Horizon Forbidden West has cemented itself as one of the most highly-anticipated exclusives for PS5 and its February 2022 release date is getting closer by the day.
Releasing on both PS5 and PS4, Horizon Forbidden West is the sequel to 2017’s critically acclaimed Horizon Zero Dawn. It will continue the story of protagonist Aloy, this time taking her to the western United States on a mission to stop a mysterious threat known only as the Red Blight.
Following on from Zero Dawn, the game will feature a large open world filled with machines, gadgets, and weapons to discover. 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.
If you want all the details about Horizon Forbidden West so far—and we’re learning a great deal as the game’s release approaches—read on. We’ve collected together the latest news and rumors below, including release date, trailers, price and more.
[Update: There’s a new trailer introducing the tribes of Horizon Forbidden West. Watch it for yourself below.]
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.
Originally, Sony made the controversial decision to not include a free PS5 upgrade for Horizon Forbidden West’s PS4 version. This has since been walked back due to fan backlash, with Jim Ryan announcing the PS5 upgrade will be free, and players will no longer need to purchase the Deluxe edition to be eligible for it.
If you want to know more details about the various editions of Horizon Forbidden West, you can check out the full announcement on Sony’s website.
Horizon Forbidden West trailers
Tribes of the Forbidden West
A January 2021 trailer has introduced some of the tribes that players will encounter when they visit the Forbidden West with Aloy. In the two-minute video below, different clans are outlined, among them Oseram, Carja, Utaru, Tenakth and a mysterious unnamed tribe which lies far west.
Three new machines trailer
In a December 2021 trailer, PlayStation has put the focus on some of the machines that will make an appearance in Horizon Forbidden West. There are some familiar machines in the trailer but it also reveals three new ones: “the armored Rollerback, the graceful Sunwing, and the acid-spitting Slitherfang”. Take a look at them roaming the rocky, sandy landscape of the Forbidden West.
A trailer for Horizon Forbidden West was debuted at The Game Awards 2021, showing a mixture of environments and enemies we can expect in the long-awaited sequel. Check it out, below:
During Gamescom 2021’s Opening Night Live showcase, Horizon Forbidden West game director Mathijs de Jonge revealed the official release date for the game.
We got another 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.”
As revealed in an official PlayStation blog post, there’s an entire team, headed up by Espen Sogn, Lead Living World Designer, that’s dedicated to making Horizon Forbidden West’s “world feel authentic and alive: the tribes, the settlements, and the people within them.”
Sogn’s team has worked alongside the narrative team and Annie Kitain, Senior Writer at Guerrilla, says that “a lot of thought” has gone into every tribe that players will encounter in the game. “Take the Tenakth, for instance,” Kitain explains, “Many of their beliefs are influenced by the ancient ruins of the Forbidden West, and unlike other tribes, they’re comprised of three distinct clans. Their shared history, convictions, disputes – all of that is important to developing the characters that Aloy will meet on her journey.”
The “competitive and combat-focused” Tenakth are both similar and different from other tribes in the game world and this, in turn, is communicated through the game world itself, through “the details, the animations, and the behaviors. Within their settlements, you’ll see the Tenakth working out, readying themselves for battle. They’re often younger because they need to be capable warriors. Their base is an ancient ruin, from which they’ve picked up certain Old World gestures that they may not fully understand – like using a military salute to say hello.’”
“The Living World team does a fantastic job, and it’s so great to see it all come together,” says Kitain. “Each tribe starts as a bunch of ideas, then is translated into these amazing settlements. Like the Utaru, who were imagined as an agrarian society that’s deeply connected to the land around them. Once the tribe is in-game and the Living World team has done their magic, you’re walking around the Utaru’s fields, interacting with them, and you think, ‘whoa, they nailed it.’ Now this tribe feels real.”
To add to the sense of authenticity, the post reveals that every non-combat NPC is part of a “crowd system”, within which rules can be created. This allows Guerilla to “create unique people who behave like individuals within the world.”
Aloy will explore tribe settlements through the game and she’ll need them and the NPCs that populate them “to sustain and equip her.”
According to Steven Lumpkin, Senior Designer at Guerrilla, the team “wanted the towns and villages across the Forbidden West to feel lived in, vibrant, and useful.” To that end, “in each settlement across the world, you’ll find opportunities for adventure. They are filled with merchants and vendors: Stitchers, who can sell Aloy powerful (and beautiful!) new outfits in exchange for shards and machine parts; Hunters, who offer an array of tactical new weaponry; Herbalists, who sell potent potions that Aloy is definitely strong enough to handle; and Cooks, who prepare invigorating meals that Aloy can carry with her for a boost.”
Horizon Forbidden West gameplay
Guerrilla is using Horizon Forbidden West’s deeper and larger setting as an opportunity to give players more freedom of movement, with David McMullen, Lead Systems Designer at Guerrilla saying in a PlayStation Blog post that “Aloy can climb freely on and across huge sections of rocky terrain; even more machine types can be used as mounts; grapple points can be found throughout the environment which allows agile vertical traversal; swimming underwater has opened up a whole new aspect of exploration; and gliding with the Shieldwing provides the ultimate view of the beautiful world of Horizon Forbidden West – not to mention a quick way down from great heights!”
