Horizon Zero Dawn is a hard game to explain but impossible not to enjoy 5 years ago

Horizon Zero Dawn is a hard game to explain but impossible not to enjoy

It's tricky to sum up what Horizon Zero Dawn is all about in a neat little package.

Horizon Zero Dawn is a game - that's the easy part. So what do you do in this game? You hunt animals with a bow and arrow. Okay, still pretty straightforward, except these animals are actually huge mecha-animals, simply called 'Machines', that rule the world.

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So why are you hunting huge mecha-animals with a bow and arrow? Because humanity has returned to a kind of prehistoric tribal society, except it's the future, hence all the giant mecha-animals. So it's like hunting in man's primal state, using spears and arrows to take down prey... but you're hunting giant mecha-animals.

That's not even to say anything of the story.

You play Aloy, a young woman who is raised as an outcast from her tribe, battling the prejudice against her as well as the fearsome Machines, on a journey to discover where she came from, why she was outcast and to learn more of the Metal World (i.e. our world) that came before.

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Let's just cut to the chase and say that there's a lot going on in Horizon Zero Dawn.

From Guerrilla Games, the developer that made the Killzone series, and written by John Gonzalez, lead writer on Fallout: New VegasHorizon Zero Dawn is a mahoosive game. Zoom out on the map and be overwhelmed by the possibility of exploration. Scan your surroundings and savour the gorgeous vistas of the new world, where nature has taken back control from humans.

Horizon Zero Dawn is 'forward compatible' with PS4 Pro and can run at 4K, so it goes without saying that this is fantastically good-looking game. The only thing that lets the game down aesthetically is the facial expressions, which are not always a 100% accurate representation of what any human face would do in any situation.

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Given that this is an action RPG, there's a lot of dialogue and Mass Effect-style chit chat, but the good thing about Horizon Zero Dawn is that if you're really not into that, you can just crack on and take down some Machines, which is as challenging as it is fun. There are loads of different Machines, with their own personalities, weaknesses and abilities.

The combat mechanics are beautifully fluid and intuitive, which is helpful because the game spends very little time telling you what to do, instead letting you figure it out for yourself. This does mean that you might spend a lot more time dying, but the innovative health bar means that if you're topped up with enough potions and medicinal plants, you can fight until you're blue in the face.

Foraging and crafting play an important role in Horizon Zero Dawn, but thankfully it doesn't get in the way of the fun. The game knows that you're here to hunt giant robot animals and makes sure you have plenty of resources at your disposal. Quick crafting means you don't have to faff around with menus - if you've got enough materials, just hold down X and you're away.

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But it's the story that should really get you excited about Horizon Zero Dawn. Set roughly 1,000 years in the future, with remnants of the Metal World scattered all around, you have so many questions that need to be answered. What happened to our world? Where did the Machines come from? Who is Aloy? What do these mysterious messages from the past mean?

The Machines are not your only enemy in this game, with rival tribes and gangs of bandits out to get you, with a relatively early assault from one tribe twisting the story away from the cliché you thought it was about to jump into. There's a lot to discover in Horizon Zero Dawn, and after delving a good six hours into the game, we barely even scratched the surface.

Horizon Zero Dawn will take up a lot of your time, and it deserves it. It's so good to play a game that has imagination, exquisite mechanics, gorgeous design and big questions. And did we mention the hunting huge mecha-animals? Really, what else do you need to know?

Horizon Zero Dawn will launch exclusively on PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro on Wednesday March 1.