Horizon Forbidden West
Time To Save The World, Again
When Horizon Zero Dawn was released in 2017, it was a risky endeavor by Guerrilla Games, backed by Sony, from a team known for a completely different genre. Before HZD, Guerrilla Games was known for the Killzone series, an ambitious FPS that excelled in narration as much as its gameplay. The series spanned across several generations to much acclaim and it was enough for the team to test new waters. Upon release, Zero Dawn received critical acclaim and started a new IP for Sony in Horizon. After five years, Aloy's journey finally continues with Horizon Forbidden West.
To say that Forbidden West is an even greater ambition than Zero Dawn is an understatement. All one has to do is look at the size of the game, totaling at around a whopping 90 GB on the PS4 alone. The size for this game is so massive that the PS4 version comes with two Bluray discs. One disc is the "Data Disc" that is used to install on the PS4 while the other is the "Play Disc" needed to start the game. Players who wish to take advantage of the free PS5 upgrade with the physical PS4 version will need to be mindful of a few things.
Double The Discs, Double The Fun?
The upgrade process was a similar experience to the way the Mass Effect Legendary Edition handled its installation. Inserting the PS4 disc inside the PS5 will allow players access to their free upgrade. As with almost every game, the PS5 data is downloaded rather than retrieved from the disc. This renders the Data Disc as nothing more than a security check. Once the PS5 data downloads, there is no further need for the disc.
It must be said that downloading over 80 gigs of data can and will take a while to finish, so be sure to set aside ample time to do so. Using an ethernet cable is highly encouraged. Once it's upgraded, players must swap discs to the Play Disc in order to play the PS5 version. The "Data Disc" won't be anything else but a glorified drink coaster (We at 1UP Infinite do not condone this). After it's all said and done, players can finally experience a candidate for one of the best Action RPG games of the year.
Yes, Horizon Forbidden West Can Be Enjoyed Without Playing The Original
Is it recommended to do so, however? Personally, it depends on how much the player wishes to become invested in its characters. As Forbidden West is a direct sequel to Zero Dawn, many of its references will be lost on the player. The game does a great job of attempting to catch the player up to speed. This is done with a recap intro video right before the player gets to the title screen. To fit hours of content into a three minute or so introduction is by all means not an easy feat. It is enough to get the player prepared for what's to come.
As expected from a PlayStation Studios title, Horizon Forbidden West sets the gold standard for its customizable options and accessibility settings. Guerilla Games has done a fine job in offering a balance between a challenge and convenience. There are two modes of play, an exploration mode with very limited HUD guidance similar to the modern Tomb Raider titles. There's also a more traditional mode that gives the player all the relevant information they need. Forbidden West allows players to explore the vast world while also offering anti-frustration methods should they require it.
Horizon Forbidden West Is Massive
Horizon Forbidden West's visuals are possibly some of the most impressive that's seen on a next-gen console. The foilage is impressive as is the lighting, shading, and reflections. The water reflections for example directly cast themselves against the environment. If the surrounding area is red with direct sunlight, the water will appear amber to reflect that. If the player moves the camera around, the water will adjust accordingly.
The "urban jungle landscape" that was built upon from the first game is expanded upon as well, giving players new places to climb and interact. This is done with Aloy's new grappling hook that grants her access to out of reach places. Combat is similar to Zero Dawn including tagging the machines, identifying their patrol path, and stealthily killing them. Aloy can get creative by placing traps directly in their patrol path and letting nature run its course. When Aloy needs to get her hands dirty, combat is just as well done.
Forbidden West's Bosses Are Done Right
Following the first hour of gameplay, Aloy will eventually reach her first boss, a giant robotic snake. The fight has two phases, the first serving as a "tutorial" of sorts. Up until this point, the player has been getting by with parkour, stealth combat, basic combat, and the usage of scanning the environment. Everything the player has learned up to this point comes together, with Aloy even hinting at places the player should target. The snake has a poison gland that can be destroyed to disable one of its attacks. Likewise, there are glowing canisters that can also be picked off as a weak spot.
While simply attacking the snake will do almost no damage, attacking these weak spots will cause the battle to flow smoother. It's no different than fighting a large beast in Monster Hunter. Eventually, the second phase will free the snake, meaning the player now has to deal with a mobile target. If only there was a weapon to slow its movements and make it vulnerable from the sheer cold of ice. That's the beauty of Forbidden West. It doesn't hold your hand but it will gently nudge the player in the right direction.
To Skip Or Not To Skip?
After the boss fight, I was well convinced that Forbidden West was an amazing game. The visuals are great even under performance mode, which feels like day and night compared to the quality mode. The graphics, voice work, and character models all look just as amazing. Aiming with ranged weapons and getting out of harm's way can be cumbersome but it's something that can be improved with muscle memory.
This begs the question, should players skip Zero Dawn and move straight to Horizon Forbidden West? That question determines how invested players will become in Aloy's story. The improvements over the original are far too many to consider going back, but from a story perspective, it's something that should be played at some point. In the end, this game is shaping up to be a potential GOTY for 2022. It shouldn't be missed out on and neither should the original.
Horizon Forbidden West is out on PS4 and PS5.