Hunter vs. hunted

Hori­zon Zero Dawn

GAX (Malaysia) - - REVIEW - by Ian Chee CON­CLU­SION Hori­zon Zero Dawn is en­gag­ing, ad­dic­tive and beau­ti­ful, but the lack of in­cen­tive to con­tinue play­ing post-cam­paign robs it of the per­fect score it oth­er­wise de­served.

Beauty, this side of the hori­zon

If you’re a hunter like me, you’d prob­a­bly make the mis­take of think­ing Hori­zon Zero Dawn plays like Mon­ster Hunter; you set out hunt­ing crea­tures beyond hu­man reck­on­ing, us­ing ma­te­ri­als sal­vaged from the hunt to craft weapons for fu­ture hunts. While this is true in its loos­est terms, div­ing into the world of Hori­zon Zero Dawn with this mind­set is a mis­take, as this is an en­tirely di er­ent beast al­to­gether, to be hunted on its own terms. This sim­ple fact is both a good and bad thing, but we’ll start with the for­mer rst.

The world of Hori­zon Zero Dawn is one of im­mense beauty, with rich, vi­brant col­ors that you’d eas­ily lose your­self in, es­pe­cially if you’re a bit sick of the dull gray con­crete jun­gle. What the game o ers is an ac­tual jun­gle bustling with life and green­ery, with a sprin­kle of snow white and desert brown, and a splash of golden sun rays when the time is right.

And the right time makes re­turn vis­its in the form of day and night cy­cles and dy­namic weather. The lat­ter comes in mul­ti­ple forms, de­pend­ing on where you are at any given time. The jun­gles will be em­braced by heal­ing rain that also ob­scures sounds, the desert plains bu eted by sand­storms that only slightly limit vi­sion, while the snowy al­ti­tude gets fall­ing snow that’s just sim­ply pleas­ant to the eye.

But to truly ap­pre­ci­ate the eye candy that is Hori­zon Zero Dawn, you’ll need to look at the ner things in Aloy’s life. And by ne, I meant go­ing down to the in­di­vid­ual blades of grass, and the in­tri­cate de­tails on the prac­ti­cally em­bel­lished weapons and ar­mor that she uses. Ar­mor gets pro­gres­sively more of the body cov­ered in­stead of less, and the same ap­plies to weapons as well. You start with sim­ple-look­ing bows, slowly gain­ing ac­cess to those that look pro­gres­sively more like they be­long in a mod­ern archery range, while still look­ing prac­ti­cal enough to be brought out­side to an ac­tual hunt. Then, there are the end-game ones with bright col­ors that would make you want to fork out some cash to have one made in real life. The NPCs haven’t been given the same sort of de­tail, sadly. Most of them look like you’d con­fuse one for an­other, and there isn’t the level of de­tail that you’d ex­pect once you’re used to look­ing at all the de­tails on Aloy her­self. That said, I’m by no

means suggesting that the level of de­tail given to the NPCs is subpar. In fact, it’s more than what most other triple-A ti­tles would give theirs.

Wild ma­chine/life

Guerilla Games made sure to make up for this by go­ing all out on the ma­chine wildlife. The over­lap of ar­mor plat­ing rem­i­nis­cent of snake or sh scales, the arti cial mus­cu­la­ture that look nearly ed­i­ble, and the nat­u­ral re­ac­tion to the un­known would some­times make you for­get that there are both or­ganic and ro­botic wildlife. Even the more out­landish ma­chines like bi­son the size of small hills look like they might be some­thing that would show up in a few thou­sand more years, un­til they start us­ing their im­prob­a­ble ma­chine abil­i­ties.

For those of you who are in­clined to doc­u­ment your ad­ven­ture, but nd that words can never de­scribe it as well as pic­tures can, there’s a pretty nifty Photo Mode in­cluded for all your styl­ized screen­shots. The range in which you can zoom out the cam­era is a tad lim­ited, but you get some ad­di­tional toys com­pared to what other Photo Modes may have on o er. For one, if you’re one of the bokeh en­thu­si­asts among pho­tog­ra­phers, then this Photo Mode is one that you’d like, as you’re given the free­dom to change the aper­ture of the cam­era and the fo­cus dis­tance, to se­lec­tively blur por­tions of your shot. You can also change the time of day for the shots that sim­ply need the golden rays to be com­plete, or those that need the sil­ver orb in the sky.

The abrupt end of the hunt

There is, after all that’s said and done, one is­sue that I’ve had with Hori­zon Zero Dawn, and that’s post-game re­playa­bil­ity. As en­gag­ing and smooth the story is, and as re­lat­able a main char­ac­ter as Aloy is, at its con­clu­sion, you’re sud­denly left with pretty much noth­ing to do. There’s no New Game+, and the only thing you can do after clear­ing the story is to hunt for col­lectibles and tro­phies, if that’s your kind of thing. And it’s not a par­tic­u­larly long story ei­ther. It’s eas­ily cleared within 60 hours of game­play, and the abil­ity to switch di culty on the y leaves very lit­tle in­cen­tive to start a new playthrough.

There is also lit­tle in­cen­tive to hunt ma­chines ei­ther. An av­er­agely well-geared and pre­pared hunter can take down the tough­est of ma­chines in less than ve min­utes, with the most time be­ing spent im­mo­bi­liz­ing the ag­ile ones or ones ca­pa­ble of ight or bur­row­ing. And by hunt­ing, you get more re­sources to craft more ar­rows from the beasts you fell, but by this point you could buy most of the re­sources you need from ven­dors, or you could even buy the ar­rows straight up. This is un­like the Mon­ster Hunter se­ries that heav­ily in­spired this game – or so said the de­vel­op­ers – where hunts take tens of min­utes, and grant ma­te­ri­als that can­not be ob­tained any­where else used to make bet­ter weapons and equip­ment, in­stead of just spe­cial­ized ammo that can be bought us­ing the in-game cur­rency. This re­view orig­i­nally ap­peared on Hard­wareZone Malaysia:

As you progress, you gain the abil­ity to take con­trol of hos­tile wildlife. This leads to ma­chines brawl­ing against each other for an amaz­ing spec­ta­cle.

De­spite their fear­some ap­pear­ance, they go down pretty quickly, un­less you’re grossly ill-pre­pared.

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