Skip to main content
If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Horizon Forbidden West | Critical Consensus

Guerilla Games delivers a visual masterpiece and a sequel of epic proportion, with some minor flaws

Tomorrow sees the release of Horizon Forbidden West, the anticipated sequel to Guerrilla Games' PlayStation adventure hit Horizon Zero Dawn.

The game continues the story of the series' protagonist Aloy as she ventures through a wild, post-apocalyptic landscape overrun by giant machines. Forbidden West sticks to the same mechanics as its predecessor, but with a bigger map, underwater exploration, improved combat and traversal mechanics.

As of writing, Horizon Forbidden West has a respectable rating of 89 on Metacritic, the same score as 2017's Horizon Zero Dawn. The title also picked up a few 10/10 scores from the likes of VGC, Twinfinite and God Is A Geek, and more.

One of the higher scores came from Sam Loveridge at GamesRadar, who, in her 4.5/5 review, called Horizon Forbidden West "a tweaked, enhanced and confident sequel that exceeds expectations."

"A tweaked, enhanced and confident sequel that exceeds expectations"

Sam Loveridge, GamesRadar

"There was almost a concern that this sequel may feel too familiar, just teleported to a new map, but the opening hours alone were enough to alleviate those fears," Loveridge wrote. "Although the same framework is there and the core gameplay mechanics remain untouched, this truly is an evolution, a new beast fitted over the mechanical bones of the Old Ones."

Dean Abdou echoed this in his 8/10 review for GamingBible, and called the game "an absolutely stunning adventure."

"It feels great to once again play as Aloy and explore an apocalyptic future filled with incredible machines and ancient ruins," he said. "Forbidden West really takes everything that worked in its acclaimed predecessor and builds upon it in spectacular style."

One aspect that critics aligned on was Forbidden West's impressive visuals. In her 4/5 review, The Guardian's Keza MacDonald called the game "a stunning example of just how good video games can look in 2022."

"You kind of get used to its beauty while you're playing, but I found that whenever I returned to the game after making a cup of tea I was newly struck by whatever awesome scene was frozen on the pause screen," she said. "Aloy mid-roll away from a murderous mechanical hippo, or standing in the foreground in her war paint with an extraordinary view of mountains and snow behind."

Loveridge also highlighted the impressive world design, calling it "utterly stunning."

"This is the first massive PS5 open world and the variation you'll find here will always have you reaching for the screenshot button," she added. "The neon lights of Las Vegas, the withering remains of San Francisco, the warning glow of a robot searching for you through the underwater reeds, it looks and feels magnificent to play."

Forbidden West sees Aloy adventure through a post-apocalyptic California, Utah and Nevada. Image: PlayStation

Forbidden West adds new elements of combat and skill building that differ from the first. The game has six skill trees, two more than Zero Dawn, and each comes with a 'Valor' ability, which is essentially a timed 'ultimate' skill similar to that in Apex Legends or Overwatch.

As noted by Phil Hornshaw in his 8/10 GameSpot review, all of these new additions can be a lot to keep track of, and in some cases, feel overwhelming.

"The massive skill tree presents the same problem," he wrote. "Valor abilities can be great in a pinch, giving you some next-level power when you really need it, but there are two to unlock on each skill tree and the use cases for some aren't nearly as clear as 'emergency invisibility cloak' or '30 seconds of souped-up arrows'."

"The same goes for the huge number of special abilities, which amounts to three for each weapon type. Some are game-altering strategy centerpieces, like the Knock-Down Shot, but others are easy to forget about, like a skill that makes your slingshot bomb more powerful if it bounces on the way to your target. With both skill and Valor abilities, you'll probably unlock one or two you like and stick with those for most of the game."

Other new features include the Pullcaster and Glider, which allows Aloy to climb higher terrain and glide off to land in lower places. While these new tools give the player more ways to traverse across Forbidden West's vast landscape, they come with quirks. GamingBible's Abdou notes that the tools are not "the most intuitive things to use, feeling fairly clunky."

"The Pullcaster is very jolty when you use it," he continued. "It's both fast and slow to use, which is strange to say without showing it in action, but it's a tool that can quite frequently give the player a bit of a whiplash. The same can be said for certain climbing points as well. You'll gain good speed but then suddenly be forced to stop when trying to move onto a different point."

Forbidden West introduces new underwater exploration sequences. Image: PlayStation

Critics also noted how the combat feels quite similar to Zero Dawn, which is sometimes positive, sometimes not so positive. In her review for Eurogamer, Malindy Hetfeld on how the former featured "many rather stupid enemies," and how Frobidden West's improvement feels "troublesome."

