Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Horizon Zero Dawn is a hellish utopia you have to play

Prepare to dismantle some metal - we've found our first must-play game of 2017.
As Aloy, you're tasked with taking on a staggering assortment of robot killing machines in Horizon Zero Dawn.
As Aloy, you're tasked with taking on a staggering assortment of robot killing machines in Horizon Zero Dawn.

Nuts and bolts rain down into the bushes as Aloy, a warrior armed with red plaits and a sassy array of one-liners, returns her flaming crossbow to its sheath.

At her feet lies a robot killing machine that resembles a giant sabre-toothed tiger, its carcass fizzing and spitting like a smashed toaster still plugged into the wall.

In the distance, a giant boar forages on a hilltop. Behind it, a stunning sunset looms.

Welcome to the world of Horizon Zero Dawn, a beautiful, hellish utopia which your character, Aloy, is tasked with surviving first and exploring second, while unravelling a few mysteries along the way.

It's beautiful because its scenery is breathtaking. Like the very best Far Cry title you've ever played, Horizon Zero Dawn's massive open world glistens and gleams in all the right places.

When rain falls, steam rises from the grass and puddles form along muddy pathways. When it stops, the sun shines through trees in realistic rays. If you own a Playstation Pro, they are, apparently, even better. Yes, Guerrilla Games have included a photo mode. Yes, you should use it.

But this post-apocalyptic mix of backwards survival skills and future-tech foes is not simply for tourists. Huge metallic creatures prowl around the landscape in packs, and Aloy will often have to step up and kick some robot ass.

Aside from the game's addictive story, well-honed characterisation, pinpoint progression, and addictive gameplay, Aloy's fast-and-feisty combat routines are are often the best bits.

She faces off against giant opponents, but has a few tricks up her sleeve. You'll quickly learn to dismantle things called Broadheads and Tramplers, then stand over their fizzing carcases, having a triumphant breather, before scavenging for parts.

Aloy takes on a foe in Horizon Zero Dawn.
Aloy takes on a foe in Horizon Zero Dawn.

All this really shouldn't work. The game's a bonkers mash-up of Braveheart, Transformers, Far Cry Primal and Tomb Raider from a company known only for first-person shooter series Killzone.

But Horizon Zero Dawn does work - brilliantly. Get it and play the hell out of it, because the year's first must-play title is a monster safari you won't want to end.

Horizon Zero Dawn
Stars: Five
Platform: Playstation 4, Playstation Pro
Rating: M
Verdict: Prepare to dismantle some metal

- NZ Herald

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