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Horizon Forbidden West trailer, release date, gameplay, and more

A screenshot from Horizon Forbidden West
(Image credit: Sony)

Horizon Forbidden West is set to be one of the biggest PS5 games of the year. Originally scheduled for 2021, the game was pushed back so developer Guerrilla Games could finesse is so that stepping into the shoes of protagonist Aloy will feel truly next-gen. 

And from the trailers we've seen so far, Horizon Forbidden West looks very good. It builds upon the exploration and battling with animal-like machines seen in 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn, only with what appears to be a greater emphasis on mobility. 

With that in mind, here's what we know so far about Horizon Forbidden West. 

Horizon Forbidden West release date 

a screenshot from horizon forbidden west

(Image credit: Sony)

Horizon Forbidden West now has a release date for February 18, 2022. This is a bit unwelcome news for fans that have been patiently awaiting the next chapter in Aloy's story. 

To keep us ticking over, Horizon Zero Dawn now has a new 60 fps mode for PS5 owners.

Horizon Forbidden West trailer

Horizon Forbidden West Sony State of Play

The vertical slice of gameplay footage shown during Sony's PS5 State of Play event gave us our first look at Horizon Forbidden West in action; you can view the whole thing yourself below. It begins with Aloy hiding from the new, velociraptor-like Clawstrider machines, which quickly force her into an pacey escape.

This first action sequence demonstrated several new mechanics, like a quick scan mode for Aloy's Focus device: this instantly marks up handholds she can grab to traverse the environment. Aloy also gets a new grappling hook gadget that lets her zip to marked anchor points.

We also got to see the added underwater exploration, which can involve finding spots to boost Aloy through strong currents. She's equipped with a breathing mask, so you won't need to come up for air.

Later, an encounter with human enemies provided the chance to show off Aloy's new combat moves, which include longer melee combos and an activatable power-up for her spear — complete with dramatic super move animation — that makes short work of a tribal miniboss.

a screenshot from horizon forbidden west

(Image credit: Sony)

The climax, a battle against the mammoth-like Tremortusk and its human masters, is a symphony of Horizon Forbidden West's new tricks. There's grappling, new explosive spear and movement-slowing sticky bomb weapons, and Aloy's Shieldwing glider: a hard-light parachute that looks as useful for escaping a collapsing building as it does for more peaceful traversal.

The latter half of the preview shows Aloy battling a rebel faction of the Tenakth, a Western tribe whose people are only met briefly in Horizon Zero Dawn. But there'll still be more familiar faces along for the ride, including Aloy's buddy Erend, seen here as the moustachioed damsel in distress.

Horizon Forbidden West gameplay 

We know from Horizon Zero Dawn that the Forbidden West is an area of North America that lies beyond the land of the Carja tribe, and is a dangerous part of the land full of murderous machines. From this and the footage of glistening beaches and mountainous terrain, as well as glimpses of a ruined Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco landmarks like the Ferry Building and the Transamerica Pyramid, Horizon Forbidden West takes place on the West Coast of a post-apocalyptic USA.

Game director Mathijs De Jonge noted that the overall size of Horizon Forbidden West will be “a bit larger” than its predecessor but will take advantage of the PS5 SSD tech and avoid the need for virtually any loading screens. 

Speaking of beaches, the trailer showed Aloy in some form of cobbled together scuba gear to drive beneath the sea and explore submerged buildings while avoiding crocodile-like robots. But the game also seems to involve climbing snow-capped mountains and exploring caverns filled with long-lost technology.

And alongside killing robot dinosaurs you’ll also once again be able to take them over and use them as a mount to navigate the open world. That won't be the only trick up your sleeve, Sony has published a deep dive into the abilities of Aloy, as well as a deeper look at the world that she'll be exploring. 

Thanks to a grappling hook-like device called the Pull caster, Aloy can quickly leap and zip to out-of-reach areas, as well as pull objects towards her. This should deliver a much more dynamic range of movement than that seen in Horizon Zero Dawn. 

