This Playstation blockbuster feels like an homage to all the best video games of the modern era.
It’s got the puzzle based action-adventure of Uncharted, the post-apocalyptic visuals of The Last Of Us, the bow and arrow gameplay of Tomb Raider and a sprawling open world like something out of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Then there’s the Mass Effect style character conversation and backstories, stealth combat straight out of Assassin’s Creed and the Batman Arkham series, huge beast boss fights the developers of Dark Souls would be proud of and an epic storyline on a Halo scale.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
If Dying Light 2 and OlliOlli World kicked off the 2022 gaming year with a bang then Horizon: Forbidden West really takes it into overdrive.
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Your hero Aloy is now the champion of the people, having defeated the evil AI antagonist in the first game and we pick up very quickly after we left off with her trying to save the planet from destruction again.
The game doesn’t hold your hand as such, chucking you straight into the thick of the action, and newcomers may struggle at first working out what’s going on in this sci-fi epic.
But basically Aloy has to go west, the ‘forbidden west’ no less, to solve the unfolding mystery and rescue the world.
Developer Guerrilla Games has built a monster of a title here, packed full of lore, history and a wealth of land to explore.
And once you wade in, it rewards you in spades with a mammoth tale around a battle for the planet featuring tough challenges, huge fighting gameplay and a truly next-gen experience.
The Forbidden West, formerly the western side of America, is an ominous, sprawling landscape packed with mini side-quests, robot monster fights at every turn and seemingly endless dwellers to meet and talk to.
It’s a huge map, and never feels empty.
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You can spend you time going from A to B, riding your trusty robot horse to the next story mission but there’s real joy in stepping back from that immense set-piece action to just take in this wonderful barren world and pick up little missions and moments as you explore.
It could be uncovering a rare gem in a difficult-to-penetrate old ruin, playing board games with townsfolk, hunting down specific computer parts for armour-makers or helping a handful of farmhands you come across to fend off some wild mechanical monsters.
A lot of time has been put into making these types of events bountiful and varied and it really enriches the world around you, making it feel alive like the best of the Red Dead games do.
When you do take to the epic storyline, trust that you’re in for one hell of a sci-fi adventure with twists and turns at every corner, all focused on Aloy and her unwavering battle for good.
The pacing is spot-on and when the big boss fights come they’re seriously tough. So when you do emerge victorious you feel like you’ve gone ten round yourself, at least emotionally.
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The gameplay is cracking, with excellent puzzle-based ‘get from here to here’ moments peppered with bow and arrow battles and hand-to-hand combat all mixing seamlessly.
The DualSense haptic feedback and the little speaker in the controller really add to the connection, giving you just enough to feel dragged into this glorious future apocalypse world.
Visually it is a stunning, proper next-gen game.
The lands look lush and detailed and the motion-capture of the myriad characters is incredibly lifelike.
There are a few minor issues around textures popping in and out of the screen and Aloy’s hair physics can go a bit awry, but overall this is real cutting edge stuff.
There’s many dozens of hours in here too, the game will last you an age, and its scope is massive, way beyond many other console titles.
Overall, Horizon 2 is a top-tier monster of a game and another exclusive jewel in the PS5 crown.
While some suggested rivals Xbox ‘stole’ 2021 at the death with an amazing Halo and Forza Horizon first-party combo in December, this is Sony hitting back and very much setting out its stool for 2022.
And if we get a couple more games this year that come even close to Forbidden West’s scale and gameplay, then we’re in for a bumper one.
This is an epic blockbuster worth every penny.
You may have played its various parts before in multiple other games but the makers have taken the best of the rest and forged their own unique hit with a pitch-perfect story and exemplary gameplay.
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