"In Zero Dawn, I enjoyed nothing more than taking out entire camps stealthily," Hetfeld wrote. "But in Forbidden West, I don't think enemies have become smarter -- they still overwhelmingly remain standing in the same spot while you shoot at them, and tend to shoot the wall beneath you whenever you're in a slightly elevated position.

"But this time around, if one of them hears you, almost always all of them hear you. They can see you from what feels like miles away, and more often than not, very open level design completely forbids me from actually sneaking up on anyone, with tall grass often positioned in a way that makes it impossible to sneakily detonate blaze or acid canisters."

Hetfeld also added that while human combat feels different, monster battles "feel practically unchanged, probably because they worked fine the way they were."

"Forbidden West gives you more options in a fight, but it doesn't really change battles fundamentally from Zero Dawn. It just throws more ingredients into the stew"

Phil Hornshaw, GameSpot

GameSpot's Hornshaw also stated something similar about the game's open world robot fights, and said: "Forbidden West gives you more options in a fight, but it doesn't really change battles fundamentally from Zero Dawn. It just throws more ingredients into the stew."

The subject of the game's characters came up in several reviews, with some calling Forbidden West's NPC design an improvement on the first game.

"While there were a handful of memorable characters in the original game, developer Guerrilla has made every single person you interact with in the sequel feel unique and interesting," GamesRadar's Loveridge wrote. "Regardless of the time you spend with any NPC, each one has a distinct personality, a slither of backstory, and an interesting hook. There's a beautiful array of diversity here too, including non-binary representation and characters with disabilities, which is an interesting conversation to be had in a tribalistic world."

Meanwhile, Hetfeld noted that while some character quests are enjoyable, the general variation of notable NPCs on offer was more disappointing than Zero Dawn's offering.

"There's a beautiful array of diversity here too, including non-binary representation and characters with disabilities, which is an interesting conversation to be had in a tribalistic world"

Sam Loveridge

"Granted, I did enjoy some of the multi-part sidequests, as they highlighted the day-to-day struggles of the new clans you meet," she wrote. "But here too, the number of recognisable characters has been greatly reduced, and the number of interesting female characters, a major part of what worked so well with Horizon Zero Dawn's storytelling, seems to have markedly and frustratingly reduced."

Critics were seemingly divided on Forbidden West's main storyline, though a lot of the story elements are still under embargo until the game is released. The Guardian's MacDonald dubbed the main plot as "barely decipherable load of MacGuffin-laden sci-fi, all painstakingly written and acted by an engaging cast and script writers who've done the best they could with such a sprawling, unwieldy story."

Hetfeld also assured that the main story goes "fully off the rails into wild, nonsensical sci-fi."

"Its ending is tedious and anticlimactic," she continued. "Before you get there, you'll encounter some oddly pro-military cringe, oodles of 'don't ask' logical leaps, and antagonists almost entirely devoid of personality and, strangely, screen time."

In all, Horizon Forbidden West is for the most part, a visually impressive step-up from the first game, not without slight incoherence in its story and combat elements. That said, its new systems and narrative woes seem minor enough to not detract from the game's overall offering.

"What Guerrilla Games has achieved here is nothing short of phenomenal," Loveridge concluded. "Story, gameplay, mechanics, and the world itself are all such an improvement on the original game -- which in itself is a feat alone. The climbing, ironically, is the only thing that really holds it back from utter perfection, but it's not enough to make Aloy's latest story go without anything bar the highest recommendation."

While Hetfeld enjoyed the game less than Zero Dawn, she also agreed that Forbidden West is "undoubtedly another accomplished game in terms of technical achievement and sheer visual spectacle."

GameSpot's Hornshaw also acknowledged that the game isn't perfect, and said: "Horizon Forbidden West does a lot more right than it does wrong. It might be jam-packed with stuff to see, do, know, and remember, but when its many systems come together, it can be a beautiful, exciting, and delightful open-world experience.

"There's a huge amount to do and see in Horizon Forbidden West, and the great majority of it is worth doing and seeing thanks to strong writing, great visuals, and some marked improvements to the series' underlying ideas."

Related topics
Danielle Partis avatar

Danielle Partis

News Editor

Danielle is a multi award-winning journalist and editor that joined in 2021. She previously served as editor at, and is also a co-founder of games outlet Overlode.