The PS5 hasn't had a ton of must-own first-party exclusives so far, but that could all change when Horizon Forbidden West releases. Scheduled to release on Sony's current-gen machine as well as on PS4, the game was reportedly set to launch in 2021, but during Gamescom 2021 Sony confirmed it'll now be released in February 2022.
The sequel to 2017's critically acclaimed Horizon Zero Dawn, we know that Horizon Forbidden West will continue the story of protagonist Aloy. Aloy finds herself in the western United States on a mission to stop a mysterious threat known only as the Red Blight. The game, following its prequel, will feature a large open world that players can explore filled with machines, gadgets, and weapons to discover.
A healthy slice of gameplay has since been revealed for Horizon Forbidden West thanks to a past State of Play presentation from Sony. Across 14 minutes of highly varied gameplay, we got glimpses of some of the new locations Aloy will be able to explore.
New activities include underwater exploration and a variety of new tools and weapons Aloy will acquire on her adventure. It's safe to say what we've seen so far is pretty visually impressive, though the game is still a work-in-progress and without a concrete release date.
If you want all the details about Horizon Forbidden West so far, read on. We’ve collected together the news and rumors below, including its release date, trailers, price and more.
[Update: Horizon Forbidden West has been delayed but we now have a solid release date: February 18 2022 and preorders are now open.]
- US-only: PS5 restock tracker
- PS5 vs PS5 Digital Edition: what’s the difference?
- PS5 deals and bundles: when can you save some cash?
- New PS5 games on the way
Horizon Forbidden West: cut to the chase
- What is it? The sequel to the critically-acclaimed Horizon Zero Dawn
- When will it release? February 18 2022
- What platforms will it be available on? PS5 and PS4
Horizon Forbidden West release date
Though it was originally expected to release in 2021, particularly after PlayStation boss Jim Ryan told GQ he felt “pretty good” that Horizon Forbidden West would hit that year, during Gamescom 2021 Sony confirmed that the game has been delayed until February 18 2022. While it's later than originally expected it is at least now a solid date.
This followed PlayStation Studios head Hermen Hulst expressing a cautious approach to the release date in June and a Bloomberg report in July which claimed that Sony has pushed back the Horizon Forbidden West release date to the first quarter of 2022.
In a post on the official PlayStation Blog, game director Mathijs de Jonge cited the global pandemic as a reason for the game's delay, saying “It’s no surprise that our teams were hugely impacted by the global pandemic; we have been adjusting to new workflows, protocols, and other challenges, while keeping our teams safe and prioritizing a healthy work/life balance.”
He went on to say that “while the decision to move the game’s launch to 2022 certainly wasn’t easy, we’d like to take a moment to thank all of our fans for their unwavering support; we know how much you’ve been looking forward to reuniting with Aloy and her friends, continuing her story, and exploring a new and more dangerous world. Your passion, fan art, cosplay, virtual photography, and videos have meant the world to all of us.”
Horizon Forbidden West price and versions
Following a pre-order announcement from Sony, we finally know how much Horizon Forbidden West will cost at launch for its different versions.
The Standard Edition, which comes with just the base game will be $59.99 / £59.99 / AU$109.95 on PS4 and $69.99 / £69.99 / AU$124.95 on PS5. Alternatively, you could splash out on a series of more expensive options like the Special Edition (which includes an art book with the base game), a Digital Deluxe Edition (which includes the base game and in-game digital bonuses like outfits), or the Collector's and Regalla editions which add physical statues and other goodies into the mix.
Importantly for players who are still on PS4 but are looking to upgrade to a PS5 soon, not all versions of Horizon Forbidden West will give PS4 players free access to the PS5 copy of the game. For that privilege, you'll have to buy the Digital Deluxe, Collector’s, or Regalla Editions.
The PS4 versions of the Standard and Special Edition Horizon Forbidden West will still play on the PS5, but you won't get all the graphical and technical upgrades of the full PS5 version.
If you want to know more details about the various editions, you can check out the full announcement on Sony's website.
Horizon Forbidden West trailers
We got our latest look at Horizon Forbidden West during a May 2021 State of Play. 14 minutes of gameplay were shown off, giving us a better idea of what we can expect from Aloy's adventures out west. Watch it for yourself below:
Sony and Guerrilla Games revealed the first Horizon Forbidden West trailer at the PS5 games reveal event on June 11, 2020. The trailer below provides a three-minute glimpse at the kinds of varied landscapes you'll explore in the second game, and which machines you can expect to fight (mammoths and alligators, by the looks of it).
