Are you ready to experience the world of Horizon like never before?
As the big, AAA launch title for PSVR 2, Horizon Call of the Mountain sets out to show just what the next-generation headset is capable of. The good news is that what’s on offer here is indeed something that just wasn’t possible on the original PSVR. And on top of that, it proves to be an entertaining adventure in its own right.
Set between the two mainline Horizon titles, Call of the Mountain introduces players to a new protagonist named Ryas. A disgraced former soldier, he begins the adventure as a prisoner, though after a dramatic introduction which allows you to observe a number of the series’ sublime mechanical creatures like never before thanks to PSVR 2, you’re given a chance at redemption. Someone is using these creatures as part of their own diabolical plan, and it’s up to you to stop them.
How do you feel about climbing? You’ll be doing a lot of it in Horizon Call of the Mountain. The clue is in the title, really. While you do sometimes get the chance to explore on foot, exploration is not the focus here. Still, there are some clearings where you can poke your nose around a little, and generally they’re filled with entertaining things to mess around with, just for fun. Pick up a pan flute, for example, and you can play it if you hold it up to your face. You can also paint on walls, ring bells, throw snowballs, and a whole lot more.
Most of your time playing Horizon Call of the Mountain, however, is going to be spent scaling the peaks of the Carja Sundom. It can be as tiring as it sounds. With the PSVR 2 Sense controllers in your hands, you need to reach for ledges, ropes and anything else you might be able to use to ascend upwards. And as you progress further into the game you’ll craft a wide range of tools to help assist you in your endeavours.
Some cliff faces, for example, require you to make use of climbing axes. And sometimes there are chasms to cross that require a caster. Using the right tool in the right circumstances is critical, though sometimes you are rewarded for thinking a little outside of the box.
We found the opening hours of Horizon Call of the Mountain a bit slow – all we seemed to be doing was climbing, endlessly. After your first combat encounter, however, things start to pick up. Your primary weapon is a bow, and you can draw it – as well as any other tool – by putting an arm over your shoulder and pressing the trigger on the Sense controller. Your other arm can then be used to grab an arrow, place it into position and draw.
Rather than give players free movement in combat, Horizon Call of the Mountain allows you to strafe left and right around the arena of battle with the left Sense analogue stick, and dodge with the right. It’s a simple system that works rather well, with you needing to watch out for enemy attacks and react appropriately. Meanwhile, you also need to make use of your weapons to take your mechanical attackers apart.
As you’d expect, numerous arrow types are available, each affecting your target in different ways. What’s neat is that you have to craft them yourself, using the materials you find in the environment. Draw your bow and tilt your wrist and you’re presented with your arrow options. Highlight one and press the craft button, and you’ll be tasked with moving the various parts into place.
You’ll fight quite the variety of mechanical creatures in Horizon Call of the Mountain, many of them absolutely towering. And while your weapons – the bow and a bomb sling – do the job effectively, some encounters let you use the environment to your advantage, too. Combat isn’t always necessary, either; there are some stealth sections where keeping your head low and timing your movements can allow you to pass without having to resort to violence.
Thanks to making use of all of the fantastic features of PSVR 2, including eye tracking, Horizon Call of the Mountain is wonderfully immersive. It looks absolutely stunning for one, with its vast, scenic environments inhabited by wonderfully animated character and enemy models. You also have a real sense of presence in the world thanks to all the possible interactions. Put the headset on and you genuinely do become Ryas for a period of time – although his frequent chatter might eventually irritate you a little.
It’s the eye tracking that might actually be the star of the show here. Aside from making mundane things like navigating through menus a bit more interesting, during gameplay it’s revelatory. Want to destroy a canister on an enemy’s back? Simply focus your gaze upon it, draw back an arrow and shoot. The same goes for any weapon or tool, really. Just focus on your target and fire/throw – chances are you’ll hit it like a pro. It feels like magic the first time you do it, and chances are it’ll still feel pretty special in the months and years ahead.
Thanks to a vast assortment of options, you can tweak Horizon Call of the Mountain to your needs in terms of comfort. And comfort is important here, as the main campaign is pretty meaty. It’s likely to take you around eight hours or so to see the credits, and after that there are multiple reasons to return. There are targets hidden around each mission for you to shoot, for example, as well as collectibles and upgrades to find. Outside of the main campaign there’s also a Challenge Hub to test your skills in, while a safari mode lets you sit back and enjoy gawping at monsters without having to exert any energy.
Unfortunately we have had some issues that have taken us out of the experience a bit. We’ve sometimes awkwardly got stuck on the environment, for example, mostly when using the climbing axes. You can generally get yourself free to continue your climbing though, and it’s something that may be fixed with the day one patch. More troublesome are the handful of times the game has taken us out of its world to complain about our playing area for seemingly no reason whatsoever. It’s hard to pin down whether it’s a software or hardware issue, but it’s immersion breaking nonetheless.
If you’re picking up a PSVR 2 headset and want a game to show off what it’s capable of, Horizon Call of the Mountain is it. The visuals are astounding, and the gameplay – while a little slow to start – soon becomes captivating. Climbing is tiring but rewarding, while doing battle with mechanical monstrosities has never felt more involving. Add in loads of neat interactions and activities to be enjoyed along the way, and you have a game that not only expands the world of Horizon, but also makes us excited for what’s to come thanks to PSVR 2.
Horizon Call of the Mountain Review – GameSpew’s Score
This review of Horizon Call of the Mountain was facilitated by a review code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available exclusively on PS5, and requires PSVR 2.