Horizon Forbidden West: Initial Thoughts

I played about 20 hours of Horizon Zero Dawn and dropped-off. Not for any grand reason, i just didn’t come back to it one day. Since then I’ve pondered trying again, but only ever got a couple of hours in here and there.

Enter Horizon Forbidden West. The sequel to the massive PlayStation hit. My chance to get back in the saddle of a charger, and to dive into a big open world.

Horizon Forbidden West released on the PS5, but also has a PS4 release. Now, in my experience, the “lesser” console, gets the lesser treatment. I’ve seen it over and over. Original Titanfall, Shadow of Mordor etc. So my hopes have been lowered, anticipating a shadow of the release on PS5 that’s been seeing critical acclaim.

Spoiler alert: Guerrilla don’t do things by halves. My PS4 copy doesn’t feel like an afterthought in any way at all.

Horizon Forbidden West
 

Visuals

Let’s get this out of the way now. It feels like the most pertinent point of the PS4/PS5 comparisons. Between better graphics processors, much faster disks and functionality that the PS4 doesn’t have, you have to accept that Horizon Forbidden West just simply won’t look as good.

But let’s be very clear. Horizon Forbidden West looks incredible. It feels like we’re seeing the last few drops of power being squeezed out of my base PS4.

It looks incredible. Lighting, textures, character models. Shadows and motion capture. Honestly, this is top-tier.

The classic test of “how good does the water look?” Is passed with flying colours, the world moves and breathes on its own.

Bright and bold, dark and shadowy. If you want to experience genuine Triple-A game making and graphical prowess, Horizon Forbidden West is the place to do it.

Pop-in of textures and even full assets can be seen often, especially in cutscenes and conversations. It’s noticeable and sometimes distracting. Horizon Forbidden West is giving its all, and it shows. It isn’t enough to ruin the game, nor has it caused issues, but it is a mood-killer when you’re drinking everything in.

 

Story

This is “initial thoughts” for a reason. I’m only 10 hours deep into Horizon Forbidden West, so I can’t comment on the broad strokes.

Narratively, it delivers in cutscenes and interactions with old allies.  Everything is a little flat so far, not really driving me to want to progress, but exploration and a need to see more of everything, push me on.

I’m not excited by it, but I’m not far enough into it to have an opinion yet.  Same with acting and voice performances.  It’ll come as the story progresses.

Variety is the spice of life

One thing that has stood out in Horizon Forbidden West is the variety of things to do. Sidequests aren’t just standard fetch quests, exploration isn’t the usual Ubisoft-style map marker marathon, either.

More importantly, you can just lose hours wandering around, hunting, climbing and collecting. It feels organic and casually fun.

Dipping into Horizon Forbidden West for half an hour here and there is really quite good fun. Especially when you just want to find some downtime and zone out a bit. Alloys explorations have become my mental wind-down of an evening.

 

For now…..

Horizon Forbidden West runs really well on the PS4.  It looks fantastic and it plays like an improved Horizon Zero Dawn.

My expectations have already been shattered. But now I’ve had to time to let that sink on, I can focus.

Next time we’ll be looking at gameplay, audio and the world design. Followed by the “final thoughts” that will cover story, performances and and overall score.

Horizon Forbidden West is shaping-up to be a stellar achievement by Guerilla. Let’s hope these first hours are an indication of what’s to come.

Now…..where’s my next Tallneck to climb??

One Reply to “Horizon Forbidden West: Initial Thoughts”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.