Sony’s 2022 is finally in full swing . After having had a little taste of the PlayStation news with the release of Uncharted: Collection – Legacy of Thieves ( here our review ), we are finally in front of the first unreleased Sony exclusive. We are talking about Horizon Forbidden West , the new Guerrilla title coming on February 18 that tells us a completely new chapter of the adventures of young Aloy. We got to play the preview title on PlayStation 5 and are ready to give you our impressions in the Horizon Forbidden West review
Plot: Right Where We Left
Horizon Forbidden West resumes the plot a few months after the final events of the first chapter and the battle for the salvation of the city-state of Meridiana. The world has overcome the threat posed by AI Hades, yet Aloy has no time to enjoy the honors of battle. The planet’s terraforming system is in fact compromised and this has caused the appearance of a new plague that once again threatens the survival of life on Earth. The only hope is therefore to recover a copy of Gaia, the artificial intelligence at the basis of the Zero Dawn project that has allowed the rebirth of the current biosphere.
With the original Gaia now out of action, Aloy’s mission is to once again explore the remains of the past to find a way to put the situation back on track, thus avoiding the environmental disaster that would lead to the inevitable destruction of the already precarious life. on earth.
For those who don’t know what we’re talking about, we remind you that the series (at this point it is) Horizon is set in a future where the Earth has been repopulated by a new generation of humans millennia after a catastrophe that caused extinction. of the civilization we know. Progress and machines have escaped from the control of their creators and humanity has regressed to a tribal state, while machines have begun to populate the Earth and become a real fauna. Most of them are aggressive and lethal and only Aloy (more or less) is able to subdue them and take control of them through the Override technique, thanks to which he can use them both as mounts and as real combat vehicles.
As it is clear from this incipit – we will not go further to avoid every possible spoiler, even the smallest -, the plot of Forbidden West is strongly linked to that of the first chapter . Although it is not recommended to approach the series from here, the title tries to summarize the salient facts of Horizon Zero Dawn ( here our review ) in the first few minutes , giving the player a basic smattering that will allow to understand the fundamental points of the previous chapter and to tackle the plot of Forbidden West with greater knowledge of the facts.
It is an appreciable choice and – in some way – due, since the great focus placed by the title of Guerrilla on the plot requires that the player be aware of as many details as possible about the game world and the stories of the protagonists, in a way to be able to appreciate its evolution and all its facets.
The only aspect that could be unconvincing is the slightly slow start of the plot; in the initial stages it seems that the story is too anchored to the events of the first title, but after a few hours of play we will get to the heart of the many unpublished aspects of the plot, full of twists and mysteries capable of overturning everything we knew about universe of Horizon .
The initial part will see Aloy – after an introductory sequence that serves as a tutorial – resume her journey right from the city of Meridiana, but this time the destination is no longer the lands that are familiar to her, but the mysterious Forbidden West inhabited by even more machines. lethal and not always friendly populations, such as the very dangerous Tenakth warriors and more.
Development And Progression
Like the previous chapter, also in Forbidden West a progression system based on the use of skill points – acquired both by leveling up and completing secondary missions – returns, which can be spent in different skill branches available to Aloy, 6 to choose from.
The enhancement of the same allows you to acquire new techniques of combat, survival, hacking of machines and management of resources intended for crafting. Crafting that becomes essential to craft ammunition and gradually upgrade the stats of each weapon or outfit. The ability to further expand the offensive / defensive capabilities of objects by applying the right coils also returns.
As for the progression of the game, Horizon Forbidden West offers the player a main storyline that can be carried on at the pace you want , since the huge open world map of the Forbidden West offers many secondary activities to take. part.
These range from simple side quests – which often give rise to real strands of additional storylines – to hunting missions, destroying rebel and brigand bases, exploring the ruins of the previous civilization, fighting in arenas and a real board game called Mechanical Batosta ( complete with increasingly difficult challenges to face and pieces to collect to upgrade our arsenal of tokens ).
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The list of secondary activities is endless and generally they are very accurate and well-written missions, which allow you to deepen in an interesting way the events of the communities with which Aloy will come into contact, thus going to enrich more and more the depth of the world building put in place by Guerrilla; surely this aspect is one of those to be improved more than in the first chapter .
It is practically impossible to finish the main plot completely ignoring the secondary missions, both because of the interesting rewards that are often bestowed – from new equipment to precious skill points -, and for the simple curiosity to find out something more about the secrets of the various secondary characters , their reasons and so on.
It is therefore always very pleasant to return to the Forbidden West – even at the end of the approximately 30 hours of campaign – to embark on a new adventure left pending, explore a new area of the map or venture into the dungeons of the Cauldrons, real havens of lethal machines. which reward the player with new override abilities.
Gameplay: Many Little Improvements
Aloy’s new adventure does not differ much from the previous pad in hand: the combat system has remained almost unchanged , with the necessary rebalancing of the weapons and armor available to the young Nora ( Aloy’s tribe ). Although the basics are unchanged – therefore with the alternation between hand-to-hand combat with the spear and the one at a distance with a myriad of different weapons – what changes is Aloy’s relationship with the world.
As in any good self-respecting second chapter, our protagonist has finally learned to swim and dive deep, she has discovered the thrill of real climbing , of gliding descents with the new Alascudo and is finally equipped with a grappling hook , useful both to facilitate vertical climbing and to move objects and open passages in the various environmental puzzles.
