Horizon: Call of the Mountain review: A tantalizing spectacle
Firesprite’s Horizon: Call of the Mountain serves not only as a visual and technical showcase for the PlayStation VR2 – it’s of the best AAA VR experiences this side of Half-Life: Alyx.
The Horizon series has not captured my attention through its various standalone offerings, with its two releases being upstaged by the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Elden Ring. However, Call of the Mountain has found a more open calendar spot, and despite me being unfamiliar with its source material, it provides a thrilling VR experience for the PlayStation VR2 launch.
Horizon: Call of the Mountain serves as the technical showcase for what is possible on PlayStation VR2, but also houses its own unique features – though we’re not entirely gripped by its lack of narrative heft.
Horizon: Call of the Mountain: Key details
- Price: £59.99/$59.99
- Developer: Firesprite/Guerilla Games
- Release Date: February 22, 2023
- Platforms: PlayStation VR2
Horizon: Call of the Mountain: Trailer
A new frontier
Ryas, the protagonist of Horizon: Call of the Mountain, is a vagrant in his world. He begins a prisoner, but gains his freedom after proving himself to be particularly handy with a bow and arrow during a skirmish in the opening moments of the game. Ryas has his own goals and motivations aside from investigating a new threat to the Sundom, but the game doesn’t give you much of an explanation as to the where’s and why’s of its own worldbuilding. If you have never played a Horizon title before, you may even find yourself a little lost.
Proper nouns are flung at you, and it can be difficult to keep up with exactly what certain terminology actually means. You might be at an advantage if you know Horizon’s nomenclature, but it’s a bit of a headache if you lack that information. After some time playing, we finally wrapped our heads around it all, but if you’re intending to pick the game up at all, be sure to brush up on your reading from the previous two titles.
The narrative mainly serves as a vehicle for Horizon: Call of the Mountain’s excellent use of diegetic VR mechanics, which is thrilling from the moment the game begins.
The ultimate VR spectacle
One thing about Horizon: Call of the Mountain is that it’s a seamless blend of the use of technology, and how it all interfaces with your experience. The PlayStation VR2’s facial haptics, in addition to the Sense controllers both play a part in making this experience whole. It also manages to leverage the graphical power of the PS5 to deliver what is the best-looking VR game ever made.
This is achieved via the use of aspects, namely Foveated Rendering. This allows the headset to focus on making the objects that you look at as clear as possible, while the edges of the screens are rendered with slightly less detail – which is almost never noticeable in-game. That said, we did find that it occasionally felt like the screens were getting smaller on the device itself during certain scenes.
No matter where you’re venturing, this immersive experience has you climbing, fighting, and exploring your way through a stunning locale, all while contending with its not-so-natural wildlife too. With elements such as your health visible on your hands, it all blends together into one of the most immersive games that we’ve ever tried in VR.
Combat is a fairly clean affair as you’re able to reach for your bow, dodge out of the way of enemies, and pump them with as many arrows as you can shoot. It keeps things fresh and dynamic, and it does a great job of offering a blend of cinematic spectacle, with mechanics that have you aiming your bow toward weak spots, or attempting to navigate around enemy shields effectively.
We were shocked at how simple the learning curve really was. All you need to do is reach over your shoulder for the bow, and your opposite shoulder for the arrows, then aim and fire. The haptic triggers do a lot of work in making it feel like you’re actually stepping into the world of the game, too.
One of your main methods of travel throughout Horizon: Call of the Mountain will be grabbing your way onto ledges, or scaling your way up the titular mountain using various tools you pick up along the way. These climbing puzzles always feel like a fresh challenge, especially when you unlock the additional tools, and it manages to break up the experience between exploration and combat. Though, stretching your arms out for hours at a time might be a little too much for some, as we found. However, that probably has more bearing on our own personal fitness rather than anything the game actually does correctly or incorrectly.
While climbing, you also have the opportunity to look around, and even if the hand-tracking can sometimes throw you off, it’s an especially beautiful game to traverse through. Looking upon a gorgeous vista in VR is just something that you can’t experience with other games, and we cannot really stress how great this game looks – just don’t look down.
By the use of the Sense controllers’ various capacitive surfaces, you’re also given the ability to change what Ryas’s hands are doing at any given moment, which is a lovely little touch.
Seamless technical mastery
Another thing that we hope to see come to more PSVR2 titles is how Horizon: Call of the Mountain handles its menus. All you need to do is to look at a menu option up on the screen, and then confirm it with the controller button. This makes it incredibly easy to configure the game how you like. We played the game in both standing and sitting modes, and while we felt more immersed with the standing option, sitting to play didn’t detract too much from the experience. That’s especially true, as we got a case of the old wobbly legs when peering over ledges or while climbing towards great heights.
The game serves as both a technical showcase of what is possible on the PlayStation VR2. It’s nothing life-altering, but an extremely impressive achievement nonetheless. There are areas where you’re able to mess around with objects in the early game, like painting on a wall, or breaking pots and pans to your heart’s content, too.
The Verdict – 4/5
Horizon: Call of the Mountain does not move any proverbial mountains, but it remains a strong technical showcase for what the PlayStation VR2 can do. In a world where AAA VR titles don’t appear too often, it’s in an exclusive club of unmissable VR experiences that you should definitely pick up.
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