Every Tokyo Game Show, I take a break from the spattering of Japanese releases and pay at least one high-profile Western title. This year, we have the highest profile game of them all, Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn. It was a popular hit too, filling up to an hour wait seconds after the show opened.
Yeah, I looked like a goof, but I ran. I have a job to do!
I’ve been wary of this title ever since I first saw it. One, the graphics in the reveal trailers looked too insane to be believable, and two, I figured this would provide nothing new, instead being a culmination of every trend in AAA gaming. After playing my demo, I was right on both counts, but where I stumbled was being worried. This game is going to be excellent.
Yes, the graphics are out of this world. We still have a bit of a way to go until release, so unless development hits a major setback, I’m a believer in Guerrilla’s engine. This Earth’s lush environments clash well with the steel animals and native humans. I won’t nitpick it to pieces, counting pixels and frame rates like some gamers will. It’s gorgeous and more than gets the job done.
On the gameplay front, it’s hard to think of a trend this game isn’t borrowing. Open world exploration, resource management, item collection, weapon construction, stealth mechanics, and even one-hit kill bow and arrows. It’s simple to label this hodgepodge “Everything, the Game.”
My demo dropped me in a small sandbox and let me mess around with the basic mechanics. Our heroine Aloy controls like a dream, and every action feels like it had impact and weight with perfect reaction to button presses. Sliding is the most fun mechanic here, one of the few unique moves Aloy has.
I had no specific goal to work towards, but the demo gave me a list of targets to accomplish. Headshot the raptors and bring down the robotic deer, neither of which were any problem since arrows feel really satisfying. I also had to ride a mechanical bull… a real one, which required me to stealth up behind it and reprogram its behavior towards me.
I never figured out how to make arrows, fumbling through the Japanese menus, but the demo provided me with plenty of varieties, meaning I didn’t have to. Fire arrows, high impact arrows, bombs, trip wires, everything a hunter needs to bring down monstrous beasts.
Now, I’m interested in seeing some variety from this game. An open world with nothing but monster hunting is no fun. Give me some action set pieces, bosses, and scenarios to spice it up!
I’m sold. I’m not sure if Horizon Zero Dawn is going to revolutionize anything, but it could possibly set a new standard in all we’ve achieved over the last decade. If you’re not quite jaded by the AAA scene yet, or you need a firm reminder of why it’s good (like me), this is the game that will do it.