This focus on player choice extends to improvements in combat, too. According to Guerrilla’s Lead Combat Designer, Dennis Zopfi, “One of the focus points that influenced all our combat decisions was increased player choice, and we applied this to everything: melee, weapons, outfits, skills and other new mechanics. We wanted to give players more tools, depth and dials to play with.’
This means Aloy will also be getting new weapons and abilities—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—but she’ll also be able to upgrade and strengthen them. This will be done at the new workbench which “unlocks new perks, mod slots, skills, and offers a bigger degree of customization, resistances, and new abilities for players!”
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, we know of quite a few: the Pullcaster; the Shieldwing; and her Diving Mask. All of these, Guerilla say, make Aloy “more agile during both exploration and the inevitable battles she’ll be fighting in the West.” The Pullcaster, for instance, acts as a grapple to speed up Aloy’s movements as well as a winch for manipulating, moving and destroying objects in the environment. The Shieldwing, meanwhile, “allows her to safely descend from great heights (or surprise enemies from above)”.
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. There are 12 Valor Surges in total, “each of them representing and strengthening a specific approach to the game”, and they’re unlocked and upgraded 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.
One Valor Surge shown as part of a State of Play gameplay trailer is known as 360 Blast. Another, shown on the PlayStation Blog is Radial Blast, used to knock down stockier foes.
It sounds like you’ll be needing most —if not all—of the advantages you can get with Aloy’s new abilities, as her enemies can now hunt in new ways. Human enemies can now fight alongside machines as well as against them, and we’ve even seen them make use of mounted combat just as Aloy can.
Horizon Forbidden West PS5 improvements
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.”
David McMullen, lead systems designer at Guerrilla, revealed in a PlayStation Blog post that the DualSense’s features are “heavily featured throughout our mechanics. From the scrape of rubble as you push a crate, to the sensation of an unravelling winch as you use the Pullcaster — with the increased adaptive trigger tension as you pull!”
There are even some more subtle uses, with “extra tactile dimensions” such as “the sensation of grass brushing around you to indicate you are entering stealth grass, or the pop of the adaptive trigger as you reach maximum draw with a bow. We even use the absence of adaptive tension to help communicate when you’re out of ammo.”
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 Forbidden West news and rumors below for your perusal:
Better side quests and rewards
A recent Horizon Forbidden West preview published by Game Informer has covered some of the improvements that players can expect to see in Horizon Forbidden West and they include better side quests and rewards for embarking on them. Game Director Mathijs de Jonge promises that players can expect “a lot more variety” when it comes to the side quests as well as “a more sense of accomplishment that you actually get something cool in return for doing these quests.” He adds that rewards will include things like “a cool weapon” or “a cool outfit”, something “that’s really useful for your next quest or activity.”
Improved relationship building
In addition to better side quests, Game Informer’s preview of the game also touches on improvements in relationship-building between Aloy and the companion characters she encounters. Guerrilla is, apparently, hoping that players will be able to build stronger bonds with characters by offering them the opportunity to spend more time with them. “That’s something we tried to do consistently throughout the game,” says narrative director Benjamin McCaw. “Not just for characters that you meet along the main quest, but also certain side quest characters; they don’t just go away after one quest.”
Getting its rating
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which assigns age and content ratings to videogames in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, has given Horizon Forbidden West a “T” for Teen game. The ratings board tags the game as featuring “Blood, Language, Use of Alcohol, and Violence” in its rationale for the rating which won’t come as a great surprise to anyone who played Horizon Zero Dawn.
The description accompanying the rating gives an interesting insight into what players can expect when they finally get to play Horizon Forbidden West: “Players use slingshots, bows, javelins, and spears to kill enemies in frenetic combat. Puffs of blood are depicted as human enemies are hit; blood stains also appear underneath bodies in some environments. Players can also perform stealth attacks (e.g., spear impalement) to eliminate enemies discreetly. Cutscenes depict additional acts of violence: a character impaled by swords or spears; a character crushed to death by a statue. The game depicts drunk characters stumbling around, and in one area stating, ‘I’m inebriated'; one cutscene depicts Aloy drinking beer from a mug; several background characters are seen drinking alcohol in taverns. The word ‘sh*t’ is heard in the game.”
PS5 file size?
The PlayStation Game Size Twitter account might have just revealed the file size and preload date for Horizon Forbidden West on PS5.
The account, which trawls the PlayStation database for uploads before they go live, states that the file size for Horizon Forbidden West sits at 96GB and that’s before any kind of day one patches. Preload, the account says, will be on February 11, making it a full week before launch.
PlayStation Game Size notes that some games on the database are bigger than on console, with a leeway of 10 to 20 GB, but this would still make Horizon Forbidden West over 70GB.
