Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition PC Review: It's so good

My favorite game for the PS4 is even better on PC, and you should play it right now.

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(Image: © Windows Central / Russell Holly)

Human beings really screwed up bad this time, you guys.

It's 100 years in the future. Humanity has reverted to a tribal state, the Sun is worshipped as a deity, and a matriarchal society, which has barely made it to bows and arrows technologically, needs your help to save the world. From what, you ask? Giant killer robots, which hijack the largely passive animal-shaped robots that are a part of the landscape and turn them into violent monsters.

This story is weird, action-packed, and, in my opinion, the best thing to come to PlayStation in a generation. And now, Steam fans, you can play this Guerilla Games title on your PC with the settings cranked to Ultra and using the keyboard or gamepad of your choosing.

Welcome to Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition PC, an unnecessarily long name for your next favorite PC game.

What I love about Horizon Zero Dawn

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Source: Windows Central / Russell Holly (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Russell Holly)

While there's nothing terribly original about most of the gameplay in Horizon Zero Dawn, the ridiculous amount of polish found in those mechanics makes it feel unique. When Aloy effortlessly sprints across a field, baseball slides into some tall grass to avoid being spotted, and then quickly dispatches enemies, it feels almost like I'm directing a performance instead of controlling a character. The ability to rapidly swap weapons and have it all flow together without looking awkward or janky is a testament to how much time was spend making this game feel fun no matter what you're doing.

Even when you're running around looking for herb to fill your medical pouch, a repeated portion of the gameplay that I affectionately call Flower Picker Simulator due in no small part to how much damage I take because I'm clumsy, I'm having fun. It's not grindy or repetitive, and mechanically all of the things you need to fight and survive feel like they need to be there. From beginning to end, it's just a very polished experience.

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TitleHorizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition PC
DeveloperGuerilla Games
GenreOpen world adventure
PlatformsPlayStation, PC
Game Size72GB
Xbox Game PassNo
Launch Price$50

As much fun as the gameplay is, the real power in Horizon Zero Dawn is choice. While the narration has the text-based choice system you're used to from the last generation, it's few and far between with few real consequences. What I mean when I say choice is the variety of play styles natively baked in.

If you want to be a super stealthy ranged fighter with a plan for everything, you can easily do that with the right outfit and modifications and skill tree unlocks. If you want to be a brawler who throws herself at every conflict spear first and deals inhuman levels of damage to giant robots with a single blow, you can spec out that version of Aloy. If you'd like to collect one of everything and make sure you have the perfect weapon and outfit for every type of conflict, and max out your skill tree so you can just be a universal soldier of the Frozen Wilds, it's up to you.

Every option offers some important upsides and downsides, but by far my favorite part in talking about this game with my friends was the realization that very few of us played the same way and still had a ton of fun. It's a credit to the team at Guerilla for making sure so many different play styles were equally polished.

Gameplay isn't enough though; there needs to be a compelling story, and wow does Horizon have a story. Aloy is sent away from the sheltered yet dangerous world she's thrived in despite being an outcast, and finds a massive world full of more danger and adventure than most people now inhabiting the world could possibly imagine. The world is diverse, full of opportunity, and in many places so full of emotion you wouldn't be blamed for needing a minute to either laugh yourself silly or find yourself sad about characters you follow throughout the world.

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Source: Windows Central / Russell Holly (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Russell Holly)

The open nature of this game gives you a lot of choices when it comes to how you want to explore the world. You can rush through the Main Story on Normal difficulty in about eight hours if you really try, or you can wander this massive world and enjoy all of the story found everywhere. There's an audio-only story found throughout the world of a touring music group just before the apocalypse, right alongside some deep philosophical conversations about what Old Earth Humans did with these ancient vessels with handles on the side and text that says stuff like "World's Okayest Dad". The larger world here is so much more worthy of exploration than most other games that employ this form of story expansion. It really does raise the bar in a way that doesn't get talked about as often as I think it should in the industry today.

If you've already played this game on PS4, you already know all of this. What's the benefit of playing on the PC? Honestly, variety in controller styles does it for me. You can plug in a DualShock controller and get the PS4 experience from top to bottom, or you can mix things up with an Xbox Controller and feel this game through staggered sticks. Prefer your mouse and keyboard? The archery mechanics in Horizon are glorious with a mouse, allowing you to strike with deadly accuracy every time even if the WSAD configuration of the keyboard means there's a LOT of buttons to remember for engaging with the rest of the game. You can choose whatever you want, and if your PC is powerful enough you can crank everything to Ultra to better appreciate this world. That alone makes this game worth it on PC.

What could be better about Horizon Zero Dawn

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Source: Windows Central / Russell Holly (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Russell Holly)

An earlier version of this review included a reference to crashes in the game. As promised, a Day One Update from Guerilla addressed these issues. After ten hours of playing post-update, I've experienced none of the same crash events which occurred before.

What I have continued to experience, however, are occasional stutters in high combat squences. These infrequent pauses in gameplay happen frequently when the action is high, and make it difficult to execute multiple combat combos in a big fight. These pauses don't happen often, but when they do it's pretty noticeable.

Being able to seek your own path would have made so much of this game feel even bigger.

My one big complaint about Horizon Zero Dawn is the use of what I would consider a legacy movement mechanic. As you travel around this world, you will find many rocks and balconies and think to yourself "this incredibly agile warrior I am controlling regularly flings herself off of things and lands with grace and safety, surely she can hop four feet to this rock above me" only to discover this is actually not possible. This remarkably acrobatic specimen can, in fact, only climb up or jump on things marked either in white or yellow paint by someone who had been there before you. If the rock has a slanted side you can run up, you're good, but if not you're pretty much boned.

Coupled with some cave areas where the actual world and the background don't quite line up, leading to places you think you can jump to until an invisible wall stops you, it's easy to quickly become frustrated by how much work goes into holding your hand in many puzzles and landscapes. Being able to climb anything, or seek your own path, would have made so much of this game feel even bigger, and it's a shame so much work is done to limit your movement in exchange for pre-lit paths.

Should you buy Horizon Zero Dawn?

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Source: Windows Central / Russell Holly (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Russell Holly)

You should absolutely buy this game if you're a fan of open-world adventures with lots of combat. If you'd have asked me six months ago if I thought this incredibly popular PS4 game would ever come to PC, I'd likely have laughed and said no. However, Sony seems to be testing the waters a bit after seeing how many popular Xbox titles have done well on PC without taking away from the Xbox market, and it's exciting to be able to play this game on my PC instead of out on the couch.

This game is worth every penny of the $50 you'll need to shell out to enjoy it on your PC through Steam, and it's my sincere hope that the popularity of this title on Steam is the start of an increased focus on PC players from Sony. Who knows, maybe Spider-Man is next?

Russell Holly

Russell is a tech nerd who chases the best of everything, from phones to game consoles to laptops and everything glowing or beeping. He's the Managing Editor of gaming content for Mobile Nations and can be found contributing to all of the Mobile Nations sites. Reach out on Twitter!