Just before Horizon Forbidden West’s hype dies down, Guerrilla Games and Firesprite put out Horizon Call of the Mountain for the PS VR2. It’s actually the headliner displaying PS VR2’s capabilities, which certainly calls for a keener developing eye pending release. And, my God, the first looks of Horizon Call of the Mountain are to die for, what with the cinematic, blockbuster waves rushing through you, and the PS VR’s audio and haptic feedback creating the most surreal immersive experience.
But, before I get too excited about what’s on the horizon, let’s shift to a thorough good, bad, and ugly Horizon Call of the Mountain review, so you know exactly what to expect if you do decide to take the game out for a spin.
Fear of Heights?
Perhaps virtual reality’s most innate purpose is to create a fully immersive experience, that transports your consciousness from the real to the unreal, without ever making you feel out of place. Part of that package is what encapsulates the look and feel of this new virtual place. So, when I first stepped foot into Horizon Call of the Mountain’s demeanor, it was the first thing I wanted to catch my eye.
But, first things first, Horizon Call of the Mountain is the spin-off to Horizon Zero Dawn and its sequel, Horizon Forbidden West. It’s about answering the “call of the mountain,” which is, essentially, player-controlled Ryas, seeking redemption for his past sins by fighting and climbing his way through chilly landscapes, post-apocalyptic ruins, towering robotic monsters, and, well, a suicide mission you hope to survive through.
This is not a game for people with a fear of heights because you’ll spend the better part of your time scaling heights and hanging off zip lines. In fact, you do so much climbing that it becomes a painful must-do when you’d much rather hone your combat skills someplace else.
Pointless climbing aside, Horizon Call of the Mountain is a brilliant display of virtual reality that makes a spectacle of what could be made possible in some years to come. It feels surreal, and every touch is translated via both the controller and headset’s haptic feedback. Even dipping your hands in the water or the earth shaking as giant machines pass by you translates. Visual effects deliver, too, with your tiny self in first-person incomparable to skyscraping structures around you.
I'm highlighting climbing again because, trust me, it’s pretty predominant throughout the game. Mind you, you’re facing whatever it is you’re climbing—cliffs, vines, ice walls—with your face mere inches away from them, so there really isn’t much to see or take in. Only a “gesture” sensor system to move upward, and the fear of falling can nudge you. It certainly gets queasy, even for experienced climbers, to keep at it for long distances and for lengthy times.
If motion sickness gets to you, feel free to use teleportation. Or, you could patiently endure it till you unlock helper equipment like a grappling hook, a set of pickaxes, or a throwing disc. Otherwise, as the title explicitly says, it’s “the call of the mountain,” so… Perhaps the benefit of the extensive climbing is to put in a bit of a workout via your arm swings. Because it’s nearly impossible to fail and, consequently, nowhere near gratifying.
During the infrequent action sequences taking place in smaller sections of the map, you’ll be going up against machines of varying sizes. It’s the second highlight of the game, so it’s always a “can’t wait” scenario until the next fight. Using Horizon’s signature bow and arrow, you shoot down opponents, aiming for their weak points, which actually comes easy to you thanks to PS VR2’s eyeball tracking technology. Otherwise, you dodge counterattacks over and over again.
Using PS VR2’s sensor technology, you’ll be reaching for your bow over your shoulder, squeezing the trigger with one hand, grabbing an arrow, pulling your arm back, and releasing it with the other hand. The same applies to “gesture” climbing, where you reach for areas you can hold onto, like rock faces or ledges.
With time, upgrades come through at opportune times when opposing machines grow stronger. So, you acquire more ammo, craft stronger arrows, and scale up the learning curve. Something to note is that the crafting system follows Horizon’s recipe, so newcomers may take some time to find their way around it. Still, it’s a pleasing enough crafting system to spice up the game some more.
Your arrow can become deadlier, thanks to ways of attaching varied arrowheads, explosives, or flights to it. You’ll use “fire” arrows, “tear” arrows, and more that each have their own nuanced damage outputs. Plus, some items within the environment have value, though it’s not clear which ones exactly.
The More the Merrier
Wandering all alone in the jungle gets boring. Talking to yourself could definitely be distracting, especially on a virtual reality expedition. Fortunately, Horizon Call of the Mountain features more characters you’ll meet from time to time. There’s Aloy, who’s a familiar face that makes Horizon feel like home. Other characters, though small, chat with you. And, it’s interesting to see how their political histories intertwine. Otherwise, there isn’t much of a twist here to sink your teeth into, and that’s okay.
Where the Fun Begins
It’s no secret the brilliance Horizon Call of the Mountain exudes. But, besides the virtual reality experience part of it, many fans come in expecting some solid, fun, fast-paced action RPG. For the underwhelming basic-level necessities, Horizon Call of the Mountain does come through, combat-wise.
There’s just no getting enough of the bow and arrow combat, particularly for PS VR2’s basic archery mechanic merged with Horizon’s signature robot-fighting mechanics. Improvising and dodging come in handy most times, as does aiming for machines’ weak points to knock off their armor.
If you’d like more challenging battles, Horizon Call of the Mountain rewards you in one-on-one battles that don’t go down easily from simply shooting the right sections. These would need strategic play and things like perfect timing for explosives to go off.
Eventually, you feel like an actual marksman, sourcing your own equipment, fastening new tools and explosive canisters onto arrows, and shooting down storm birds from the sky like a pro.
Horizon Call of the Mountain‘s combat, whether it's multiple robot types thrown at you at once or a metallic robot that doesn't go down easily, satisfies the two essential ingredients for a successful gaming experience: it’s challenging, and it’s absolutely thrilling.
Horizon Call of the Mountain easily delivers on its promise by simply meshing the power of the PS VR2 with Horizon’s robot-fighting mechanics, intriguing story, and stunning environments. Simply looking around you, feeling the earth beneath your feet, and the rush of water between your fingers create a rush of adrenaline only virtual reality can do.
It’s sad that much of the game is spent climbing walls, vines, and cliffs. You end up longing to clear up these sections much faster, just so you can get to the meat of the game where the battles ensue. Crafting is also pretty good, but not great, with the freedom to scavenge resources in this surreal world and upgrade equipment how you see fit. And that’s it. There isn’t much more to experience.
At the very least, you’ll enjoy the thrill of shooting arrows through the air like a skilled marksman and step into a fully realized Horizon world beaming with nature aesthetics, multiple robot opponents, and unimaginable senses. You could even show off PS VR2’s sensors and tracking technology at its best (Fingers crossed, some of the VR tracking issues where you randomly get stuck or move someplace you didn’t want to don’t come up.)
All in all, were, the tag “Call of the Mountain” not taken too literally, and most sections filled with depth and strategy, Horizon Call of the Mountain would have been a no-brainer chapter of the Horizon story to purchase.
Horizon Call of the Mountain Review (PS VR2)
Yet Another Horizon Story, But in VR
Horizon Call of the Mountain is an indescribable experience that kicks off with an unforgettable VR experience through abandoned technology overrun by nature’s aesthetic environs. The look is amplified with haptic feedback, which translates pretty candidly through the controller and headset with each light step. Unfortunately, much of your time here is spent pulling yourself up a mountain as you heed the call of the mountain when it’s much more thrilling to shoot arrows through the sky at storm birds or through the body armor of fighting robots. By virtue of Horizon Call of the Mountain being the flagship game to showcase the power of the PS VR2, you may feel compelled to at least show off its capabilities to friends and family. You won’t go at a complete loss thanks to a thrilling bow-and-arrow robot-fighting mechanic. However, I can name a tad few early VR titles that do a better job besides simply admiring the sights.