🚨 Horizon Forbidden West (PS5)▶️ Download Size : 96.350 GB* (Without Day One Patch)* Some Games on Database Have Bigger Size Than on Console (10-20 GB) , Anyway Still +70 GB !🟩 Pre-Load : February 11🟫 Launch : February 18🟨 #PS5 #HorizonForbiddenWest🟧 @Guerrilla pic.twitter.com/f8g0GeD4DPDecember 21, 2021
Using ideas not possible in the first game
In Horizon Forbidden West, Guerrilla Games has said it’s making use of ideas for the game’s machines that it couldn’t use in the first game. In a November PlayStation Blog post, Principal Machine Designer Blake Politeski said, “We’re getting to explore a new area within the world of Horizon. It was interesting to figure out what type of machines would live in different ecological zones, and how they would interact with each other, their environment, and of course humans. Machines are the so-called caretakers of this world, so how they perform their roles and what the player can do to use these behaviors to their advantage was always interesting to consider.
“During Horizon Zero Dawn’s development, we had a ton of ideas — of course not everything could make it into the first game, but now with Horizon Forbidden West we’ve been able to match some exciting ideas that previously weren’t feasible with new and interesting concepts!”
That means new machines and new behaviors that Aloy can take advantage of. Sunwings, for example, can harvest solar power but doing so will leave them temporarily more vulnerable.
“Aloy has many different types of weapons and ammunition available, and she’s going to need them all to beat the different machines!” says Asset Art Lead Maxim Fleury. “Without spoiling anything, every machine has multiple ways to be defeated. We tried to make it clear for players through the machine design, and added textures to show the weak points or interactive components. You’ll need to study each machine closely to find different ways to approach it.”
“The machines in Horizon Forbidden West are more mobile in almost every way you can imagine – jumping, swimming, clinging to surfaces…” adds Blake. “Because of this, Aloy will need to keep up with them, so there’s new movement mechanics to help her out. We’re also focusing more on Aloy’s ability to survey and plan an encounter before engaging, as well as her ability to escape if things don’t go as planned.”
One ability we’re particularly looking forward to using is Aloy’s new resonator blast. As detailed in the blog post linked below, the resonator blast acts as a marriage of melee and ranged combat.
Put simply, Aloy will build up a focused energy as she attacks with her spear. Not only does this mean melee combat is encouraged in Horizon Forbidden West, it’s also very much viable in many circumstances.
When the energy is filled, Aloy can send a projectile out that sticks to her enemies. She can then shoot this energy, acting as a target, with an arrow, causing it to explode and dealing massive damage in the process.
Stronger Aloy, stronger machines
A December 6, 2021 official PlayStation Blog post from Guerrilla took a bit of a deep dive into combat and AI improvements that will feature in Horizon Forbidden West.
“We wanted enemies to feel more authentic by improving the fluidity and continuity of motion, like making enemies (and companions) more capable of traversing rugged terrain,” explains lead AI programmer Arjen Beij.
“The AI in Horizon Zero Dawn already supported some dynamic terrain changes, but we wanted to take this further by adding jumping and climbing as a systemic part of their behavior. As you are playing the game, the AI will be searching for opportunities to take shortcuts, where it previously was a cumbersome detour.”
And it’s not just the machines who are getting buffed in the sequel, as Guerrilla has paid special attention to the human enemies that will attempt to block Aloy’s progress.
“We rely on readable silhouettes and behaviors that the player can recognize,” explains gameplay animation director Richard Oud, “so you can anticipate or react to an enemy move. We play around with the timing of those movements to not only create windows of opportunities for the player to strike, block, or run, but also to show some personality traits in the animations themselves.”
Ahead of the release of Horizon Forbidden West, the team at Guerilla Games has launched a new, spoiler-filled podcast in which it “dives deep into the Horizon universe.” The first episode focuses on Aloy, the series protagonist, with more of a focus on the first game in the series, Horizon Zero Dawn.
Introducing GAIA Cast! From the team at Guerrilla, GAIA Cast is an upcoming podcast that dives deep into the Horizon universe. Our first season, focused on Horizon Zero Dawn, debuts this Tuesday, 23 November, with our first episode: All About Aloy. #HorizonGAIACast pic.twitter.com/pA8z0TRcEGNovember 22, 2021
Peach fuzz confirmed
In a September 27, 2021 post on the official PlayStation blog, titled Horizon Forbidden West: Evolving Aloy, Guerrilla community lead Bo De Vries wrote about just how much detail is going into Aloy’s upcoming PS5 adventure, including something of a deep dive on the major graphical enhancements over the first game in the series.
To really sell just how far the developer has come since 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn, lead character artist Bastien Ramisse stated: “Each generation of consoles brings extra power that lets us add even denser polygons to our character models, so we can create finer details such as peach fuzz, smooth contouring, or finer texture details and accurate materials expression, to name a few.”
This was followed by a rather stunning looking screenshot of protagonist Aloy, showcasing graphical enhancements such as visible stitching on her clothing and relaxed braids in her hair.
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: