Press Start: ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’ proves graphics matter
“Horizon Zero Dawn,” which launched Tuesday, is probably the best-looking game I've ever played.
Characters' faces—especially the eyes—teem with life. In close-up shots, you can make out people's pores and blemishes.
Hair moves and waves naturally. The designers topped main character Aloy's mane with loose hair strands—frizz—to make her fiery mop look realistic.
The metal enemies you fight are meticulously designed. Sparks fly and fire jets from “wounds” as you battle them.
You get the picture (somewhat literally).
I'm not one to usually care too much about a game's graphics, but “Horizon Zero Dawn” is starting to change how I feel about how games look. If “Horizon” is anything to go by, excellent graphics enhance a game's other great qualities.
What stands out to me above all is the design of the world.
“Horizon's” map is huge, and it features forests, plains, ruins, canyons, deserts, creeks, snowy mountains and more. Something stands out in each setting, whether it's the gentle cascade of flower petals and leaves from the trees overhead or the tall grass and weeds wafting in the breeze.
Don't even get me started on the lighting. “Horizon Zero Dawn” has absolutely beautiful sunsets and sunrises that paint the world shades of orange and pink. While playing, I often find myself stopping to admire the sky as the sun moves past the horizon.
Quite frankly, it's awe-inspiring to me what “Horizon's” artists did to breathe life into their game's setting and environment.
Now don't get me wrong. I still firmly believe gameplay, story and basic fun factor are more important than a game's aesthetics. What good is a pretty-looking game if it's not a blast to play?
But “Horizon Zero Dawn” is making me truly appreciate why some gamers play on PC and push games' graphical capabilities to their absolute limits. “Horizon” is, at times, simply breathtaking, and the game's beauty only enhances its other features.
The combat wouldn't be as satisfying if the explosions didn't look as awesome as they do. The characters wouldn't be as realistic and personable if they had poorly textured faces and hair. And, of course, it wouldn't be nearly as addicting exploring and collecting items in the world if it wasn't so beautiful.
In short, it's the incredible graphics that truly cement my immersion in the world and ultimately caused me to lose 13 hours to the game in less than two days. I'd still be having fun if “Horizon's” world wasn't gorgeous, but it's the game's prettiness that is the cherry on top of an awesome gaming experience.
I'm maybe a third through “Horizon's” story, but I clearly love what I've seen and experienced so far. Come back next week when I'll have my full review published.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.