February 28 is looming large, so let's crack open Horizon Zero Dawn and see what Guerrilla's new IP has to offer!
It's a third-person action-adventure title from Guerrilla Games and the studio's first new IP since the launch of Killzone in 2004.
Swapping the confines of a corridor shooter for a vast open world, Horizon Zero Dawn represents a marked change of pace for the dev team, though all involved - Sony included - are confident that Horizon has a bright future under the PlayStation umbrella. Development began in 2011, at which point John Gonzalez (Fallout: New Vegas) was drafted in to write the game's story.
Set long after humanity was knocked off the top of the food chain, Horizon Zero Dawn takes place in a world overrun by giant - and ruddy dangerous! - machines. Their existence plays a crucial part in the game's story, it seems, though Guerrilla has so far remained tight-lipped about any specifics.
As mentioned before, it's a story that will be told through the eyes of Aloy. The Wire actor Lance Reddick is one of the many voice actors featured throughout the game.
If it's an elevator pitch you're after, Horizon blends elements of Far Cry, The Witcher 3, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and any other open-world RPG that incorporates the genres recurring tropes: dialogue tress, side quests, skill trees...you name it.
What truly sets Horizon apart, though, is its post-post-apocalyptic world and "incredibly rich" story, which brings us too...
Voiced by Ashly Burch with Dutch actress Hannah Hoekstra lending her likeness to the role, Aloy is the fierce, flame-haired protagonist and anchor of Horizon Zero Dawn. Loosely inspired by Ygritte from Game of Thrones, Lead Narrative Designer John Gonzales is confident Aloy will resonate with players near and far.
"We focused really hard on creating the best possible character we could. We never thought that it would be a selling point that we’re having a female protagonist, we thought it would be more a selling point that you’re being the best possible person and character to play as in this world. People who have played the game so far seem to really enjoy being Aloy."
The sprawling open world of Horizon has attracted praise across the board.
In building the environments, Guerrilla also tapped into tech that opens up the ability to dynamically create and render full environments — wildlife, effects, sounds, and various gameplay elements included.
"Jaap van Muijden from Guerrilla Games will describe the GPU based procedural placement system that dynamically creates the world of ‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’ around the player. Not limited to just rocks and trees, the procedural system assembles fully-fledged environments while the player walks through them, complete with sounds, effects, wildlife and game-play elements. He will show the entire pipeline, from the graph editor where artists can define the procedural placement rules to the GPU algorithms that create a dense world around the player on the fly. He will demonstrate the power of this procedural approach by showing how painting in a tree line and redirecting roads can be just as easy as moving mountains and changing a desert into a tropical swamp.
Attendees will be introduced to our new GPU-based run-time procedural technology. Learn how the team at Guerrilla Games used compute shaders to dynamically populate the world around the player. Find out how artists define and edit their diverse environments and how this procedural workflow allows global and independent content iterations for both artists and designers."
Once scheduled for release in 2016, Horizon Zero Dawn was ultimately pushed into the following year "because it's such a big game."
"It’s all polish. We have this open world. It’s very big. We have a lot of quests; we have a lot of different regions as well. We have a lot of different Machines. Just playtesting this, it’s very, very time-consuming. We have so many components. We just want to raise the quality on the different areas."
From the Thunderjaw to the Snapmaw, Horizon Zero Dawn is simply teeming with all kinds of fascinating, robotic creatures. You'll be able to find a handful of gameplay videos through here.
Horizon has the potential to become PlayStation's next great franchise, according to SIE UK Product Manager Jon Edwards.
"Nothing has been announced to date but I think there’s a lot of potential for this to be an exciting new franchise for us – we’ll just have to wait and see.
"We’re really optimistic about how this title’s likely to perform. It’s got a great studio behind it and what we’ve revealed so far has been really well received. It was also on many ‘Most Anticipated Games of 2017’ lists which added to our confidence."
The Decima game engine will act as the digital life blood for Horizon. It's a remodelled version of the same engine seen in Killzone: Shadow Fall which, incidentally, will also be used in the development of Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding.
Learn more about Horizon's human adversaries through the game's official story trailer.
The description reads: “To learn about a new threat to her tribe, Aloy will embark on a dangerous journey that will reveal a dark plot that stands to change her world forever."
It's the "single most ambitious" project in the studio's history, and you can go behind the scenes on Guerrilla's new IP right here.
Guerrilla Managing Director Hermen Hulst stated:
"Horizon is clearly the single most ambitious project that Guerrilla Games has ever taken on. Our background tends to be that of the first-person shooter development, so the intense combat is in our DNA. So, logically, when we start making this open-world action-RPG game, it’s filled with what we’re good at, and that is intense combat."
Horizon Zero Dawn will not only feature a full-blown Photo Mode, but also a custom HUD. Find out details on both within.
Much like The Witcher 3 before it, Guerrilla is committed to delivering an engrossing single-player experience.
Here's why the decision to shoehorn multiplayer into Horizon Zero Dawn wouldn't have worked.
"There are questions as to why a multiplayer will not do. The reality is that we are putting together a new IP. We are making a new franchise for the first time in 10 years and what we really want to do is improve the experience for the player. When you get to face these machines as Aloy, with this great character, who is the real star of the story and everything that happens, have this connection with her, what happens when you add the elements of multiplayer? You play as a supporting character? How does that work?"
Horizon Zero Dawn will look beautiful on PS4, make no mistake about it, but it “will look even better on PS4 Pro — particularly if you own an HDR-compatible 4K TV.”
