A star rating of 4 out of 5.

Guerrilla Games has launched Horizon Forbidden West into the world, with this long-awaited sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn putting players back in the well-worn shoes of Ashly Burch’s Aloy. But is this PlayStation-exclusive game worth playing? In short, yes.


If you were a fan of the first Horizon Zero Dawn game, we’d wager that you’ll enjoy Horizon Forbidden West equally if not a little bit more when you pick it up on PS4 or PS5. And on the flip-side of that, if the first game didn’t grab you, this one probably won’t either. The two games are like different sides of the same coin.

The story picks up just six short months after the previous game. Despite overcoming an evil AI and saving a huge number of people in her last big adventures, Aloy knows that her planet is still in danger. She may have won the battle, but the war is far from over in this far-future world where mankind has reverted to tribal living despite being surrounded by high-tech remnants of the past.

The only thing that can stop the ‘blight’ across the land, and soothe the deadly machines that are terrorising innocent people, is if Aloy can successfully bring back the terraforming system GAIA. In true open-world gaming fashion, this main quest will send you out into the eponymous Forbidden West with a big list of tasks to tick off.


One of the major plus points for Horizon Forbidden West is that the world does look truly stunning in terms of graphics – when you climb a mountain and look out over a sun-soaked plane that is teeming with life and colour, the game is incredibly screenshot-worthy, especially if you’ve got a TV that can render these wonders in 4K.

The character models, too, are mightily impressive, with Guerrilla Games creating some of the most realistic-looking human characters that we’ve seen in a while. You could argue that some of these characters’ personalities are sketched a little thinly, but at least the hero Aloy is a multifaceted individual with plenty of opinions.

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Aloy remains a highly engaging character, with Mythic Quest’s Ashly Burch once again shining as she blends headstrong heroism with vulnerability and self-doubt in her performance. One minor gripe is that Aloy talks to herself quite a lot, often repeating things that the player already knows, but it’s hard to lament that when Burch’s performance is so strong and the writing is almost always done well.

To say too much about the overarching plot here would spoil surprises that you’re better off experiencing yourself, but suffice it to say that Aloy is pushed out of her comfort zone in Horizon Forbidden West.

Her understanding of the world and her place in it is thrown into doubt at points, which really does add to the story of the first game in meaningful, memorable ways. There are a number of new characters that blow Aloy’s world wide open, pushing both Burch and the writers to really prove their mettle – in terms of both performances and writing, these franchise-shaking developments are delivered with aplomb.

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In terms of gameplay, returning players will feel right at home with Horizon Forbidden West. Although there are new weapons to wield, new foes to face and new systems to wrap your head around, the core tenets of combat and exploration still feel largely the same. They haven’t thrown out the baby or the bathwater here.

Whether you’re scanning enemies with your Focus and taking out their weak points, or traversing through a tricky puzzle in one of the game’s many cauldrons, playing as Aloy feels just as fun as it did before. If you’re a lover of ticking off side quests and gradually levelling up, this game is right up your alley. And don’t worry if you find the combat tricky, because you can downgrade the difficulty to Easy mode or Story mode at any point.

That’s not to say that we don’t have qualms with Horizon Forbidden West. The developers have tried to make a big deal of climbing in this sequel, for example, but sometimes Aloy seems incapable of clambering up even the most easy-looking surface. In some cases, it seems like only one specific way to climb a wall has been programmed in, which can be frustrating when you know in your heart that Aloy shouldn’t be so easily constrained.

Some players also might feel like Horizon Forbidden West has got a bit of bloat to it. This is a game with six skill trees, for one thing, with players having to read an awful lot of text on screen if they want to know what they’re actually upgrading. There are also some things you can upgrade in the menus, while other upgrades require a workbench, which can be confusing at times.

Plus, there are so many systems in place to temporarily bolster your capabilities, from skill-tree valour surges to food-based stat boosts, that it’s often hard to keep track of your priorities. The overall control scheme also seems a bit clunky at points – for example, to use your Pullcaster grapple tool, you first need to aim your bow and then press triangle to switch to the grapple.

Couldn’t the Pullcaster just have its own button? Perhaps not, because Guerrilla is trying to cram so much onto the controller. You'll also find that so much of the gameplay takes place on the D-pad – placing traps, crafting potions and calling mounts all require the down button on the D-pad, which feels like an odd place to be focusing so much of your attention in a game that's this vast and beautiful.


Speaking of that controller, though, it’s worth stressing that Horizon Forbidden West makes great use of the PS5 DualSense controller features, with the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers really helping to make your overall experience more engrossing. For example, when Aloy tries to crowbar open a jammed-shut door, you’ll really feel the strain on your triggers.

The game’s musical score is also handled really well, blending those familiar orchestral melodies with an increasingly sci-fi soundscape as Aloy learns more about the true tech-based history behind the rampant scientific anomalies that dominate her world. We’d recommend playing with headphones so you can really hear every note.

With the graphics, the music, the writing, the overarching story, the core gameplay and Burch’s performance all shining bright during Horizon Forbidden West, it’s easy to overlook those qualms we mentioned earlier, especially since some of them could well be patched out in future updates.

All in all, Horizon Forbidden West feels like a strong return for Aloy, which will keep fans of her adventures happily entertained for hours on end. The game also leaves us wanting more, which is always a promising sign. Certainly, we’re keen to see what Guerrilla does next after delivering something as good as this.

Horizon Forbidden West is out now on PS4 and PS5. We reviewed on PS5.

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