We also get the sense that Horizon Forbidden West will be heavy on underwater gameplay, based on how much of a big deal the trailer makes of Aloy using her scuba gear at the 1:40 mark above, and the shots of underwater ruined cities.
Horizon Forbidden West setting and story
A direct sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn, Horizon Forbidden West takes place 6 months after the end of the first game and will see Aloy travel west from her homeland to a new frontier setting. The reason for Aloy's journey is to seek out her allies and a solution to the Red Blight, a mysterious organism that's destroying the natural world and she'll meet new tribes and new machines along the way. Horizon Forbidden West will take players to locations like San Francisco, Yosemite and beyond, with narrative director Ben McCaw telling GamesRadar that “the vast, vast majority of the game takes place in the Forbidden West”.
Game Director Mathijs de Jonge has told IGN that Horizon Forbidden West has a larger, more dense game world than Zero Dawn. According to de Jonge: “The map is a little bit bigger, but in general, we’ve really looked at increasing the density, and adding more content, making sure there’s a lot more to do for the player across the map, and then making that content also engaging by telling little micro-stories.”
Some of the additional breadth and depth in the world is coming from new underwater exploration. Narrative director Benjamin McCaw explained that “Exploration is really the theme. And it’s not enough for us to just show underwater. We wanted to make sure that it’s every bit as beautiful as what you see in the natural world above it. But it wasn’t just enough that you could swim around underwater. We wanted to do some things that are really surprising and interesting. And I think that’s where some of the story stuff comes in, and we just absolutely can’t wait for players to see what they’re going to experience.”
Horizon Forbidden West gameplay
With this deeper and larger setting, Guerilla is using it as an opportunity to give players more freedom of movement, with de Jonge telling IGN that players can, for example, expect more freedom in free climbing, saying, “In terms of the traversal and the human combat, this was a point from Horizon Zero Dawn, where we wanted to improve the mechanics…you can now free climb anywhere in the world” thanks to an “automatic system that just detects if there is a latch somewhere in the geometry [of rocks, cliffs and mountain sides].”
Of course, Aloy will also be getting new weapons and abilities. Writing in a PlayStation Blog post, Narrative Director Ben McCaw explained how Aloy will have a “huge variety of weapons” at her disposal, with combat having an emphasis on tactics and choice.
“Aloy’s trusty Spear is good for close combat and enables a new set of combos,” McCaw wrote. “Bows with specialized ammo types strip armor off machines to expose their weak spots. Adhesive grenades can be fired from slingshots, temporarily stalling foes. Plus many more, and all of them can be upgraded at a workbench.”
This upgrading is part of increasing the game’s RPG and action mechanics, with de Jonge telling GamesRadar that it also “comes from just the desire to make the weapons more engaging, that you have a little bit more of a bond with these weapons. By investing time and resources, and by upgrading them, you get that feeling of like, you actually spent time to make this weapon better, rather than getting an upgrade from a machine and just slotting that in. You have to fight sort of machines or get other resources throughout the world in order to upgrade. So the whole loop is more integrated, in that sense with the rest of the world.“
As far as new tools are concerned, McCaw wrote, “This dangerous and unfamiliar land is full of challenges and threats, but Aloy will have new tools to help her on her way. The Pullcaster speeds up climbing, getting her quickly out of trouble; the Shieldwing allows her to safely descend from great heights (or surprise enemies from above); and with the Diving Mask, a whole new underwater world is open for exploration. Not to mention big upgrades to her Focus, which now shows areas that allow free-climbing and gives her the ability to override more machines for mounts or combat.”
There’s also a brand new skill tree, with the skill tree from Zero Dawn having been “completely redesigned and repopulated with new skills” to offer more depth. In an interview with Game Informer, game director Mathijs De Jonge revealed that players will be able to upgrade Aloy’s skills to suit their playstyle.
As part of the new skill tree, there’s also a new Valor Surge system which has been shown off in the recent gameplay reveal. Valor Surges are unlocked by spending skill points in the skill tree, with players then being able to choose which Valor Surge is active at any moment.
To unleash a Valor Surge move, the Valor Surge bar in the bottom right of the screen needs to be filled. This is done by “playing technically”, headshotting humans or removing components from enemies, which will reward players with specific technical combat XP, which is its own point system, that can be spent in the skill tree.
The Valor Surge in the recent State of Play gameplay trailer is known as 360 Blast, though there are others. Speaking to GamesRadar, de Jonge said, “For every play style that's on the skill, there are specific Valor Surges that you can purchase with skill points. So they're really kind of designed to fit all sorts of play styles to enhance those and to reward the tactical play.”
