Three-for-one showcase reveals more details on Horizon: Zero Dawn

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LOS ANGELES — The line to check out Playstation’s three-for-the-price-of-one booth snaked around the exhibit, down the side of a 30-foot wall, around the bend and back to the very end of a 80-foot-long facade.

People clamored for a spot and waited to catch a glimpse of Horizon: Zero DawnThe Last Guardian and Uncharted 4, three big titles announced during Sony’s showcase. Star Wars Battlefront had its own exhibit, but these three drew a rambunctious crowd, too.

Inside, viewers enjoyed extended editions of the trailers shown at that press conference, though there wasn’t much more to offer in the way of insights into the game. Still, some tidbits made their way out of the three-part demo sessions. We’ll focus on Horizon: Zero Dawn here.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

David Ford, a member of the Guerrilla Games team, did a bit more explaining of the Horizon: Zero Dawn gameplay trailer, giving names to animals (machanimals?) and detailing some of the game’s advantages.

“This is a completely seamless, open world, with no load times,” Ford says during the demo. That seems to be a theme here at E3. Game developers are trying to streamline player experiences, and Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst was another title that showcased its lack of loading screens despite sprawling environments. Expect more of this in the future.

Back to Horizon. The Watcher, which is spotted and killed early on in the trailer, has the ability not only to alert prey of your presence but also summon reinforcements to help fight you off. It’s the sentry unit, and despite its frailty can call in much more powerful, humongous beings.

“All the machines in Horizon: Zero Dawn need to be respected,” Ford says, “if not feared.”

That definitely comes into play when you see the Thunderjaws, that giant beast that attacks Aloy in the trailer. Also seen are the Grazers, AKA your prey, and Longnecks, which march by in the distance. Also note the city in the distance on the right of the screen. It comes into play later in the game, though Ford is mum on details.

You aren’t hunting the Grazers per se. You’re hunting the fuel packs on their backs, which are the remnants of the grass and other sustenance Grazers eat. It’s unclear as of yet how that fuel factors into the resources of the humans.

As in the trailer, our hunt made too much noise, and the Thunderjaw stampeded in to defend the Grazers. Ford’s word choice there is interesting – defend – suggesting these animals act in a cooperative ecosystem rather than preying on one another.

The battle with the Thunderjaw is fast-paced and frantic, but it requires calm and skill as well. Aloy has three arrow types at her disposal: armor-piercing for normal attacks, explosive arrows for more damage (and, as a warning, more noise) and electric arrows to paralyze enemies. This playthrough featured all three, with electric bolts to stun the Thunderjaw and explosive bolts to peel away armor. We launch armor-piercing arrows at the disc throwers on the Thunderjaw’s back to take away its firepower, and the hunt for cover between shots is difficult. The environment is entirely destructible, and those Thunderjaw blasts blow rock basins away in seconds.

Image courtesy of Guerrilla Games and Sony

We didn’t get a name for this big guy, but it’s likely going to be something menacing. | Image courtesy of Guerrilla Games and Sony

In all, it takes five tools and a couple of minutes to bring down the Thunderjaw. We use its disc thrower against it, then tie it down with a rope launcher before firing an armor-piercing shot at its core.

Combat in this game will likely be on a large scale. Try imagining a fight against multiple Thunderjaws or battling the flying mech that dives in after your victory in the trailer. Horizon: Zero Dawn takes the theme of your hero being a powerful being and turns it over entirely. You’re not the strongest thing on this planet; in fact, you’re one of the weakest.

That should make for some interesting combat and harrowing scenarios. Adrenaline junkies should be on the lookout for this one.

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