Horizon forbidden west played europe-exclusively: better and more beautiful than part 1

GamePro was able to play Horizon Forbidden West Europe-exclusively for about 3.5 hours on the PS5, and we are thrilled: The open world game could surpass the fantastic first part in many respects.

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In Horizon Forbidden West for PS4 and PS5, Aloy embarks on an all-decisive journey through the picturesque landscapes of the "Forbidden West" of the former USA. Your task: to stop the spread of a devastating plague that threatens all life. In the process, she once again plunges into battle against aggressive machines – many of them novel and even more dangerous than the monsters the young huntress had to contend with during her adventure in Horizon Zero Dawn.

With this, not only Aloy has to face a huge challenge, but also Guerrilla itself. Because the studio is faced with the difficult task of consistently developing the fantastic first part, and even surpassing it in this way. And right now, there’s a lot to be said for succeeding in this mammoth (machine) task. After our europe-exclusive play session we are even firmly convinced of it.

What did we play?

GamePro was able to play Forbidden West for around 3.5 hours on PS5 in buttery smooth 60 FPS mode. Among other things, we completed the new arena challenge and two longer main missions at the beginning of the story. In it, Aloy makes preparations for her journey to the Forbidden West and is therefore still in the familiar mountainous terrain of the first part. So we couldn’t see anything from the Pacific coast of California yet, but we got a lot of impressions about the new mechanics and some new machines. Game Director Mathijs de Jonge was at our side as an interview partner.

More abilities, more weapons, more options in combat

Horizon Forbidden West feels very familiar in the first few minutes of play. But immediately upon our first encounter with a machine creature, the sequel shows us just how many new tricks Aloy now has up her sleeve compared to the first part. And it’s imperative that she uses them in order to stand up to the many new machines, because they also surprise us with their new abilities.

Right at the beginning we meet an Acid Bristleback. A giant machine wild boar that threatens the people living in a small settlement on the border of the Forbidden West. The bristleback rushes at us at breakneck speed and could crush us instantly with its massive metallic tusks if we didn’t dodge it with an elegant roll. And not only that: the monster sprays a green poisonous cloud that constantly drains us of life energy when we walk through it.

On the prowl – sneaking plays just as big a role as in part 1, you can of course jump right into the fight if you want to.

Of course we could now shoot at the wild beast with our hunting bow until it eventually goes down, but that would be a waste of arrows! We are more cunning and instead equip our new poison arrows. With the toxic projectile we aim directly at the poison tank on the back of the boar and trigger a chain reaction thanks to the enhanced poison effect. The tank explodes, the bristleback loses almost all of its life energy, and the poison explosion also deals area damage, which also drags nearby enemies to their doom.

A little later we can try out one of Aloy’s many new weapons, the Spike Thrower. These are powerful throwing spears that Aloy hurls at enemies from a distance. Throwing spears takes a few seconds longer than shooting an arrow, but does much more damage, can even break through armor – and especially nice: Spike Throwers explode after a short delay. You can’t imagine how satisfying it feels to purposefully drill a spear into a bristleback’s metal armor and watch its armor shatter in a flurry of effects.

These weapons, among others, are also new:

  • A kind of metallic disc, which Aloy fires at her opponents at lightning speed in the finest Captain America fashion
  • Smoke bombs, Temporarily blocking enemies’ view and buying us time
  • Floating pedal mines, into which we can lure machines. Detonation causes the beasts to stagger and their actions are interrupted

More love for the melee problem child

The dull, repetitive melee mechanics were one of the biggest criticisms in Horizon Zero Dawn, which Guerrilla now wants to eradicate in Forbidden West. On the skill tree we can now unlock several melee skills (for example, heavy attacks or shield breakers) as well as special combos, which should make the spear-slinging more varied and effective. We didn’t get to try out the brand-new Melee attacks during our session, though, so we’re excited about that.

Weapon abilities a la Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

However, in order to survive against the dangers of the Forbidden West, Aloy can’t just rely on her versatile toys, but must also make use of her new abilities. Similar to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, for example, she now applies specific abilities: She can perform up to three individual moves per weapon, which can be switched back and forth in the weapon wheel.

Aloy now has many more ways to wreak havoc on her opponents, which makes the battles a notch more complex than before

Aloy has now many more possibilities to give her opponents what for, which makes the fights again a trace more complex than before.

Switching the abilities in the weapon wheel is a bit fiddly and awkward in the heat of the moment, but at least we can give the machines a good beating with our moves. With our hunting bow, for example, we can fire three arrows at our opponents at the touch of a button, causing extreme damage. Alternatively, we can unleash a rain of arrows on our adversaries, so Aloy aims upwards and rains down a dozen projectiles on her target, and can even catch several at once.

However, skills cannot be used as often as you like. We have to pay attention to Aloy’s yellow stamina bar, which refills automatically over time.

