Horizon: Forbidden West is the first must-play game of 2022
The sequel to the hit 2017 game finally arrives this week.
Five years ago, Horizon: Zero Dawn arrived without too much fanfare and subsequently took everyone by surprise with its precision gameplay and gripping story and setting.
Half a decade on, fans have been anticipating the time when we get to play as Aloy again, in this post-apocalyptic world that was ruined by a renegade A.I. and is now filled with robotic dinosaurs (yes, it is exactly as awesome as all of that sounds).
Finally, that time has arrived, and we're pleased to confirm that the gameplay is even more precise and entertaining than last time, and the story manages to expand and heighten the stakes for the player in a way that only the best of sequels can hope to achieve.
Horizon: Forbidden West picks up pretty much immediately after the events of the first game, with Aloy determined to head out to a section of the country that everyone has been warned to avoid. But with a plague spreading across the land and the A.I. issues getting worse, the only way to find answers is to trek into the dangerous beyond.
As is expected for a cutting-edge game making the most of five years of technological benefits, Forbidden West is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The dynamic changes in settings - from snow-covered mountains to lush jungle terrains to ruined futuristic strongholds - ensure that you're never dulled by your surroundings.
The gameplay is also as impressive as ever: third-person open-world action-adventures can sometimes feel like the entry-level genre, but when elevated, they can also be the very best examples of gaming around (see also: GTAV, The Last of Us Part II, Batman: Arkham City). The action forces you to properly, patiently approach each new encounter with a stealthy approach, because wading into every battle all guns blazing isn't going to get you very far.
The robotic creatures each require a unique way to properly dispatch and/or control them, and sometimes it might just be better to stay low and avoid them completely, if you can. There are very few moments in modern gaming as heart-stoppingly tense as hiding in the tall grass while a huge steel dinosaur stands inches away, trying to sniff you out.
As more and more of the overall story reveals itself to you, more and more of the world opens up as well, while still warning you certain missions and certain areas are best delayed until you've equipped yourself with the appropriate weapon or skill to assist in your next task or target.
Every aspect of the game, from the visuals to the gorgeous score, the unique sound design and intelligent user-interface, has been perfected to ensure that the game is as approachable and playable for fans of Zero Dawn as it is for newbies to the series. 2022's first must-play game has well and truly arrived.
Horizon: Forbidden West is available on PS5 and PS4 from Friday, 18 February.
Clips via PlayStation