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Horizon Forbidden West first gameplay preview goes deep on overhauled combat and exploration

Aloy's pilgrimage to the eponymous Forbidden West is going to give you more freedom to explore and make you feel deadlier in combat

Horizon Forbidden West is due to release in a couple of weeks, and ahead of the game coming to PS4 and PS5 consoles, we're starting to see the first hands-on impressions of the game hit the internet. As expected, initial impressions suggest this is a game that goes above and beyond the scope of the 2017 original, showcasing Guerrilla Games' remarkable use of tech and improving on the foundations that the previous game set up so thoroughly.

Per the first hands-on preview from IGN, "combat is more complex, exploration is more free, and the world is teeming with more intriguing life (both robotic and human)" in Forbidden West than it was in Zero Dawn. One of the most eye-catching improvements the developer has made to the game, this time around, comes in the form of a new-and-improved UI overlay when you're climbing.

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By using Aloy's Focus ping – the detective mode-adjacent thing she can trigger with R3 thanks to her fancy futurisitc earpiece – you can see clearly mapped-out routes up cliff-faces and similar obstacles, allowing you more freedom and clarity when exploring. This should take out some of the guess-work in trying to make your own shortcuts and prevent you from getting too lost in the map when you're just trying to hunt down those final few bloody collectibles.

We also hear more about the Pullcaster, "a fancy sort of grappling hook that lets the player pull Aloy to harder to reach or further points". Halo Infinite, your grappling hook can eat its heart out. Per the preview, this can be used in conjunction with the Shieldwing – a glider Aloy obtains some way into the game. Leaping from a cliff or vantage point, allowing Aloy to glide, and using the pullcaster mantle onto a nearby ledge looks like the sort of fluid and satisfying traversal we'd execpt from open world games in 2022, now that everyone is aping that Breath of the Wild formula. Yet it's all done so nicely in Forbidden West – and the lovely Decima engine is likley to thank for that.

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Elsewhere, we see the game's improved combat get a light shone on it. Focus once again makes an appearance here, where the previewer notes it can now be used to scroll between each detachable part of an enemy robot so you can see what can be damaged – and how. It's a much quicker, snappier process than what we've seen before.

When it comes to your actual tools in combat, you have more choice of how you can progress Aloy; there are now "six, lengthy skill trees" you can take advantage of, especially since outfits are now more closely linked with the skill trees you opt to pursue.

Aloy's animations have also been overhauled, resulting in a more dynamic melee style that lets you jump in and out of engagements, and charge up powerful attacks by succesfully landing weaker ones in quick succession. This should result in snappier, more exciting combat overall - if you can master dodge rolls to keep the momentum up.

There's much more to be said of the game in the video up top, so check that out if you're just too excited to wait another few weeks to go on Aloy's latest adventure with her. If you're hungry for more Horizon Forbidden West, why not check out why we think the game will make underwater levels fun again or read about some of the game's delays that pushed it to its final February 18, 2022 release date.

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