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- Horizon Zero Dawn
Since 2004, Dutch developer Guerrilla Games has been synonymous with the Killzone series. In just nine years it would create five games in the franchise, the last of which was Killzone Shadow Fall (2013), a PS4 launch title. Although this specialization allowed it to contribute in a meaningful way to Sony's exclusive lineups, it also prevented it from fully realizing its potential.
For one reason or another it decided to change things up in 2011 following the launch of Killzone 3. Instead of comfortably sticking to what made it so popular in the first place, it began working on something new and bold. Later announced as Horizon: Zero Dawn, that game was an open world RPG.
Early demonstrations of Horizon: Zero Dawn netted relatively positive results. It was clear early on that Guerrilla Games' expertise in graphics design had carried over to its new game, which made it an instant win with fans of the studio. Made better, unlike many games of the current generation, this appearance wouldn't change for the worse as it neared release. At launch it holds a reputation as being the PS4's best looking game, which is quite a feat and you consider that it's an open-world game.
But that's not what makes Horizon: Zero Dawn such a special release for Guerrilla Games; that would be far too predictable. Its greatest accomplishment is its story, which features female hunter and archer Aloy in a Machine-overrun apocalyptic wasteland. It's setting is interesting, it storytelling is concise, and it even manages to be emotional at times. Compelling stories just aren't common in the modern world of gaming, and Guerrilla Games managed to defy all odds in this instance with something that feels attractively different than the competition.
This story plays a crucial role in Horizon: Zero Dawn's success. Though, it isn't alone. Gameplay is tight, and features a healthy variety of skills that make combating the world's intimidating yet alluring Machines a real joy. The flow between storytelling and gameplay is harmonious, making the 30 hour playthrough one that most players should have no problem remaining interested in.
In true open RPG fashion it also has a large number of quests to complete. Most of these are optional, but offer enjoyable and at times rewarding opportunities to experience more of the world and uncover its greatest secrets.
This is an incredible feat when you consider that Horizon: Zero Dawn was made by the studio that was tasked with being Sony's primary FPS developer for nearly a decade. How it accomplished this, only the development team knows.
Positive reception for the title is nearly unanimous, with it holding an 88 Metascore after more than 70 reviews. Some outlets are already calling it a game of the year contender, though it faces stiff upcoming competition.
With this, Guerrilla Games has elevated its reputation, showcasing that it's capable of being a top dog, and can create a fantastic new IP. It is no longer just "the Killzone studio", or one known only for making beautiful games. It's now a major player in what has become the most desirable but difficult to break into the genre in all of gaming. And for Sony, it's a star player for its console that wants nothing less than to be the best.
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