Horizon Forbidden West is wonderful, but ...

Horizon Forbidden West is wonderful, but ...

Horizon Forbidden West is wonderful

You know what they say: "the beauty of things exists in the mind of the beholder". Looking at an ancient aqueduct of the classical era, an architect will be captivated by the lines of the arches, by the implementation of the structure in the territory, or by other features that shine in his sphere of competence and interest. Put the same aqueduct in front of an engineer, and he or she will likely end up appreciating its practical functionality and safety more.

Turn your back, in the gaming industry this discrepancy of interest and attention touches virtually every product , and it does so at any level. There are those who say that Toby Fox's Undertale is a timeless masterpiece, and those who cannot overcome the obstacle of graphic obsolescence; there are those who are willing to turn a blind eye to bugs and imperfections in the animations of a work and those who have built a career around the analysis of these elements; there are those who live exclusively on single player experiences and those who convey their love for the medium only through multiplayer.

The colorful nature of the video game is undoubtedly one of its greatest strengths: works such as Death Stranding, Papers Please and What Remains of Edith Finch, will be madly loved by some individuals and hated by others, and most of the time it will not be possible to identify an unquestionable truth. But what does all this have to do with Horizon Forbidden West?

Watch on YouTube. During the last State of Play, Guerrilla Games proudly presented Horizon Forbidden West through a gameplay video lasting about fifteen minutes, focusing the spotlight on a graphic and artistic sector that has nothing to envy to the latest masterpieces of the Pixar studios.

While remaining, for the moment, a cross-gen title, the preview of the sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn has finally raised the curtain on a setting that promises to be anthological. It is the San Francisco of the post-apocalyptic future, covered by patches of tropical vegetation and dominated by the ruins of the towering skyscrapers, which have now become in all respects similar to the majestic stacks that dot the islands of Thailand.

The section shown has served the same function as the approach to the "witch" house seen in the latest God of War at Santa Monica Studios: a dazzling, colorful game segment, designed to mess up the player by putting the hand of the art direction at the service of force brute of the new console. This was especially true in underwater navigation, because the possibility of admiring such an ocean floor was a mirage throughout the eighth generation, at least until the debut of The Last of Us Part 2.

By now it is evident that Guerrilla Games can do what it wants with its graphics engine, using a gazillion of polygons to characterize its mechanical creatures and then animate them through an equally convincing physics engine. In short, the new adventure of Aloy is bewitching and represents in the round the maximum expression of the cross-gen philosophy. But at the most it represents an idea of ​​the next-gen.

Horizon Forbidden West finds its soul in the extraordinary artistic characterization and in the improvement of the mechanics of the predecessor. Remember which video game emerged from the huge mass of projects presented in the orbit of the Summer Game Fest 2020 and was elevated to the "champion" of the new generation?

When the Returnal of Housemarque was still a mystery, when Halo: Infinite disappointed the fans, when the Horizon itself was nothing more than a trailer without gameplay, it was Ratchet & Clank that caught the attention of the fans showing excerpts of its innovative nature, a nature that boldly focused on new hardware to modernize the action before the aesthetics.

During the State of Play dedicated to Forbidden West we saw a combat system polished by new mechanics designed to reward melee, and a new system of contextual interaction; we have witnessed a marked improvement in the characterization of human adversaries and in the incisiveness of the air navigation system.

These are undoubtedly more than welcome interventions aimed at improving the work from many points of view, but it is nothing different from what, for example, differentiated any Assassin's Creed from the progenitor of the saga .

The skeleton of the work seems to have remained unchanged, limiting itself to improving mechanics and quality of life. On the pages of Eurogamer we have never hidden the desire to witness a ninth generation of consoles that deviate once and for all from the pursuit of photorealism and the new frontiers of resolution to embrace, instead, new mechanics strictly linked to the gaming experience. , improvements to AI, disruptions of creative thinking.

And that "but ..." that you read in the title contains precisely this thought: it is true that Forbidden West is a cross-gen title, it is true that it seems beautiful to look at, undoubtedly it will be much more satisfying to play and delicious to discover than the progenitor, but the creative evolution, in our opinion, should not remain rooted in tradition.

It can be said that Horizon has paid for it hot of its static nature since the moment of the original release of 2017, when from the moment of the debut he found himself being compared to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And the comparison ended up highlighting the difference between a title that simply wanted to be an open-world competitor and another that aimed to revolutionize the open-world experience.

Our first sensation, for how fresh and based on the same gameplay excerpts that anyone has been able to analyze, is that of being in the presence of a Horizon Forbidden West that finds its soul in the extraordinary technical realization of the art segment, according to the more classic "bigger and better" philosophy. Then maybe it won't be like that, and we will discover that Aloy's adventure hides what it takes to overturn our impressions, but for the moment the snapshot in our mind is that of a product more than ever anchored to tradition.

Horizon Forbidden West is the essence of the cross-gen philosophy: perhaps Guerrilla Games' ambition deserved the same courage reserved for Ratchet & Clank. Which should not necessarily be considered a flaw, since millions of fans have been captivated by the universe of Horizon, and considering it one of the best titles of the eighth generation can only cheer its evolution. But it is an evolution that, in our view, betrays the essence of a project rooted in the last generation and which is simply made to the maximum in its PS5 version.

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On the other hand, where a person stops to admire the level of detail of the stacks and the meticulous rendering of the protagonist's movements, another sees a climbing mechanism underlying a by now antiquated script, and this is precisely the difference between the gazes that observe the evolution of the medium that we mentioned at the beginning of the analysis.

It is evident that Horizon Forbidden West promises a real feast for the eyes, greatly improving the skeleton of its predecessor and updating in all respects the original formula, without taking unexpected deviations.

We are confident it will be an unmissable experience for anyone who has resonated with Aloy's first epic, yet the question remains: Horizon Forbidden West looks wonderful but the current creative philosophy will "only" bring the update of static formulas?

Right now the answer seems to lie solely in the hands of a brave Lombax who has chosen the riskiest path.

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