In Review

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds review and more

This year’s epic open world adventure gets its first major expansion

Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn is one of this year's most critically acclaimed adventure games to arrive on the PlayStation 4.

Guerrilla Games's new title takes players to a post-apocalyptic fantasy world where robots roam the earth like wild animals.

Gamers control young hunter Aloy as she wanders through the wasteland trying to find her place in the world.

Aloy can use her skills to tame the wild robots so they can help through her quest, or use a variety of weapons to disable them - an intricate skill tree lets players upgrade the weapons and improve her combat abilities – and each robot possesses unique abilities, often requiring the player to adapt their combat strategies.

Here's everything you need to know about the PS4 exclusive. 

The Week reviews The Frozen Wilds

Horizon Zero Dawn has seen its first downloadable expansion pack for players who are looking to jump back into the robot-monster hunting adventure. 

The Frozen Wilds adds a snowy, mountainous area to the game’s massive open world. The extension is integrated into the existing map so there are none of the intrusive loading screens or obscure gameplay transitions that often appear in other open world games. 

The base game was already a visual treat but The Frozen Wilds takes things to a new level. The snowy terrain has a more lifelike look to it compared to other mountainous regions in the game’s world. 

Equally impressive are the lighting effects. Sunsets produce a stunning orange and blue glow that emphasises the chill of the wintry environment.  

We won’t spoil the plot but the expansion is separate from the base game’s main story. This means it can be played either during the campaign – although we recommend tackling the expansion several hours into the game – or once you’ve completed the main quest line.  

The expansion is lengthy and takes at least ten to 15 hours to complete. That’s impressive considering some blockbuster titles with £50 price tags have campaigns of equal length.

Those already smitten with Horizon Zero Dawn will find a lot to love in the game’s first major expansion, which can be downloaded from the PlayStation Store for £15.99. 

The Week reviews Horizon Zero Dawn 

If a game released in 2017 doesn't feature zombies or Special Forces soldiers, you can bet it will offer a post-apocalyptic world instead. However, the post-apocalyptic world in Horizon Zero Dawn is different from many others.  

Set long after the modern world has fallen to ruin, the occupants of this dystopian planet have forgotten the age of technology and gone back to tribal rule and superstitious beliefs.  

Robotic relics of the old world, from mechanical horses to giant metal Jurassic Park-style dinobots, roam the open plains like wild beasts. 

You play as Aloy, an auburn-haired warrior shunned by her tribe. From a young age, she has been in possession of Focus, a small computer that allows her to scan the environment to find clues and examine enemies to expose their weak spots. She roams the world looking for answers - and revenge.

This PlayStation exclusive is a visual treat. The open-world RPG environment is lush and full of beautiful scenery, with changing weather and vivid colours. Also, unlike open-world games such as Fallout 4, characters don't walk through walls or glitch out of the environment. 

The fighting system is deep and well balanced, using both melee and ranged weapons, but many larger enemies can kill you with one hit, so patience and cunning serve you better in battle than simply running in swinging. 

Weaponry is mostly based around spears, bows and slingshots, but there are also adapted relics of times past, such as giant Gatling guns, which you can use for a short time when you find/pry them from a dead enemy's hands. 

While the narrative can be a little cheesy at times, Aloy is a well-rounded character who is caring, brave and sarcastic. It's easy to become emotionally attached to her and her story, which offers the game real emotional depth if you can get past some of the more cheddary chats.

With a main story that should last more than 40 hours, as well as a wealth of side missions to take on, Horizons Zero Dawn is a stunning game that every PlayStation owner should buy and every Xbox One owner should envy.

What the critics say

GameSpot gives it nine out of ten, praising the game's ability to blend "natural and technological elements" and impressive character development.

Combat is "at the forefront" of Horizon Zero Dawn's gameplay, it says, and players need to mix between Aloy's array of weaponry to take down the game's "massive robotic monsters".

The majority of the game's environment is wild, although there are "handful of miniature kingdoms" which act as a hub for side quests. While these missions add to the narrative, the quest-giver is often "more interesting than the ultimate meaning behind your objective". 

Horizon Zero Dawn offers an environment that "urges exploration" and sees players clash with robots in "memorable encounters", says Alphr.

However, Aloy's story "needs more than derivative quests" and a narrative that is slightly spoiled by "shoddy writing". Facial animations are also "poor" and the voice acting can suffer from "odd pacing issues".

Nevertheless, these issues are forgotten when standing at the top of a mountain and looking out into the distance, adds the site, with the game being a "strong contender for the most visually stunning title on the PS4".

 
Price and Release

Horizon Zero Dawn launches exclusively on the PS4 on 1 March and can be pre-ordered at Game for £44.99. 

Horizon Zero Dawn: Release date and first impressions

3 February

Horizon Zero Dawn's launch is fast approaching and critics have shared their first impressions of the PlayStation 4 exclusive.  

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The all-new title from Guerrilla Games, developers of the Killzone franchise, sees players enter a fantasy world filled with mechanical animals and rich vistas. 

At its heart is hunter Aloy and her quest to discover her place in the post-apocalyptic environment after being shunned by her tribe. Players take her through the story, upgrading her weapons and improving her combat abilities through an intricate skill tree. 

Understanding the "behaviour" of the wild animals and learning how to "tame" them are vital, says Polygon , and a major component of the game is Aloy's ability to turn them either "non-hostile" or "into something she can ride". 

Another technique also enables her to "uncover the weaknesses in her prey", adds the site.

The emphasis is "squarely placed" on storytelling as soon as the player launches the game, reports Eurogamer, adding that early impressions indicate Horizon is "surprisingly confident" and feels similar to the critically acclaimed The Witcher series. 

Aloy is an amiable character that players will warm to quickly, the site says, with a sense of humanity that adds another dimension to the "potentially dull strong female character archetype". She is voiced by Ashley Birch, known for roles in Life is Strange and Borderlands. 

Arguably the most captivating aspect of Horizon Zero Dawn is the combat, says GameSpot.

Aloy's "decidedly ancient" weapons feel surprisingly appropriate when fighting machines and using a tool to target an enemy's weak spot adds an exciting element to fighting and justifies the "strength and attack" of her firearms.

The skill tree also allows players to tailor her abilities towards "greater stealth" or "increased attack powers", it adds.

Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the most "beautiful" games to launch on the PS4, says TrustedReviews, with sculpted landscapes and bold colours mixing with the detailing on Aloy's tribal gear and adding to the "simply stunning" environment. 

As for the action, it "seems like the perfect mix between action and RPG", the website adds. Stealth gameplay plays a vital role in "hunting the creatures" that roam the world and Aloy needs to move quietly "in order for them not to flee". 

The Guardian praises the creation of a female lead who "isn't sexualised at all". Aloy manages to embody a "strength" and "complexity" while retaining a sense of "femininity", it says. 

She has arrived at a time where "everyday sexism" and "online bigotry" are being challenged, the paper adds, and Horizon Zero Dawn manages to "hit at all of this" - and even provides an LGBT reference that will catch players "surprisingly off-guard". 

Horizon Zero Dawn launches on 1 March. Pre-orders have opened at Game, which is offering the PlayStation 4 exclusive for £44.99. 

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