In detailing how PS4 Pro enhances the experience, Guerrilla notes that with a standard 1080p TV:
"For starters, for players who still possess standard 1080p HDTVs, we’re able to offer far better image quality. We’ve got a number of techniques at our disposal. The most logical one is supersampling. This is a very high-quality anti-aliasing technique, which basically means we internally render at a higher resolution (close to 4K) before shrinking it down to the final 1080p resolution. As our internal calculations are done at a resolution much higher than 1080p, more detail survives before we shrink it down to 1080p, resulting in smoother edges — virtually no jaggies — and a more stable image."
For those who go the full nine yards and play Horizon on a PS4 Pro, with a 4K TV, Guerrilla's advice is as follows:
"Horizon Zero Dawn on PS4 Pro will fully support users with 4K TVs, outputting at a much higher resolution. We’re rendering 2160p checkerboard, which is a special technique that looks incredible on a 4K TV. You’re going to notice a ton of subtle details, from stitching on Aloy’s outfit, individual leaves and branches swaying in the wind, kilometers away in the distance, and more detail in all the machines and NPCs in the world."
Short and sweet, Horizon won't feature microtransactions of any kind. Guerrilla confirmed as much via Twitter, noting: "There will be no micro-transactions in #HorizonZeroDawn."
Joris de Man, The Flight, and Niels van der Leest pitched in to compose the official soundtrack for Horizon Zero Dawn. You can have a listen to the rousing soundtrack right here.
Here's a rundown of what Aloy can explore:
"Clifftops and outcrops can be used to spot prey, while the long grasses provide cover when she moves in to stalk the machines. Traps can be set amongst narrow mountain passes, then machines can be lured into them; it’s a strategy that has countless iterations in each part of the map, and something that promises great depth of gameplay when more of the tools, traps and areas are revealed."
With a February 28 launch date fast approaching, Martin Patiño went hands on with the retail build of Horizon Zero Dawn, and walked away overly impressed.
"Getting to play the first three chapters of Horizon Zero Dawn was definitely enough to get me hooked and excited to play the rest of it. The opening experience was enough for me to get invested into not only Aloy’s story but the story of the game’s world as well. And, this can’t be stressed enough, not only has Guerrilla crafted a fantastic looking game, but the mixture of familiar open-world gameplay elements as well as the game’s new and unique world and story make it feel both exciting and refreshing."
Horizon has a day one patch because of course it does. Further details will be shared once the game goes live on February 28, but you can expect the update to weigh in at around 250MB in size.
Up until now, Guerrilla has so far been cagey about the possibility of add-on DLC for Horizon. The latest update from Game Director Mathijs de Jonge revealed that the team is firmly focused on release, so stay tuned for more.
Earth is ours no more and in the official TV commercial for Horizon, you'll get a taste of the adventure that awaits.
Included in press kits was a heartfelt message from Guerrilla Games Managing Director Hermen Hulst, who wrote:
"It is my distinct pleasure to present you with Guerrilla’s new title, Horizon Zero Dawn. The product of five years of hard work, Horizon Zero Dawn is easily the most ambitious project our studio has ever taken on, and its development process has been incredibly exciting and demanding for us.
When development on Horizon Zero Dawn began, we sought to build on the core strengths of our studio and create something that would allow us to showcase the tremendous artistic and technical talents available at Guerrilla. At the same time, we wanted to have the creative freedom to imagine something fresh and extraordinary.
"The result is Horizon Zero Dawn – a game set in the natural splendour of a distant post-post-apocalyptic future, in which mankind is no longer the dominant species and mysterious machines roam the land. It is a game of exploration, not just of a dangerous new world and its inhabitants, but also of its history and, ultimately, the identity of its lead character.
"On behalf of the entire team at Guerrilla, I wish you well on the exciting journey ahead of you. I hope you’ll enjoy playing Horizon Zero Dawn as much as we enjoyed creating it for you."
It's official: Horizon Zero Dawn has been rated T for Teen. You can find the full description from the ESRB, below:
"This is an action/role-playing game in which players assume the role of a hunter (Aloy) surviving through a post-apocalyptic world. Players guide Aloy as she learns to hunt robotic creatures and animals in the wild. Aloy uses arrows, spears, and explosive traps to injure and kill machines, boar, and occasional human enemies. Animals and humans emit small puffs of red blood when struck; one sequence depicts an abandoned camp with large blood stains on rocks and trees.
The game contains a brief reference to sexual material (e.g., “Eighteen months hard labor in exchange for thirty years lounging around Elysium watching porn?”).
During the course of the game, characters sometimes reference controlled substances: “I went to the beer fount too many times to count”; “I’m just a brewer”; “I know I’m a useless drunk”; “A tobacco cigarette?”; “Speaking of which, mind if I smoke?” The words “a*s,” “bastard,” and “b*tch” appear in dialogue.|
As previously announced, the Horizon Zero Dawn Collector’s Edition ($119.99) includes a specially-designed steel book case that houses the game itself as well as a few vouchers for a few in-game items including outfits, weapons, and resource packs. It also comes with a 48-page Horizon Zero Dawn art book called “The Art of Horizon Zero Dawn,” which was crafted by Dark Horse Comics.
Paulmichael Contreras is handling the Horizon review for PSLS, and we'll add his final verdict in the moment its live.
Expect the review embargo to lift on Monday, February 20 at 12am PT/3am ET.