In short, it is clear that Forbidden West places us in front of a new set of skills that enrich both the exploration and combat phases ; the grappling hook – for example – can be used to quickly reposition itself during some encounters, while Aloy’s diving ability opens up new possibilities for exploration, including a real underwater level.
Climbing is not free – as happens for example in Breath of the Wild -, but it is still sufficiently present in almost all scenarios, thus giving the player the possibility to vary his approach to exploration and combat. Detecting in which areas it is possible to climb is very simple; some are immediately clear due to the yellow coloring of different elements and protrusions, while others can be identified immediately through a rapid activation of the Focus (by pressing R3), the holographic system that has assisted Aloy since his childhood.
Greater freedom of movement and exploration translates into more choices at all stages of the game . In fact, there remains the possibility of choosing how to approach each fight, thanks to the possibility of acting stealthily or throwing yourself headlong into the fray. Aloy’s new abilities integrate well into the original mix of the series, providing the player with more options to implement his tactics, thus also exploiting the verticality factor more effectively.
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Overall, the formula is still the classic of the first title, but now it is expanded and not distorted . Particularly appreciable the destructibility during the fighting of the roofs, whether they are simple barricades or real structures.
Technique: A Stunning Open World
We tried Horizon Forbidden West on PlayStation 5 , the platform that best expresses the work done by Guerrilla for the new title. We remind you that the game is also available on PS4 and that it is possible to update this version to the next gen one for free, which made the existence of a PS5 edition on the store and in physical version a bit useless, but this is another speech.
On PlayStation 5 we find two graphics options that allow you to alternate 4K at 30 fps with an upscaled 4K to 60 fps – practically fixed after the day one patch published a few days ago. It goes without saying that the second option is the one to take into consideration, even in the face of a very limited graphic downgrade, since the additional fluidity translates directly into a better gaming and combat experience.
Net of a few minor smudges – in particular Aloy’s hair, always too lively and in motion even when it shouldn’t, as if it had a life of its own -, Horizon Forbidden West is a masterful title in terms of the visual quality of environments and characters. . Motion capture allowed Guerrilla to convincingly animate incredibly detailed models that feature very realistic faces and top-notch expressiveness that lends credibility to each cut scene (and this time there are many more).
The cars have also made a clear leap forward compared to the 2017 title, becoming more and more detailed and decidedly more accurate than ever. Overall, Horizon Forbidden West provides an excellent view in all conditions, capable of giving truly breathtaking landscape views – especially in the area of what was once San Francisco – that will remain impressed.
The game manages to amaze even net of the absence of ray tracing, a choice that in any case does not penalize the technical sector of Forbidden West in any way. Aloy’s new ability to dive has also led Guerrilla to improve the wet effect on the skin and clothes of the protagonists. You also feel the advantages of having a fast SSD like that of the PS5 , thanks to which the fast travel is done in just over 1 second and all loads do not exceed 2.
The implementation of DualSense is also excellent , which exploits the haptic vibration in a masterly way to reproduce every single effect of Aloy’s steps, of the ridden machines, the tension of the strings and the impact of all the shots. Good 3D audio, even if in this case we do not reach the excellence of other titles – such as Returnal – and the directionality of the sounds fails to create that enveloping effect that we would have expected. In any case, the sound sector is supported by a high-level soundtrack that always accompanies us with the right tones and by a complete Italian dubbing really well done .
The Highlights Of Horizon Forbidden West review
With Horizon Forbidden West, Guerrilla has chosen to play the safe game of the sequel that improves the original formula without upsetting it, creating an adventure that convinces from every point of view . The title does not risk with regard to game play, going to refine the good things that had been proposed in Zero Dawn and enriching it with new possibilities that allow you to greatly expand the verticality of Aloy’s adventure.
This does not mean that Forbidden West is an unambitious title; far from it. The biggest evolution, in fact, we find it in a plot that opens boundless doors for the series , going to lay the foundations for a future of the saga still to be discovered . In doing so, Forbidden West leaves nothing pending regarding the events covered by the main story, but limits itself to laying the foundations for what will be the next Horizon only in the final stages, thus presenting us with a coherent and complete story from the beginning. in the end.
Also appreciated the gradual growth of Aloy and all the secondary characters; between familiar faces and new entries, the cast of Forbidden West introduces us to new figures who manage to stand out for their characterization, with very few smudges related to the less central supporting actors in the evolution of the events , who would certainly have deserved more space also inside of some secondary mission.
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The technical sector is also excellent – with only a few minimal imperfections that do not allow you to touch perfection – and the amount of secondary content that exponentially multiplies the hours of play. As usual, the secondary missions open entire additional threads of the plot that can be resumed at any time, even at the end of the campaign for about thirty hours.
The new map is also particularly inspired, which offers a very rich variety of biomes that embrace every imaginable environmental condition: from forests to deserts, passing through beaches, clearings, snow-capped peaks, sea beds, city outposts or cold metal structures controlled by machines: the ‘Ovest Proibito is more varied and luxuriant than ever, even without the constant threat to its survival.
Horizon Forbidden West is the long-awaited return we have been waiting for and this time there is no Breath of the Wild on duty able to steal the show: this is the flagship title of the beginning of 2022 .