Horizon Forbidden West is expected to release on both PS4 and PS5 but PS5 players will enjoy some advantages that come from the power of the hardware.
In an interview with HardwareZone, Guerrilla Games confirmed that the PS5 version of Horizon Forbidden West will feature the option to choose between a 60 FPS Performance Mode or a 4K Quality Mode, which will run at 30 FPS. It was Quality Mode which the May 2021 State of Play gameplay footage was using. The exact resolution for the 60 FPS Performance Mode hasn't been confirmed just yet but it's possible Horizon Forbidden West will go down the route of other games by applying dynamic resolution.
In an interview with Game Informer, Game Director Mathijs de Jonge said that because of its power, “the PlayStation 5 can go much further [than the PlayStation 4]”. De Jonge explained that, “Visually we can add a lot more detail. Graphically, the rendering technique for the underwater scenes is special for the PlayStation 5, it has extra details and extra systems, like the wave technique is better on that system.”
On top of this, “The lighting on Aloy on PlayStation 5 has much more definition,” as they “use a special cinematic lighting rig, that on the PlayStation 4 is only used in cutscenes because the game is not running and we have more processing power in those scenes. But with the PlayStation 5 we have plenty of processing power, so we can have that lighting rig always available, so she always looks great with that lighting setup traveling with her anywhere.”
PS5 owners will also be able to take advantage of the DualSense's adaptive triggers and haptic feedback, with Mathijs de Jonge confirming that “The DualSense wireless controller adaptive triggers will help us to make the weapons feel even more unique and satisfying to use.”
But PS4 owners shouldn’t be worried about gameplay performance. According to de Jonge, “A lot of the development has taken place on the PlayStation 4, and a lot of playtesting has been done on PlayStation 4. So we are ensuring that owners of that console have a great experience and the game will look fantastic on that console.”
Horizon Forbidden West news and rumors
We've compiled all the latest Horizon Fordbiden West news and rumors below for your perusal:
Developing for PS4 hasn't held anything back
Horizon Forbidden West is coming to PS4 and PS5 but according to the game’s director, getting the game ready for last-gen’s consoles hasn’t held it back or forced the team to scale back.
Speaking with Hardware Zone (via VGC), Mathijs de Jonge said, “I don’t think the cross-generation development was limiting in any way. When we started with the concept of this game, we had so many great ideas that ended up being included – to the point that we didn’t really think about hardware limitations or anything, we just wanted to design a really nice, unique experience for the player. An awesome adventure.
“That’s how we also brainstormed all the quests and events the player is going to go through.”
That said, there are differences between what the consoles can do and de Jonge added, “I think that the big delta between these two consoles, apart from the 3D audio, quick loading and DualSense of course, is on the graphical side of things. On the PlayStation 5, we can add so much more detail graphically. We can see the tiny hairs on Aloy’s face, for example. You can also see a ton of detail from far away.”
This lines up with a previous interview with Game Informer, in which de Jonge revealed that “A lot of the development has taken place on the PlayStation 4, and a lot of playtesting has been done on PlayStation 4. So we are ensuring that owners of that console have a great experience and the game will look fantastic on that console.”
In the “last stages of development”
Horizon Forbidden West doesn’t have a solid release date just yet but in an interview with Hardware Zone, game director Mathijs de Jonge has said that it’s in the “last stages of development”.
“We have just successfully completed our beta milestone, which is pretty far along,” said De Jonge. “We’re now in the final stages of development. So we are polishing the game and fixing bugs. We are also wrapping up certain aspects of the game, like some of the machines being behind schedule – because it takes an enormous amount of time to build them. We’re working on the final cinematic. So, we’re really wrapping up. There’s still a lot to do with a game of this size and magnitude, but we’re in the final stages.”
This comes not long after PlayStation Studios head Hermen Hulst expressed a cautious approach to the release date, saying in a PlayStation Blog Post: “We think we are on track to release this holiday season. But that isn’t quite certain yet, and we’re working as hard as we can to confirm that to you as soon as we can.”
So, while anything could happen with the game’s final release date at the moment, it is in its final stages.
Virtually no loading screens
During a dev diary video from Guerrilla Games, Horizon Forbidden West game director Mathijs de Jonge explained how the sequel will utilize the PS5's super-fast SSD.
“With the PS5's SSD, there will be virtually no loading screens,” Jonge said in the video. “In an open-world game like Horizon Forbidden West, if you open up the map and fast travel from one end to the other, or restart from a checkpoint, it will be super fast. When you boot up the game, you're right there in the action.”
Check out the video below: