I picked up Horizon: Zero Dawn recently and I’m genuinely impressed by how good this game looks. The day and night cycle and environmental effects are just incredible. I’m playing it a on a PlayStation 4 Pro and it’s simply the best looking console game I’ve ever played. Uncharted 4 looks great, but it’s still a linear and heavily scripted game that never really gives you the impression of being a small part of a very big world. In Horizon: Zero Dawn the graphics really contribute to building a familiar yet alien world. I often find myself just stopping for a moment to take a look at the environment, such as a star-filled sky at night or a dense fog forming over a large forest in the distance, which I just traversed moments ago. The photo mode also provides a ton of options to tweak your screenshot.
While I’d have to play BotW to really compare the two, I’m also not sure if I agree with the Verge article. I’m someone who generally dislikes GTA-like open-world games, but in this game I find myself focusing more on side-stories than usual. What’s there in terms of quests is certainly scripted, but there’s plenty of content here to distract you on the way to your location. For example, I recently ran into a bandit camp on the way to a quest and ended up clearing that one first. And I can easily spend a half an hour hunting in a forest to craft more items. More recently, a side quest allowed me to explore an incredibly advanced ruin built by the machines, offering more insight into how they are created. Is BotW really all that different, I wonder?
On the other hand, the characters and storyline so far haven’t really made that much of an impression. Compared to say NieR: Automata, where all the characters where flawed and struggled to survive, Horizon’s main character Aloy comes across as a bit one-dimensional so far. At a time where we’re seeing more complex and flawed main characters, Aloy tends to come across as a traditional good-hearted and highly skilled heroine who shows very little in terms of human flaws. It’s not a bad thing, but after hearing her performance as Chloe in Life is Strange, I feel like Ashly Burch’s voice talent is under-utilized here. Room for improvement here, but it’s only a minor flaw when the rest of the game is this good.
It can certainly be argued that Horizon: Zero Dawn merely combines the best of what other games have done before, but when it’s this good I’m not complaining. What I think we’re seeing now is that, after the hype surrounding BotW has subsided a bit, that Horizon: Zero Dawn continues to sell after what some argued was a slow start. Much like how I picked it up on a recent discount, I expect this game to perform very well over time. Below you can view some screenshots I recently posted on Twitter.
The compression on the screenshots also don’t do the game justice, I’d have to upload the PNG ones to really show all the detail. And even then, I’m playing the game on a regular 1080P TV and not a 4K HDR-capable TV.