What’s wrong with Horizon VR?
Horizon Call of the Mountain is a clear example of how the VR giants have no idea who their target audience is. That Meta (an extremist and terrorist organization recognized in the Russian Federation), that Sony present VR products as an analogue of the Nintendo Wii, which grandparents play. The whole philosophy of this game is based on one rule – if only it was not difficult for the player.
Briefly describe Horizon Call of the Mountain, you get a “climbing simulator with a complex of uncertainty.” A linear adventure where the core of the game mechanics is climbing and which will easily please you with its duration. The passage will take 7-8 hours. And the lion’s share of this time the player will climb rocks, buildings, rusty robots, ropes and slide down the rope, overcoming the abyss. During breaks, it will be necessary to shoot from a bow at hidden targets in order to somehow diversify what is happening. Collect resources to create arrows and eat apples that replenish health.
Sometimes the game throws the character into the battle arena, where the player will have to fight almost all the robots from the Horizon universe: the Watchers, the Wavebiter, the Scavengers, the Scarab, and even the Waterskin with Thunderjaw. All mechanical creatures are destroyed in the same way as in the older game: hit the eyepiece to stun, methodically demolish armor with penetrating arrows, freeze and set fire to mechanisms.
The combat system is excellent – each type of robot needs an approach. The player is armed with a bow with six types of arrows, the materials for the creation of which are scattered around the world. The very creation of arrows is an exciting mini-game. Take a wand, attach feathers, put on the tip, attach a charge to the tip, and now the player has six arrows with firefire. Paired with a bow, the player is given an explosion-sling with three types of projectiles, which are also actively used in battle to identify weaknesses in opponents.
Without exaggeration – Horizon is played excitingly and intuitively. Enemies do not release, and when creating arrows, even during combat, the player will not get confused. There are exactly two problems here. Both are disastrous.
For seven to eight hours of passage, the player will be allowed to participate in battles a dozen times, and each battle will take no more than three to five minutes. With rare exceptions, the enemies do not repeat – after fighting with the Scavengers, they can not be found anywhere else. And this is a crime! For the impressions from the local battles are extremely positive. When Gromozev rushes at you at full speed, his mouth open, involuntarily the soul goes into the heels, or when with the last arrows you manage to pierce the fuel tank between two armored plates on the side of the Burdyuk, the feeling of victory over a wild beast is impossible to describe.
Whatever emotions the greatness of robots evokes, the feeling that the player is being held for an old man who first launched a video game does not leave. Indeed, during the battle, the character is deprived of the possibility of free movement around the location. Combat arenas in Horizon are really arenas – they are circular buildings where all that is allowed in terms of movement is walking or jumping sideways in a circle. Not forward, not backward, not diagonally. Thus, the danger is leveled – the enemies accumulate exclusively in the center, allowing themselves to be bypassed from different sides.
If the player’s health is taken away, the invulnerability mode is turned on for 5 seconds, which is enough to make two jumps to the side and eat a health apple. “Healers” are abundantly scattered around the arena and are constantly replenished – this also applies to arrows. If at the beginning of the game you still have to guess what type of arrows to use for a particular type of enemy, because the main character does not have a visor and he cannot scan anything. But soon the understanding will come that the game itself will scatter the optimal set of arrows around the arena. Electric or incendiary, high-precision or echo cartridge.
You involuntarily wonder why there is a crafting system in this game, when the necessary is given during the battle, and outside the battles these arrows will never be used.
The local restrictions on combat are depressing. Indeed, in the beginning and closer to the middle, when the player is forced to pass by the Watchers without catching their eyes, Horizon VR allows you to spit on stealth, get a bow and start chaos. And in these rare two moments, the game shows what it could have been, but did not become.
The player is not locked in a circle, he is free to move where he wants and how he wants. Hide behind columns, boxes, dodge, deftly move from one cover to another, hide from view and attack stealthily. At such moments, the player can be crushed by a number and sent to the control point. The game instantly appears excitement and danger. Why couldn’t a huge number of different locations be supplied with random strikes with small enemies? Mystery.
Part-time rock climber
As mentioned above, the main game time the player will be engaged in mountaineering – this is the main mechanism for overcoming the distance in this game. As the story progresses, the player will gradually be given new tools to overcome certain obstacles. Pickaxes, grappling hook, harpoons with ropes to overcome abysses. Each tool is assembled by hand, and it is done, as in the case of arrows, simply and excitingly.
It’s nice to climb in the game. There are always a couple of ways to get to the top: you can work with your hands or shorten the path using pickaxes, jump over the gap on a grappling hook and go from the other side. Some climbs are breathtaking! To pay tribute, the developers skillfully approached the fact that even in such a primitive game mechanics, they constantly surprise and immerse in what is happening. This is achieved not only due to frequent changes of locations and obstacles, but also due to the filigree and polished sound design.
