Into the Horizon
The PSVR 2 is out with a slew of launch games, but none is more anticipated than Horizon Call of the Mountain. Built from the ground up using Unreal Engine 4, Guerilla Games and Firesprite worked hard to deliver an experience filled with great presentation and layered gameplay elements, even if the story falls a bit flat. Throughout my playthrough, I couldn’t help but be excited for the prospect of what’s to come.
A Story Behind the Mainline
Set before Horizon II: Forbidden West, you will be playing as Ryas, a Shadow Carja that was captured to face his crimes for playing a key role in the abduction of Prince Itamen. Upon you arrival to a small settlement called Dawn’s Graps, you are then task to reach the highest peak of the mountains called Sunspear to figure out what is causing the machines to go rampant – doing this would absolve all crimes given to you, since you’re the only one capable of doing this impossible task. Coincidentally, this also leads to questions about Ryas’ brothers whereabouts. Despite the straight through plot that doesn’t really push the mainline narrative forward other than insight to the Carja Sundom, Call of the Mountain serves as a great entry to the VR experience Sony is promising with PSVR 2 – it tells a well-acted story with great voice work that helped through my 6hr journey.
What shines in the narrative is the conversations Ryas has with himself as you trek through the mountains – revealing ever so lightly the situation he put himself in, and also who he is as a person. The interactions you have with some of the people that has captured you can be a bit disjointed at first, but over time you come to realize why. Additionally, there’s a lot of story telling happening through the environment – the rusted metal works and crumbling ruins of the Old Ones is just as dense and detailed as the forest within the mountains. The overarching plot isn’t as superfluous as one might expect in a Horizon game, but it works well enough, even if it’s a spinoff outside of the main story.
Climb, Scavenge and Shoot
Call of the Mountain is a surprisingly robust game with great mechanics. There’s climbing that’s as deep as The Climb 2 in VR with tools such as pick axes and grapple hooks, alongside exploration and combat akin to Half Life: Alyx with exceptional interactivity. There are some physics-based properties that allows for items to be interacted with and tossed. Additionally, each level is designed to have multiple paths with different outcomes. There are no choice-base consequences, but you will have a different experience first time around compared to someone else which I did not expect. Another surprise for me was the Dawn’s Grasp hub space which can be roamed around between missions, which allows for you to interact with the folks, as well as partaking in arena challenges in an attempt to beat the high scores. It’s a neat element that I did not expect going in.
While attending your missions, you will be matched with all types of dangers from environmental puzzles to Watchers – which had a surprising element of stealth. There are predetermined paths the machines take, but I thought it was a great touch – this included hiding in tall grass before engaging with a Scrapper for example. Readying and shooting your bow took not time at all to learn given how accurate it is even with aim-assist off. I was dodging and snapping to weak points with ease which really benefitted the layered gameplay it’s offering. There’s a healthy flow of exploration and combat that works really well for in Call of the Mountain and the prospect of improvements really excites me.
However, I did have some weird tracking issues when it came to climbing – often I would catapult upwards to 10ft high while still holding on a ledge below. Additionally, tracking would lose connection periodically, which threw me to an the VR environment view. It was irritating at first, and prompted me to redo my play space multiple times. I hope this gets patched soon.
Call of the Mountain isn’t by any means an open world game, but the level design is done well enough to give you the space to explore some neat elements like a dilapidated tower that’s hiding a collectible item, or a ledge that if you look over you will see a target to shoot down. Despite not having the ability to scavenge from downed machines, you can grab trophies off of them and examine them as if you’re holding it yourself with great detail.
Unreal Engine Utilized
Speaking of detail, Call of the Mountain is not built within the Decima Engine like the mainline games, instead it is using the UE4 engine – and what Firesprite managed to develop is quite exceptional. The aesthetics of the mainline game has been adopted so well in Call of the Mountain with great detail to the environment and characters. Examining your floating hands is so incredibly sharp thanks to the OLED display and its 2K resolution. Foveated and eye-tracking technology is used exceptionally well here with your peripheral vision reducing its rending and increasing it in an area you are focusing on. It is rendered incredibly fast too and I find it to really help with motion sickness, which I experience none whatsoever during my playthrough.
Everything from environment to machine looks absolutely sharp rich with detail and I couldn’t be any happier – with the additions of haptics and 3D audio, you will feel immersed in the best way possible thanks to the PSVR 2’s high-end specs.
REVIEW SCORE: 7.5/10
Horizon Call of the Mountain is an excellent VR experience and a good start to the PSVR 2 lineup. Although the plot false short, even with great voice acting, it is easily remedied by its fantastic gameplay elements and excellent presentation. It is several steps above just being a VR Tech Demo.
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