Horizon Call of the Mountain feels like a strange game to be the PlayStation VR 2 system seller. Being story-driven games, it requires 100s of hours of gameplay to catch up to just the start of it. This being said, Guerilla Games and Firesprite have done a surprisingly good job for those who want to start here. Horizon Call of the Mountain is a great sign of what VR can do, however, it falls into some of the pitfalls that come with the sheer spectacle of the hardware.
Game Name: Horizon Call of the Mountain Platforms(s): PSVR 2 Publisher(s): Sony Developer(s):Guerrilla Games, Firesprite Release Date: February 22, 2023
In Horizon Call of the Mountain, you play the role of Rhys, a disgraced soldier who is known for their climbing abilities. Though you aren’t trusted, you are skilled enough to investigate a new threat upon the land. The story is kind of basic and never amounts to more than single actions. There is little complexity here. The story is not what will keep you going.
Instead, the characters and the sights are what will keep you looking for the next chapter. Marad is your primary source of guidance throughout the game as he spares Ryas from potential execution, giving him the quest he is on. Seeing people like Hami and Aloy up close is wonderful and a great way of fleshing out a universe many are already familiar with.
In pursuit of this, Horizon Call of the Mountain looks fantastic in VR. Being someone who has access to PCVR, this is still one of the prettiest games I’ve ever seen. The scope of the world is impressively realised with huge mountain ranges in the background and dangerous enemies in the foreground. The Foveated Rendering, PSVR2’s ability to focus fidelity on where you are looking, works wonderfully well and I never noticed any blurriness in my entire time playing.
This combines with organic and interesting sounds to give a wonderful moment-to-moment experience. Unfortunately, the movement is a little off and smooth viewing is often quite disorienting. You can use snap viewing, but this feels a little outdated.
The Climb of the mountain
The main thing you will be doing in your time with Horizon Call of the Mountain is climbing. Ryas was chosen for this mission due to his traversal abilities and they really drive this home. Luckily, climbing feels great. Ledges are highlighted in white and can be grabbed easily, making you feel like an experienced climber at every level. It can be quite tiring to climb so much, but it nails that action-hero feel of being able to climb directly up the side of the mountain.
This is added to in meaningful ways with new tools and ways of looking at the world. You are often pushed into jumping off the side of a cliff, only to pull a tool out from your back and swing to a new surface. When things work, everything clicks.
If you don’t much like the idea of climbing, you will not like what Horizon Call of the Mountain has to offer. As a vehicle to provide the story, it does everything reasonably well.
It also takes time to add puzzles and unique mechanics as you climb, giving you something to think about before you move. If you can get through everything quickly, you genuinely feel quite smart. This is part of the charm of VR. Even simple movement feels so good to get right.
Take a bow
Outside of climbing, Horizon Call of the Mountain regularly tasks you with shooting down robot enemies, crafting new equipment, and hiding. These all feel fantastic in VR, taking advantage of the haptic feedback in both the controllers and headset. Moving pieces has a real weight to them and you are really alerted when you get hit.
With your trusty bow slung over your shoulder, you can take it out at a moment’s notice, change around your arrow type, and hit a Watcher right in the eye. Horizon Call of the Mountain uses the PSVR2’s built-in eye tracking to make your shots just a little easier and it makes you feel very cool at the end of combat.
Unfortunately, combat is changed into a new section where you can’t free-move like before. Instead, you strafe back and forth. This decision makes sense, but it makes combat feel a little shallow. Rather than allowing you to move and change the environment around in combat, it starts to feel a little more like a light-gun game.
This is a problem that happens throughout the entire story. One big interactive item will really wow you, only for the next three to feel a little shallow. Horizon Call of the Mountain cares about setpieces above all else. Luckily, things are still reasonably fresh by the time the 8 or so hour story is finished.
As well as the central story, and a handful of alternate paths you can take to extend out that playtime, Horizon Call of the Mountain gives you the option to take a boat ride through some of the game’s best sights. This is a lovely excuse to let your friends and family get a look at the monstrous sight of a Tallneck above them.
There are so many little great moments in Horizon Call of the Mountain, but it feels a little outdated even now. It looks wonderful, but it goes for almost pure spectacle when we’ve had plenty of this over the last five years. It’s a great showcase of VR, but we already know how wonderful that can be.
Horizon Call of the Mountain is an impressive showcase of everything the PSVR2 can do. It looks and sounds great but repetitive gameplay and narrative hand-holding stop it from being an absolute must-play. As a sign of something greater, it makes me really appreciate the headset, but it remains only a decent first step.