The Shieldwing is basically like the paraglider seen in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, only rather than a cloth and some sticks, is based on a form of energy shield. It effectively allows Aloy to glide down from heights that jumping from would kill her, thus expanding how players can explore the open world. 

A PlayStation Blog post dedicated to the combat of Horizon Forbidden West explains that the goal of the development team at Guerrilla is to evolve the combat design from Zero Dawn without completely overhauling the core foundations. 

Community lead Bo de Vries explains, "we wanted to add additional depth to gameplay and increase the skill cap for players, through skills like melee combos and Valor Surges. Players who spend some time perfecting their combat skills will find some efficient and stylish ways to dispose of their enemies.

"Second, we wanted to cater to a variety of playstyles and really focus on freedom of choice. Through new weapons and outfits, which can be upgraded at a workbench, players can adapt their tactics. Finally, we wanted to design challenging enemies that encourage players to use all their abilities and skills. A whole new set of machines as well as advanced human enemies will keep players on their toes throughout the game!”

Another big improvement to the combat system in Forbidden West is a reworking of the enemy AI. This will in particular make human enemies significantly smarter, which was one of the biggest issues in Horizon Zero Dawn. Robot creatures will also have their intelligence bumped up to help them navigate the landscape more realistically. 

New underwater enemies have been showcased in a fresh gameplay snippet. While Aloy now has the ability to dive underneath the surface of the sea, so do her enemies with some mechanical beasts capable of attacking on both land and in the water. 

The PS5's DualSense controller will also have a part to play in the immersive nature of Horizon Forbidden West.

“The DualSense wireless controller is heavily featured throughout our mechanics,” said David McMullen, lead systems designer at Guerrilla. “From the scrape of rubble as you push a crate, to the sensation of an unraveling winch as you use the Pullcaster — with the increased adaptive trigger tension as you pull! 

We’ve also added extra tactile dimensions to increase both the gameplay value and the feeling of being part of the world Aloy is moving around in; these can be subtle as the sensation of grass brushing around you to indicate you are entering stealth grass, or the pop of the adaptive trigger as you reach maximum draw with a bow. We even use the absence of adaptive tension to help communicate when you’re out of ammo.”

Horizon Forbidden West story 

new trailer for Horizon Forbidden West shows how Aloy will head off towards the U.S. West Coast to seek out a solution to a blight that's affecting the plants and crops of the world, potentially threatening to starve the fledgling human population. The situation isn't helped with the robots that inhabit the world getting more aggressive. 

She won't be going it alone as Erend and Varl will have her back as returning companions. The enigmatic and morally dubious Sylens is back. When last he was seen, he has captured the essence of killer AI Hades after Aloy stopped the AI from activating a protocol that would destroy life on Earth for a second time. We suspect we've not heard the last of Hades.

But a more pressing antagonist will come in the form of a rebel called Regalla, who's at war with the Tenakth tribe, and Aloy seems to get stuck in the middle of that battle.

There were also hints at other ancient AIs being present and possibly even an ancient human, who perhaps lived into the third millennium through cloning or cryostasis. Expect the tech of the 'Old Ones' aka pre-apocalypse humanity form around the 2040s and the spectre they left behind to intertwine with the plot of Forbidden West's 3040.

Horizon Forbidden West outlook  

All Horizon Forbidden West really needs to do is build upon the critically-acclaimed Horizon Zero Dawn.

With the power of the PS5, the DualSense controller, and the 3D Audio capabilities, Horizon Forbidden West should look, feel and sound very impressive; going by the footage so far it looks rather beautiful. 

Ideally, some more RPG elements and the ability to better shape the story and interact with the world wouldn’t go amiss. 

But Horizon Zero Dawn still feels fresh to play today, so if Gurrila Games can simply evolve that formula with Horizon Forbidden West it’s likely to be onto a winner. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer is U.K. Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.