As Guerrilla’s VR debut, Horizon Call of the Mountain should persuade early adopters to get the PlayStation VR2 into their homes. Of course, there are a number of other games worth playing, but this has to be the absolute stunner. In a way, the game succeeds in that, although Call of the Mountain doesn’t always feel like a Horizon game.
An old friend
The story of Horizon Call of the Mountain follows Ryas, a former Shadow Carja rebel who is convicted of his crimes. What exactly he has done is not known, but apparently they are violent crimes. He evades execution by orders from Avad, before being offered a chance at freedom by Marad. In return, however, he must investigate a new danger to the Sundom, which includes a dangerous journey. Fortunately, Ryas is a master climber and no summit is too high and no danger too great for the former Shadow Carja.
During his adventure you get to know Ryas better, but you also meet old acquaintances, like Aloy. I won’t give away what her role is in the story, but it was incredibly cool to see her on the other side of the coin. Some of these characters are true to life when you engage in dialogue with them. Still, Call of the Mountain doesn’t seem to revolve around the story, as the player only gets it in very small portions. The game certainly could have gotten more out of that. If you do not play Call of the Mountain, then as a fan of Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West, you are not missing out on an awful lot. So don’t be sad if the PlayStation VR2 doesn’t fit the budget.
Call of the Mountain is in fact a typical showcase game, as you often see with the release of a new console or new accessories. The beginning of the game in particular is ideal for showing off to that one uncle who drops by on your birthday to make a quick impression.
Horizon: Call of the Mountain is technically an absolute highlight, though. The world in which the player literally moves looks fantastic, leaving you impressed from the very first moment. We already mentioned the intro sequence, where one machine after another passes by as a foretaste of the rest of the game, but even after that we are mostly impressed by what we see.
So Ryas is a master climber, which makes Call of the Mountain an absolute sport to get through. A huge part of the gameplay consists of climbing, something that works well. The accuracy of the Sense controllers works well with the mechanics of Call of the Mountain. When you arrive at the top of a mountain it makes you feel fulfilled, because at such a moment you can enjoy the view again for a while. The temples you see from time to time in combination with the climbing and scrambling are very reminiscent of Uncharted. In terms of beautiful images and wow moments, the latest installment in the Horizon franchise tries even harder than we were used to from the adventures with Aloy.
Climbing in the game is cool the first few times, especially because of the payoff when you finally arrive at a summit. Many times you finally get to take on machines, which is actually the most interesting part of the entire game. In fact, the combat works very well and is a lot less boring than the climbing, which occasionally leaves us exhausted. Machine combat runs as you are used to via shooting with bow and arrow. You just have to craft the special arrows that do extra damage compared to regular arrows. Shooting the arrows is so precise, it almost works better than the normal Horizon games do with a controller. With playful ease, you shoot parts from a Watcher or, of course, a Thunderjaw. The more difficult battles, in particular, do take a bit long, so that, as with climbing, you end up walking off with lame arms.
A fine length of play
Horizon: Call of the Mountain is not the longest game ever. You need about eight hours to finish the game, while there is also a Challenge Hub and a Machine Safari in the game. These modes are mainly fun to briefly show off what is possible with Call of the Mountain, as the lion’s share revolves around the story mode anyway.
There are several ways to control the game: a “gesture”-based system where you move by holding two buttons and mimicking a walking motion with your arms. We chose to walk with the joystick of the Sense controller. This did result in some motion sickness, especially after a somewhat longer play session, even sitting down. It’s wise then to take a break before things really go wrong. Standing was an even worse option, as we sometimes felt like we were falling over. Mainly during moments when your character is moving around in the game, such as with an elevator or at the beginning of the game when you fall out of a boat, it can confuse the brain. Keep this in mind if you are easily carsick, for example.
Although it provides a lot more immersion by walking yourself, we still prefer teleportation. When you engage in combat you do make use of teleportation, making it easier to dodge projectiles fired at you by the relentless machines. These battles, by the way, were not too difficult, but did provide frustrations. There were frequent occasions when we switched weapons, or were firing so fanatically that one of our hands disappeared. There was no way to fix that without getting out of the fight by going back to the main menu. As a result, there were times when you almost knocked over one of the machines only to have to start all over again.
Fortunately, the checkpoints in Call of the Mountain are otherwise fairly forgiving. You won’t easily find yourself having to replay entire sections of a level because you fell into a precipice somewhere. Speaking of precipices, if you are afraid of heights, you might as well leave the game alone. Don’t suffer from anything else? Then Horizon Call of the Mountain will give you an excellent time and is definitely one of the first games you should get if you own a PlayStation VR2.
Horizon Call of the Mountain is a technological marvel, and mainly for that reason, one of the first games you’re going to want to play on the PlayStation VR2. The game is not perfect, due to the poor balance between climbing and combat, but still we are impressed time and again by the beautiful pictures that pass by. Shooting with bow and arrow is even more satisfying than in the regular games, and the sense of immersion in Horizon Call of the Mountain is extremely high. The player really feels like they are in Aloy’s world, even though she herself has only a small supporting role.