Horizon Call of the Mountain PSVR2 review. It’s certainly fair to say that from the point of its reveal to watching the end credits roll, I’ve been through something of a rollercoaster as it pertains to my feelings on Horizon Call of the Mountain. When it was originally revealed back in January 2022, my mind was awhirl with the possibilities of just how a Horizon title might work in the VR space – not least because it would prove to be something of an impossible task to replicate the massive open-worlds and acrobatic, tactical combat of the Horizon games in VR.
Developed by Firesprite (the same talented folks that gave us the supremely underappreciated PSVR title The Persistence) and published under the PlayStation Studios Banner, Horizon Call of the Mountain doesn’t attempt to give a blow-for-blow recreation of the Horizon game world and mechanics but rather streamlines the experience into a stellar showcase of the PSVR2 capabilities that plays to the strengths of the platform.
Horizon Call Of The Mountain Review (PSVR2)
The Climb Meets Horizon In This Stellar, Yet Linear PSVR2 Showcase
Perhaps the first thing to note is that Horizon Call of the Mountain doesn’t feature traditional series heroine Aloy as the player protagonist but rather shifts the spotlight over to Ryas, a master climber and disgraced former soldier for the Shadow Carja who is tasked to scale the peaks of the Carja Sundom in order to ascertain the mystery behind a deadly machine incursion that threatens to destabilise the entire kingdom. As it turns out, Ryas’ background as a veteran mountain scaler plays into the design of Horizon Call of the Mountain since, somewhat predictably, you’ll be spending a whole heap of time finding hand holds and climbing surfaces as you progress through the game – but I’m getting a little ahead of myself here.
From the very beginning Horizon Call of the Mountain clearly marks itself as a stellar showcase for Sony’s latest lump of VR tech. The opening boat journey right away leans into far superior levels of visual fidelity that Sony’s latest VR headset affords over its predecessor. With pin-sharp detail on the wood of the boat itself through to a wealth of detail on the surrounding flora and fauna, not to mention an extreme level of fidelity on the folks that are shepherding Ryas on the boat and the machines themselves, Horizon Call of the Mountain looks every bit as good as a non-VR PS5 title.
After that initial spectacle-stuffed boat sequence has concluded, Horizon Call of the Mountain properly kicks into gear and the player is immediately immersed into the two core gameplay tenets of the game – which is to say a whole lot of climbing and firing arrows at things. To be clear, the climbing in Horizon Call of the Mountain is good, like *really* good.
Aided by some neat bread-crumbing in the environment (white chalk indicates where you can and cannot climb), ascending the peaks of the Carja Sundom is hugely satisfying and a real joy to say the least. Reaching for hand holds and then pulling down the PSVR2 Sense controller to heave yourself up a cliff face, shimmying along a range of overhanging grips or even sliding down a rope – all of it just feels incredible and a big part of that is the haptic feedback that the PSVR2 Sense controllers provide. Clamping onto a wall grip actually feels satisfying thanks in no small part to how the PSVR2 Sense controller manages to feedback a real feeling of palpable physicality to the player, and that feeling is only enhanced as you chain together grips and pull ups from one ledge to another – it’s seriously neat stuff.
Likewise, when you craft climbing axes to embed yourself into particular surfaces on the face off a cliff, the PSVR2 Sense controllers respond accordingly, providing a degree of vibration feedback when you hit the wall followed by a tense, tightening of the triggers as you force the axes into the rock. What’s also hugely neat is how the PSVR2 Sense controllers react depending on the terrain you happen to be traversing across. Whether you’re traipsing across dusty sunstones or wading through frost-topped peaks, the PSVR2 Sense controllers provide an ample level of feedback appropriate to that environment, serving to immerse the player yet further still in the resplendent world that Guerrilla Games and Firesprite have crafted with Horizon Call of the Mountain.
When you’re not dashing and climbing around the place in Horizon Call of the Mountain you’ll be unleashing hell on various enemies with your trusty Carja bow and again it’s the PSVR2 Sense controllers that are the star of the show here. By pulling the bow off of Ryas’ back by reaching your shoulder and then loading up a shaft by reaching over to the quiver on your opposite shoulder and pulling back the arrow, the whole process feels absolutely natural and the adaptive triggers built into the PSVR2 Sense controllers ably convey a real keen feeling of tensile strength as you pull the arrow back in the bow and then release. There’s a real feeling of satisfaction too as you carefully take aim at a far off target, let loose an arrow and hit it absolutely bang on – of course you won’t always have that luxury of relaxing thanks to the numerous enemies that you’ll face across the duration of Horizon Call of the Mountain.
