Horizon Forbidden West Review

Initial release date: February 18, 2022

Developer: Guerrilla Games

Series: Horizon

Engine: Decima

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5

Composers: Joris de Man, The Flight

"Review Copy Provided By PlayStation"

2017 was a special year for gaming as not only did we get a new console from Nintendo in the Nintendo Switch and the landmark title that was The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, but we also received a brand-new IP from the team over at Guerrilla Games called Horizon Zero Dawn. It was a game that set an incredibly high bar for what one could expect for open world 3rd person action-adventure games with a tinge of RPG features and crafting. The game was not only one of the most beautiful games on the PlayStation 4 but was also one of the most beautiful games to be released in that year period with a level of detail and life like visuals unlike anything seen prior except for 2016’s Uncharted 4: Thief’s End. The level of open-world immersion truly gave you a feeling of “go anywhere, do anything” that had not been truly realized before in a game until Breath of the Wild launched about a few weeks later and took that concept to a whole different dimension. In 2022, we have the long-awaited sequel to one of the PlayStation’s most loved new games in Horizon Forbidden West; the question now is does it live up to the original and improve upon the formula and innovate or does it fail to be anything more than a rehash of the previous games content with a new coat of paint? Let’s find out!

Following the events of Frozen Wild, Forbidden West picks up 6 months later and follows the travels of Aloy as she seeks to find a way to prevent another global extinction of life on the planet as a strange red plant has been massively spreading all over the country that is killing all life in its path. Aloy’s journey leads her into the titular Forbidden West that is the home of the Tenakth tribe and other deadly wonders such as Regalla whom is a Tenakth rebel that is leading her followers and machines into a bloody civil war. Going any further would be going into spoiler territory and since I don’t want to spoil anything, we’ll be stopping here, and I’d want you to play and enjoy this for yourself. I will say that the game’s narrative is strong yet doesn’t reach the levels that the original did or has the same impact but do know there are still plenty of revelations and more!

You’ll be seeing a lot of returning characters and familiar faces such as Erend and Varl who join Aloy in her journey along with seeing new faces in Kotallo and Zo that are equally if not more impressive than some of the returning cast thanks to substantially better writing for the cast. There’s much more personality with the various NPCs you interact with from the Quest givers, merchants, and background NPCs. The conversations are much more dynamic than the previous games static backgrounds with headshots. There is still some animation jank that you’ll notice especial in facial animations and the lip sync and eye movements, yet, outside of that you’ll see a substantial upgrade in the presentation from the previous game.

The level of detail in the visuals is insane especially when you look at the environments such as the lavish jungles, snowy mountains, and arid dry deserts, and bustling seashores are absolutely jaw dropping with how wonderfully detailed and animated it all is. Traversal of these environments is made even better with the new grapple hook and glider tools that add so much to the immersion of the game. Graphically, the game has a Fidelity and Performance mode giving you the option of running the game at 4K 30FPS with HDR or at an 4K checkerboarding and 60FPS and HDR. Me personally, I prefer keeping the game in performance mode because going back to 30FPS after playing the game at a smooth 60FPS is just jarring.

Each of the humans that you see in the game are some of the best you’ll see in an open-world game with each one being recognizable to what tribe they belong to based on their body paint and outfits. The machine designs are absolutely brilliant with some of the most menacing and awe-inspiring mechs you’ll see with the Slitherfang being one of the epic machines that you’ll be fighting.

There are a lot of more weapons to play with such as the Shredder Gauntlet and Spike Thrower that make the open-world fights to be that much more dynamic. The spear that Aloy carries is much more versatile and useful than it was in the previous game making it’s use in battles more interesting and fun. Human enemies are much more aggressive than they’ve been before and are more likely to rush you if you try to use your bow, so you’ll need to be a lot more cunning and plan out your approach. The Valor Surges, special moves that are dynamic and turn the tide of battle, are spectacular and add to how much more engaging and immersive the combat is in Forbidden West.

Environmental Puzzles have a much grander range of creativity with the variety of collectibles you gain from them. I love how the optional side quests are incredibly cohesive to the main narratives including the dungeons and towers of the Cauldrons and Tallnecks being better tethered into the whole.

One disappointing thing that I was hopping would be rectified in this entry would be the fact that climbing is STILL restricted in comparison to games like Breath of the Wild and Immortals Fenyx Rising, you’ll be able to see what is climbable by activating Aloy’s Focus by pressing R3. The climbing is much smoother than the last game, but it can still be finicky at times. There is also occasional pop-in and some slowdown that occurs at points that I do hope will be patched out in the coming weeks.

Horizon Forbidden West is a substantial improvement as a whole over Horizon 0 Dawn. The stunning visuals, immersive map, improved character conversations and presentation, enhanced gameplay with newer mechanics, newer tools, and combat being much deeper make this one of the best games of 2022 and one of the best exclusives for the PS4 and PS5. The story may not deliver to the same heights that the original did, but it does still build upon the groundwork laid by it and includes some shocking and surprising twists and more. Occasional performance issues aside, Forbidden West is one of the most gorgeous and insanely fun action RPGs that fires on all cylinders and is truly unlike anything else you’re likely to experience.

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