. But hey, we do get a new Call of Duty, Battlefield, and until recently Assassins Creed every year. Maybe more action role playing games in the vein of Horizon Zero Dawn is exactly what we do need.