Mini Review: Horizon Zero Dawn

review

#1

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HZD is a game about killing hundreds of raccoons, rabbits, boar and turkeys on a never ending quest to gather enough meat to make health potions so you can take the occasional pot-shot at a metal dinosaur. I’d agree with Yahtzee and say that for the story, they started with metal dinosaurs and worked backwards. It is a decent story though, and it’s genuinely interesting to go from not knowing anything to discovering what happened to humanity 1000 years ago. Voice acting is good & Aloy is well animated. Although it’s difficult not to give full marks to a game as beautiful and interesting as HZD, there are a lot of drawbacks too, all related to the fact it’s only on console.

Additional
As for the drawbacks, I’m always coming at these console games from the point of view of someone with a good PC. For most console gamers, I expect these are part of life. But coming from games installed on SSDs played with a keyboard and mouse, the following put a huge negative mark on the game.

  • Loading times are huge (like 3-4 minutes fast-travelling to the main city).
  • The UI for using potions and traps during combat requires you to scroll through a dozen items to find the one you want using the left/right buttons. So if you want to distract something, put a trap down and use a health potion, you have to stand there for 30 seconds getting shot at. I experimented with moving hand position to scroll through the items and move at the same time, but the PS4 can’t cope with having multiple buttons pressed at once
  • A game entirely based around a bow and arrow doesn’t belong on a console. For the whole game, I was just annoyed that the combat would have been a lot more enjoyable using an accurate input method. If I hadn’t constantly felt held back by controller, I would have thought it was enjoyably challenging. As it is, I just gave up and turned the difficulty down to easy
  • The game world is huge, which is great. There’s loads of quests. However, I probably spent at least 10 hours of my play time shooting rodents for meat to make health potions, which the robots removed with a single swipe. I enjoyed it a lot more on easy.
  • I saw a few other people complain about this, but I found it almost impossible to see anything at night. You can’t control the day/night cycle, so I sometimes found myself waiting for daylight just so I could see what was going on. This may have been down to having HDR enabled on our TV.

Status: Completed in 55 hours (still playing the expansion)
Rating: :cookie: :cookie: :cookie: :cookie:

For more reviews, check out my Steam Quest.


#2

I loved this game, but that aside, I will disagree with some of your negative marks there. As you said this is from the mind of someone coming from PC and playing a console game, so it might be unique in that sense. I will mention that I consider myself a PC gamer, who is proficient with consoles and when it comes to playing shooters, I’m generally above average in both PC and Console.

That all said

Loading times are huge (like 3-4 minutes fast-travelling to the main city).

I’ll admit it’s been ~8 months since I beat HZD, however I don’t recall waiting longer than 30-45seconds to load any fast travel points. Maybe the initial loading screen took a bit longer, but certainly not 3-4 minutes. I will mention I am playing on a PS4 Pro, though I do not have a SSD installed. The PS4 Pro’s CPU is only moderately more powerful than the PS4/Slim, so I doubt it’d shave a full 3+ minutes off a load.

The UI for using potions and traps during combat requires you to scroll through a dozen items to find the one you want using the left/right buttons. So if you want to distract something, put a trap down and use a health potion, you have to stand there for 30 seconds getting shot at. I experimented with moving hand position to scroll through the items and move at the same time, but the PS4 can’t cope with having multiple buttons pressed at once

This is true to an extent. You can only have 4 items selected, however I found that I always had my quick heal equipped (up arrow), and then for taunting… well generally you don’t need that during combat, and using oils potions should generally be done before combat. If you’re using oils or potions mid combat, it’s either because the effect from earlier wore off, and you should already be highlighting the potion you would like to use, or you ran out of the quick heal / herbs and are now using a health potion, which of course may require you to scroll through, although this was rarely a problem for me. As for the system struggling with more than a couple button presses; I’m not sure what you’re doing to encounter this, but if you’re trying to whistle + heal+ scroll through items at the same time, ya… I could see that, but I don’t think that’s a PS4 issue, that’s more a problem with how the game was designed and being unable to perform multiple different actions at once.

A game entirely based around a bow and arrow doesn’t belong on a console. For the whole game, I was just annoyed that the combat would have been a lot more enjoyable using an accurate input method. If I hadn’t constantly felt held back by controller, I would have thought it was enjoyably challenging. As it is, I just gave up and turned the difficulty down to easy

Again, I think this is a personal preference and specifically your stance and even ability. Stating that a game based around bow and arrow doesn’t belong on console simply is not true. While it’s true that KBM will always be the superior and more accurate input method, I think that HZD had a solid controller layout, the aim assist worked well, and I found myself able to hit all the crit points reliably and accurately. I played through on Hard (there was still 1 more mode harder, and I wasn’t playing NG+) and accuracy or aiming with a controller wasn’t my issue.

Personally I can usually tell when a game’s controls and mechanics were genuinely made for console, or were made for PC and poorly ported to console. Games like The Division feel ‘okay’ on console, but it does better on PC, while games like Halo feel great on Console, while playing Halo Online (unofficial PC mod) it feels a bit clunky. Gears of War is a good example of one that was originally designed for console, but eventually became available on both PC and Xbox. I have tried both, and although there is nothing wrong with the PC version, I personally feel more comfortable with the controller. Destiny is another example, and I’ve played a lot of Destiny 1, and have Destiny 2 for both PS4 and PC. I find the controls for Destiny 1/2 on console are great, and I have no issues with the aiming or anything of the sort, however PC does feel better.

If the developer genuinely cares about the console version, then there is no reason why you can’t have a bow and arrow game, or any other FPS, or third person shooter. It really comes down to the controller scheme, and how much love the developer gives control schemes for both console and PC.

Anyways, I’m happy that you got to play this game. It is personally one of my favorites and I encourage others who have not tried it, to pick it up and play it. It does sound like a lot of the struggles you’re having are simply coming from someone who is still learning how to effectively play with a controller compared to a KBM, and it’s just a matter of comfort at this point. I have yet to play the DLC, but I plan on going back to that soon-ish.


#3

This is a game I enjoyed for the short time I played it. I really should dive back in.


#4

Thanks for the detailed reply NVS!

I just timed fast-travelling to Meridian and it took almost 2 minutes - so yes I’m exaggerating slightly, but it’s still huge. Most of the other fast travel points are about 30-45 seconds, but for someone who owns an SSD that’s a pretty long wait. I went and made coffee, came back and it was still loading. But I guess that’s the dynamic thing about PC gaming. If you put an SSD in a PS4, it’d be another €200.