Climb, climb, then climb some more
The Horizon series came out of nowhere when it was announced, and now it’s sort of synonymous with Sony’s entire IP stable, alongside of juggernauts like God of War and The Last of Us. It turns out people really like robot dinosaurs, amid all of the other (sometimes silly) lore therein. It’s fun to explore and experience this wild universe in a traditional third person format; but now we have a VR option in Horizon Call of the Mountain.
Developer: Guerilla Games, Firesprite
Released: February 22, 2023
Fittingly, Horizon Call of the Mountain was the first thing I tried after setting up my PSVR 2 (which was shockingly simple to do): and I think I made the right choice. Folks, this game is gorgeous.
After getting over the “protagonist is a prisoner with a heart of gold” trope (played this time by someone named Ryas), I was immediately engaged and sold on the VR take on Horizon. This is the same sometimes terrifying world where hulking metallic creatures can eat you at a moment’s notice; their glowing eyes serving as both a defense mechanism and an albatross.
Before I even finish the review, I’ll just say this upfront: I could go for more VR side stories in this setting. I have some overarching issues with the Horizon world as a whole, but I didn’t feel the need to re-litigate any of them in Call of the Mountain. The new first-person perspective (and the shift to another lead that’s a little less capable) does wonders, especially when mixed with years of hindsight of consumer-centric VR development.
Although there are plenty of comfort options to turn on if you want them, we’re far removed from the initial days of VR: where obscured views can’t be toggled off, and movement options were limited. Very early on, I found myself just looking around at the vistas and waterfalls of Horizon Call of the Mountain, sometimes for minutes at a time. It’s a spectacle-filled game, and a good conversation piece for your new PSVR 2, even if everyone can’t technically enjoy it together.
Of course, there should be an actual game here at some point, and there is! A lot of it is climbing-based, which could be make or break depending on what your tolerance of the mechanic is. As for myself, one of my favorite VR games is called The Climb, so I think I’m good here. For many people, VR does make a huge difference when it comes to enhancing self-imposed challenges, and enticing players to explore more for little to no reward. All this to say: I climbed everything I could in Call of the Mountain, just to see the view from up top. This is easily one of the best VR worlds ever made, up there with Half-Life Alyx.
Exploration is compounded by combat, all of which mostly funnels into linear paths and carefully-crafted fight locations. You’ll be taking down robot dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes (land, sea, and air) with your trusty bow and arrow — which, truth be told — never gets old due to the precision and haptic feedback involved. The whole adventure lasts around five or six hours — more if you enjoy messing around with all the random junk strewn about the game (playing musical instruments, or chucking plates against a wall to hear the crash).
Speaking of feedback: the new PSVR 2 controllers are a standout bonus that I should mention (and will talk about more in the PSVR 2 hardware review). Folks, these are multi-generational leaps over the Move controllers. I mean it’s a literal fact that Move tech is multiple generations old, but it’s hard to describe just how much better the new control method is with Sony’s second iteration of VR. Everything is incredible responsive and intuitively in reach. The new tech also features stellar haptic feedback support, which comes in handy when using the bow and arrow mechanic and (you guessed it) while climbing.
When I was a kid I dreamed of games that had huge draw distances, where you could view the horizon in stunning detail to the point where it was a feature in and of itself. Horizon Call of the Mountain is the definition of a day one hardware title, and a project that fulfills that dream. It shows off the shiny new PSVR 2 in style, builds upon a previously established exclusive-IP-based world, and tells its own story without retreading on what was done previously. Your mileage may vary when it comes to the climbing aspect and the repetition involved, but if you know what you’re getting into you’ll have a great time.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]