EGX 2016 – Hands On with Horizon: Zero Dawn

Day 1 of the 2016 Eurogamer Expo and I’m giddy with excitement. It’s 10:02am and I’m first in line at the PlayStation booth to be among the first gamers in the UK to get their grubby little mitts on this brand new and exciting new IP from Guerilla Games. It took a dead sprint to get here too. By 10:10am the queue is already around the corner at the 2 hour mark! God bless the Super Pass and running shoes!

“Up close and played live this title is gorgeous.”

Out come the booth staff who can see we are all ready to jump the fence if we have to wait much longer, but thankfully they usher us in to our seats and we are a mere 15 minutes away from playing the game for ourselves. That 15 minutes is due to a presentation from the PR guys and a video playthrough to show off the games mechanics. Here is where we get a good look at not only the graceful movement of protagonist Aloy, but the wealth of systems Guerilla Games has been working on to flow seamlessly in to the world. Combat, Crafting and Hacking are shown off as we are taken through the sequence shown earlier in the year at E3. Up close and played live this title is gorgeous. Both in it’s technical mastery and in the world the developers have created. The blending of ancient tribal culture and the future-tech robot wildlife, Horizon: Zero Dawn has had us captivated since it’s initial reveal 15 months ago.

But now it’s our turn to finally take hold of the controller and see for ourselves how it all “feels”. Can it really be as good as it looks?

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This is where I felt a little let down. Don’t panic though, the controls and great, Aloy’s movement feels tight and the world is as beautiful as all those videos we’ve seen. What let me down was the fact that the actual playable demo was quite limited. You’re given a very small area to run around in and a few weapons to play with, but no objectives or anything to really do. It felt like just letting you get a feel for the controls and systems rather than a mission or two to complete. Thankfully though those 3 core gameplay tennants of Combat, Crafting and Hacking all work together and feel great.

“The blending of ancient tribal culture and the future-tech robot wildlife, Horizon: Zero Dawn has had us captivated…”

There are plants to harvest for health packs, grazing robots to hunt, allowing for their remains to be scavenged for gadgetry crafting and finally the hacking of larger robo-beasts that can be trapped and reprogrammed to become your mount. The latter being essential for fast traversal across this exciting new world.

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We were given 20 minutes of playtime which gave us ample chance to experiment and mess about. This allowed me to appreciate the AI behaviour of the different species of wildlife. Some graze, some travel in herds, all can be hunted, but are also guarded by the Watchers. The Watchers are fast, predatory machines that hold watch over the herds. Once these are taken out, and if the herds haven’t scattered, then you are free to hunt them for resources.

I could have easily spent a few more hours getting lost in the details of this ancient yet futuristic wilderness, watching the machine eco-systems go about their business as a tribal Attenborough who happens to be a crack-shot with a bow.

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Alas my time with Horizon: Zero Dawn came to a close but the glimpse of gameplay I saw left me wanting a hell of a lot more to see what other species and landscapes this world has in store for us. All signs point to a fantastic new IP and with the release now slated for March 2017,  the wait is going to be extruciating!

You can follow Progress on the game on Twitter @Guerilla.
For more on Horizon: Zero Dawn check out their website here

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