‘Horizon Zero Dawn’ is an incredible, must-play game that’s reason enough to buy a PlayStation 4

While playing through “Horizon Zero Dawn,” I was often stopped in my tracks by how beautiful it is.

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Just look at that sky!
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Guerrilla Games/Sony

I mean that literally. Over and over, I’d be walking, or more likely running, through the massive open world and be overwhelmed by how gorgeous it is – so much so, in fact, that I would stop walking and just marvel at the incredible virtual world on my PlayStation 4.

And that’s before we even start discussing the giant metal dinosaurs.

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Guerrilla Games

But let’s back up. “Horizon Zero Dawn” is a brand-new game for the PlayStation 4, available as of Tuesday. If you own a PlayStation 4, it’s a must-play. If you don’t, it’s a worthy reason to buy a PlayStation 4. No caveats – seriously.

Here’s why.


“Horizon Zero Dawn” is a third-person action-adventure game — think “Assassin’s Creed” or “Batman.”

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Hauntingly beautiful enough for ya?
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Guerrilla Games/Sony

The main character, who you play as, is named Aloy. She’s an outcast of a tribal culture (the Nora tribe). She’s been an outcast since birth.

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“Aloy” is pronounced “ay-loy.”
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Guerrilla Games/Sony

The story of “Horizon Zero Dawn” is Aloy’s journey. Where is she from? Who is her mother? Why was she shunned at birth, doomed to be an outcast in her culture?

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Aloy was raised by a man named Rost, another outcast. You’ll meet him early in the game.
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Guerrilla Games/Sony

And yes, before you ask, that journey also ties into the name of the game. “Horizon Zero Dawn” isn’t just word soup — you’ll understand (and maybe even like) the name by the end.

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Unlike the stories in so many games, the story in “Horizon Zero Dawn” is easy to follow and worth exploring.
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Guerrilla Games/Sony

The setting of “Horizon Zero Dawn” is part of what makes the game so amazing: It’s roughly 1,000 years in the future on Earth.

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You’ll stroll through the ruins of modern civilization. What fun!
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Guerrilla Games/Sony

So why have humans regressed to tribal culture?

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Guerrilla Games/Sony

And, more importantly, what’s the deal with these robot animals?

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Guerrilla Games

These questions are at the heart of “Horizon Zero Dawn,” and they’re a major part of what makes it such a fascinating and incredible game.

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While Aloy’s from a tribal community, there are other cultures in the world of “Horizon Zero Dawn.” Each culture has its own traditions, lore, and structure. Aloy’s culture is a matriarchy, for instance, that worships a Mother Earth-esque goddess.
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Guerrilla Games/Sony

On your journey to enlightenment, you’ll face a lot of challenges, like ferocious metal animals …

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The robots — referred to as “machines” by the game’s characters — often roam in packs.
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Guerrilla Games

… other humans …

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There are camps of bandits spread across the massive, open world of “Horizon Zero Dawn.” Clearing them of bandits gives you a safe place to save the game, trade with merchants, and explore for treasure.
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Guerrilla Games/Sony

… and the occasional metal dinosaur, naturally.

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These guys are called Tallnecks. They act like the towers in the “Assassin’s Creed” series, illuminating huge patches of the game’s map.
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Guerrilla Games

Part of what makes “Horizon Zero Dawn” so incredible is the interaction between your character and the metal animals. They’re dangerous, and Aloy is equipped with only a bow for much of the game.

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Guerrilla Games

When I first saw a Thunderjaw, for instance, I panicked. It’s hard enough taking down human enemies — how in the world do you take down a massive metal T-rex?

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Guerrilla Games

Rather than having “magical powers” or some nonsense, Aloy uses a variety of arrows to tactically dismantle robots. In this way, “Horizon Zero Dawn” smartly encourages you to stay cool in tense situations. The way out of a bad situation is rarely brute force.

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You’ll also be doing a lot of hiding in bushes. I certainly did.
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Guerrilla Games/Sony

As Aloy learns more about the world and herself, she picks up new skills, like overriding robot animals and, say, using one as a horse.

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Guerrilla Games/Sony

Aloy can ride only a handful of the animals, and that can be extremely useful for traveling long distances. There’s a “fast travel” system in the game, but it’s limited intentionally to encourage exploration.

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Guerrilla Games/Sony

Exploring the world of “Horizon Zero Dawn” is the absolute best part of the game. It’s gorgeous, varied, and rich with environmental storytelling. There are sweeping desert canyons …

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Guerrilla Games/Sony

… snowy mountain peaks …

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Guerrilla Games/Sony

… lush forests …

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Guerrilla Games/Sony

… and abandoned cities.

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This image was scaled down from 4K resolution, and you’re likely not seeing it on a 4K screen, so please ignore the text in the image.
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Guerrilla Games

Much of the 50-plus hours I spent in the world of “Horizon Zero Dawn” was just me walking around between objectives. That’s because there’s <em>so much</em> to do. I could go hunting for real animals, which I could turn into stuff like larger arrow quivers.

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With views like this, do you blame me?
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Guerrilla Games/Sony

Or I could go exploring one of the game’s hidden “bunkers,” which act like tombs in a “Tomb Raider” game. They’re massive puzzles with big payoffs in both story and gameplay. (Excuse my ambiguity as I try not to spoil major parts of “Horizon Zero Dawn.”)

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“Horizon Zero Dawn” is a game full of delightful secrets waiting to be found.
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Guerrilla Games/Sony

“Horizon Zero Dawn” takes elements of gaming’s greatest hits — “Mass Effect,” “Assassin’s Creed,” “Tomb Raider,” “Batman,” “Far Cry,” and more — and melds them into something entirely fresh and exciting.

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Guerrilla Games/Sony

It’s without any caveat that I’d suggest “Horizon Zero Dawn” to anyone who likes great video games. It’s an incredibly impressive first entry — in what is sure to become a major franchise — exclusive to Sony’s PlayStation consoles. Don’t miss it!