Essentially, combat with the various machines in Horizon Call of the Mountain triggers an encounter whereby you’re focused on an enemy and must evade their attacks by side-stepping incoming strikes (which are telegraphed thanks to a handy visual cue) before returning fire yourself, making sure to inflict critical damage by targeting specific weak spots in the process. Though the act of letting loose arrows into foes, dodging their attacks and so on is an enjoyable pursuit that becomes gradually more challenging as the game presses on, it’s also clear that much of ingenuity that the Horizon games have traditionally boasted in terms of its combat with setting up traps and combining different attacks is sadly missing here and that’s largely because Horizon Call of the Mountain is a much more linear odyssey than any of the mainline games in the series.
However, while the ability to set oodles of complex traps might be missing (thanks in part to the lack of an open world to strategise in that way), Ryas can still equip a number of different elementally powered arrows to lay waste to his robotic foes in different ways and naturally, there are points in the game where some arrow types will be more useful than others against certain enemies. Dovetailing into all of this is the crafting process that Horizon Call of the Mountain allows. Much like the non-VR entries in the franchise, Horizon Call of the Mountain allows players to craft special arrows and other such items from raw materials. It’s hardly ground-breaking stuff, but the physical gestures required to pull it off feel both intuitive and does a neat job of making you feel like a physical element within Ryas’ world.
Despite how linear Horizon Call of the Mountain is, Firesprite have done a commendable job of fleshing out what is a very physical world. In addition to the whole climbing mechanic, just about any object in the world can be gripped and interacted with – one early scenario takes place in an abandoned village filled with music instruments and, you guessed it, you can use all of them from tambourines to maracas and everything in between. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s a nice touch all the same and one that reinforces the heft and weight of the Carja Sundom that Firesprite has crafted.
Further afield, though Horizon Call of the Mountain is resolutely a linear affair it is nonetheless one that has its own share of items to collect and secrets to discover. While the various fruit and other foodstuffs that are littered around the place are used to replenish health lost in combat, there are also a range of trinkets hidden away in secret chambers and away from prying eyes that reward players for attempting to go off the beaten track. As well as hidden trinkets to collect, there are also a whole load of targets dotted around the game world that have been expressly crafted with the idea of checking out odd angles and leaning over and around different elements of the environment to see where they might be secreted away.
As it also turns out, there’s something of a decent story tucked away in Horizon: Call of the Mountain too. Though familiar faces from the non-VR Horizon games appear throughout the game, there’s something really quite focused about Ryas’ narrative and more pointedly his quest to redeem himself and his people from a terrible fate. Sure, it’s not on the quite same scale as the Horizon games and neither are the stakes quite so grand but Horizon Call of the Mountain still succeeds in weaving a compelling narrative tapestry to anchor its immersive action all the same.
A big chunk of the appeal for Horizon Call of the Mountain is just how deeply it seeks to ingratiate itself to folks that haven’t used VR before. Chiefly, Horizon Call of the Mountain achieves this by offering players a range of different comfort and control systems built around traditional control systems for veteran players, and a more natural gesture based system that would suit new VR players. From setting your turning speed to specifying whether you’re stood up or sat down and a range of other options besides, Firesprite and Guerrilla Games have done a sterling job of making Horizon Call of the Mountain appeal to players of all skill levels – which is exactly what a launch title for a lump of new gaming tech should do.
And this is the thing, by eschewing the open-world design that has defined the non-VR entries in the Horizon franchise and placing an emphasis on verticality, Horizon Call of the Mountain ends up being a very different (and more importantly, welcome) take on the series that we have come to know and love. If anything, the laser-focused nature of its narrative and gameplay design will hopefully mean that newcomers to the Horizon franchise might expand their own horizons and decide to give both Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West a try.
Despite its linear nature, Horizon Call of the Mountain remains a truly stellar showcase of the PSVR2’s capabilities. From the retina-searing 4K HDR visuals that are generously bleeding with detail and fidelity, through to the deft use of haptic feedback and adaptive triggers in the PSVR2 Sense controllers which ensure that players are utterly immersed in the climbing, exploration and combat within its world, Horizon Call of the Mountain is a highly enjoyable action adventure that fans of both the series and great VR games in general can effortlessly enjoy.
Review code kindly supplied by Sony UK.
Horizon: Call of the Mountain releases alongside the PSVR2 on February 22, 2023.