Since its debut back at E3 2015, Horizon: Zero Dawn has easily been one of my most anticipated upcoming video game releases. A female led adventure in a bright and colourful post apocalypse where dinosaur robots have taken over and survival is dependant on harvesting their components is right up my alley.
The hands off demo for the game shown at E3 this year helped me feel confident the game was heading a direction I could get excited about. Overriding mechanical ox to tame and ride, pinning enemies to the ground to halt their movements, picking out weak spots to damage or salvage first and more. It looked like Monster Hunter meets Dark Souls, with a splash of colour applied and a more acessable set of mechanics in play.
I was sold, and could not wait to get my hands on the game on the E3 show floor.
I did, but I left a little dissapointed, and not because any of the game’s mechanics or presentation were lacking.
I left dissapointed because the E3 show floor demo, unlike the on stage hands off demo, was so restrictive that I constantly felt boxed in and held back from enjoyment.
Players who were able to get their hands on Horizon: Zero Dawn on the show floor were dropped into a small section of “open world”, given a brief run down of the game’s controls and then given seven minutes to explore to their hearts content.
So long as they did not walk more than 20 seconds in any given direction.
While the area provided to explore allowed me to test out weapon types, combat, standard movement and robot hacking, which all worked as flawlessly as I had hoped from watching footage, any time I took off in pursuit of a fleeing machine I was quickly met with a message telling me to turn around or face being booted from the demo.
I wanted to ride my robot ox on a chase after some little robot raptor things. I chased them for mere moments before having to stop and let them leave.
While mechanically Horison: Zero Dawn feels fantastic to play, looks gorgeous, and takes the best aspects of many of my favourite gameplay systems, the demo they let people try at E3 was just far too restrictive to give a proper feel for gameplay loop. This is not how you create a playable E3 demo.