Sound in Horizon Call of the Mountain paid attention no less than the graphic component. Each pebble, beam or metal part spews out a long-term groan from tension under the weight of the hero. Moving along the frozen tail of a combat robot, the player feels that the tail is about to fall off under the weight, and hearing how much the main character puffs and moans, you involuntarily catch yourself thinking that one more beam and he will fall into the abyss. There is only one problem here. The hero will not break under any circumstances, and the rusty tail, no matter how creaking, will not fall off.
Unlike Crytek’s similar VR game The Climb, Horizon VR doesn’t have any fatigue or structural instability. The player can hang for half an hour on one hand on a thin beam. Nothing will happen to him or the beam – it is almost impossible to break down. The only difficulty that overtakes when climbing or overcoming obstacles is ligaments. First you need to climb a mountain, stick a harpoon, run a rope diagonally, ride it, get a grappling hook in flight, catch on the ring. And, like Tarzan, to fly over the abyss and plunge into the rock, having managed to choose picks.
The description is complex and exciting. Fascinating – yes. Difficult? No. Because at the end of each element of the bundle, fearing to lose the player’s morale, time slows down in Horizon. You can safely choose an instrument, assess the situation in flight and understand what to do next. The game slows down every time you need to jump from a meter distance to the rope. The game does not have a choice of difficulty level and it is impossible to turn off this slowdown.
Separately, but briefly, I would like to highlight the plot – there is a lot of it and it is empty. The main character Reyas goes to the top of the mountain to the destroyed gigantic robot. And that’s it. Yes, there is a villain in the story, the villain has motivation, the hero has reasons to follow the villain. But it’s so badly written and told that it doesn’t give a damn about what’s going on. Who are these people? Why are they here? Why do they behave like this? Wow, Eloi! The plot does not intrigue and does not progress. It is needed to explain why the hero overcomes the path from flowering fields to the top of a snow-covered mountain to the corpse of a gigantic robot killed centuries ago.
In addition to the story part, the game allows you to engage in shooting hidden targets, constructing cairns, go to the shooting range and knock out the best result or try your hand at an obstacle course. But the best “activity” is a safari. An ideal mode for those who are trying out VR for the first time. The player is placed in a boat and for five minutes he watches a staged VR production with the participation of all the robots that are found in the game. The scene is beautiful, breathtaking and will give any beginner a first impression of what VR is all about.
Is there anything that Horizon Call of the Mountain can please? Yes! And this is graphics. This is a detailed VR product – the Lone Echo duology, with its mandatory requirement of RTX 40-series cards for maximum graphics settings, is not next to what this project shows.
Graphically, the game is incredibly beautiful, pleases with a variety of locations. Huge and majestic landscapes, lively and juicy jungle, destroyed by the time of construction of people of a long forgotten era. It is worth saying that the hardware of the Playstation 5 copes with the picture, but, as in the case of the Playstation 4, its power is not enough to handle this level of graphics and high frame rates. The new headset from Sony is designed to play games at 90 and 120 frames per second at 2K resolution in both eyes.
Horizon Call of the Mountain plays at 120fps with no floating resolution. This is aided by eye-tracking technology, which only calculates the area you are looking at. However, this is not enough for a full display. The game uses a system to predict the position of the helmet and hands to pre-calculate the necessary intermediate frames, stitch it at the standard 60 frames per second and double this number.
At the start of the helmet’s release, it worked poorly, creating tangible ghostly trails around nearby objects. In addition, the system for point calculation of the area where the player’s gaze is directed did not work correctly. She could not immediately read the area, and in the distance there was a daub of two polygons and one soapy texture. Today, the system has been brought to mind, but it is still imperfect. The calculation over the area works like clockwork, but so far it has not been possible to get rid of the loops with the chaotic movement of the hands and head. You quickly get used to it, but at first this effect is very annoying.
The eye tracking system is directly involved in the game mechanics. With a glance, the player moves through the menu, selects questions in a few dialogues and helps yourself in aiming – the bow does not have a physical aiming mechanism. To send an arrow at an enemy or a target, you need to point your hands in the right direction, and look at the place you want to hit with your eyes.
Horizon Call of the Mountain is a beautiful, exciting, expensive and well-designed attraction. And this is the main disadvantage. You are not playing, but participating in what is happening. The project constantly limits the player and does not provide difficult tests. Looking at the work that has been put into this VR adventure, it becomes a shame for the untapped potential. I would like to call Horizon Call of the Mountain “the first major AAA game” that appeared at the launch of a new VR helmet. Neither the launch of the original PSVR, nor both Oculus Quest could boast of a project of this level. But to call this project a game does not work.
If you’re new to VR and want to get a feel for the technological features of Sony’s new headset right away, this is the perfect starter project. But don’t expect more from it – it’s a full-price linear attraction, and nothing more than Horizon: Call of the Mountain has to offer.
- Amazing level of graphic performance
- Amazing sound and music
- Lots of breathtaking moments
- The game is fully translated and voiced into Russian
- The game has almost no difficulty
- An extremely meager number of fights and they are all predetermined
- No plot, no protagonist, no villain
- Many interesting, but absolutely not disclosed in the game elements
- Full price tag with zero replay value