Here you can pre-order Horizon Forbidden West

Bloody fight against slither trapping

The Slitherfang is just one of many new monsters in Horizon Forbidden West

The Slitherfang is just one of many new monsters in Horizon Forbidden West.

A little later gameplay director Mathijs de Jonge shows us the arena. A completely new side activity where we fight arena battles at different ranks (amateur, advanced, professional, etc) against all the machines we encounter during our adventure. And a side activity that demands all the fighting skills we’ve learned so far. Here we encounter a gigantic machine snake aka Slitherfang, where Forbidden West’s combat system shows its full potential.

In order not to get crushed within a few seconds, we have to skillfully combine our abilities, weapons and elemental attacks with each other.

We freeze the snake with ice arrows so that it can only move slowly, heat it up with our explosive throwing spears and burst its toxin tank with a three-round burst in slow motion so that it can no longer poison us. Little by little, with a lot of weapon switching and breakneck dodges, the slitherfang goes down by the skin of its teeth. Barely made it.

You can also see the Slitherfang (and other machines) in the trailer here:

Forbidden West’s combat system requires a lot of tactical sense, combination skills, as well as aiming and dodging skills, especially with larger, stronger machines. Sure, we can take down weaker monsters with a handful of arrows. But the amazing depth and complexity of the combat system automatically motivates us to really dig in and end up shock-trapping even the smallest machine rather than taking it out the quick (and boring) way.

  • What machines are also included? Here you can find a List of all new machines in Horizon Forbidden West.

Horizon meets Zelda Breath of the Wild

But not only the fights are (even) more varied and exciting than in Horizon Zero Dawn. Exploring the game world and getting around is also much more fun than before thanks to new Free Roaming gadgets, including:

  • Shieldwing, with which Aloy can move in a similar way to Zelda: Breath of the Wild can glide to reduce fall damage and travel further in the air (though the range is not quite as long as in BOTW)
  • Pullcaster, that allows Aloy to tear down walls to get treasures behind them or to unlock hidden paths
  • Breath mask, with which our heroine can dive indefinitely
  • Grappling hook, Aloy can pull herself up to grapple points at lightning speed to move quickly from one platform to the next, or catapult herself into the air at the touch of a button

The new Gadgets you can also see in action in the gameplay trailer for the game:

It gets especially spectacular when we chain several moves together dynamically. This then not only looks stylish, but is also helpful in battles. For example, we use the grappling hook to catapult ourselves high into the air at a grapple point and can now shoot enemies below us with the bow while slow motion is activated. Afterwards, we quickly pull out our shield wing and glide elegantly to the ground, where we give them the rest. All of this is wonderfully easy to control, and all of the moves blend dynamically, making us feel like a superhero.

Climbing has also changed Guerrilla decisively. On rock walls this time we no longer find conspicuous yellow marked ledges that show us the way. This time we climb up randomly generated cracks in rock walls, which we make visible with the focus scanner.

We can’t climb every rock face like in Zelda Breath of the Wild, for example, but we have a lot more climbing freedom compared to Horizon Zero Dawn.

The picturesque landscapes of Forbidden West are really a feast for the eyes

The picturesque landscapes of Forbidden West are really a feast for the eyes.

Beautiful world – this is what has happened visually

Horizon Zero Dawn already turned out to be a visual open world marvel and still looks fantastic even five years after its release. Forbidden West goes a step further on the PS5 and impresses with more details in the environment and on the characters. For example, we now see individual Hairs on Aloy’s face, and even NPCs look much more detailed than before.

In addition, the wide view has been significantly increased on the PS5. When we let our eyes wander and see rugged mountains and ruins in the distance, it awakens an extreme sense of adventure. We can’t wait to explore the full Open World and especially the Pacific coastline!

Guerrilla’s big promise of an unforgettable open world

We only saw a fraction of the Open World itself during our session. As Mathijs de Jonge explains afterwards, the game world of Forbidden West is a bit larger than that of its predecessor. In addition to the main story, there will also be more side quests to keep us busy for several hours of play if we want to.

More does not equal better, of course, which is why Guerrilla has taken it upon itself to eradicate another major point of criticism of Horizon Zero Dawn and fine-tune the quality of the side quests. Off-the-beaten-path tasks should now not only play with more variety, but also tell more emotional, meaningful stories.

Not only are the side quests supposed to be of a higher quality than in the first part, but also our relationships with other characters like Erend are supposed to be more emotional than before.

And if this endeavor succeeds, Horizon Forbidden West could not only outdo its great predecessor, but has the potential to be one of the best open world games ever thanks to its complex combat system and impressive new machines.

If you want to hear more of Linda’s play session, we recommend the H episode of the GameStar podcast:

Release: Horizon Forbidden West will be released on 18. February 2022 exclusively for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

Are you looking forward to the successor Horizon Forbidden West and do you have any further questions about the game?? Feel free to let us know in the comments.

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