Horizon Call of the Mountain (PSVR 2) Review

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horizon call of the mountain psvr2 review 23022102
Horizon Call of the Mountain

Horizon Call of the Mountain makes a strong case of just what makes the PSVR 2 a leading VR headset. While it’s a rare case of translating a beloved PlayStation franchise into one that players can see, touch and feel—just as fans have wanted. 

It takes one calming boat ride for Call of the Mountain to ease players into experiencing Horizon from a different perspective. Guerilla opens your VR eyes into a lush world that isn’t coming from a flat screen anymore. Instead, players take a scenic canoe ride as some iconic machines gander. It’s a strong opening which encourages PSVR2 users to look around and soak in all that jungle. Of course, players get to see some Tallnecks, Watchers and one hungry Snapmaw gliding underneath. 

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Horizon Call of the Mountain

Players take on the body of Ryas, a former Shadow Carja member sailing through a river in cuffs. He’s a ruthless, cynical adventurer passing through the Sundom (a familiar section in Zero Dawn’s open world). One machine attack later, Call of the Mountain wastes no time with its onslaught of guides to start a lengthy trip outdoors. In between levels, players follow a somewhat forgettable storyline around Ryas’ journey. For a pardon, he’s sent by Horizon spymaster Marad to investigate random settlement attacks by Machines.  

It’s a shame to see a plot that doesn’t send ripples through Horizon while giving VR players an incentive. Ultimately, Guerilla plays it safe with a self-contained typical day in the Sundom, but to keep the story canon, a few familiar cameos give VR players a chance to meet lifelike versions of Horizon characters. 

Horizon Call of the Mountain makes a strong case of just what makes the PSVR 2 a leading VR headset.”

Call of the Mountain falls into a bit of an identity crisis throughout its 6-to-7-hour solo experience. By nature, it’s a climbing simulator sprinkled with some occasional combat, but Horizon fans will feel right at home exploring the Sundom’s caves, cliffs, mountains and desolate settlements. There’s an isolating feeling to trekking through an empty map without a human in sight, all the while Call of the Mountain narrowly avoids leaning on horror and keeps its setting nice and bright. 

I’ll admit that Guerilla goes overboard with its climbing. The majority of the game is spent scaling terrain to reach the Sundom’s peaks. Early on, there isn’t much else to engage players, who are constantly raising their arms or stretching for the next coloured handle. 

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Horizon Call of the Mountain

Shoulders and forearms will be sore over lots of obstacles to grab. It’s a bit much out of an open world franchise which has so much more to offer, and there were a dozen moments when I muttered “too much climbing” and craved a good machine fight. Luckily, Call of the Mountain makes this core gameplay more bearable with climbing tools. Guerilla’s first VR game takes notes from The Climb for top-notch climbing mechanics which deserve credit. Horizon uses its array of gadgets from Zero Dawn and Forbidden West to deepen its immersion, and I’ll never get over the feeling of jumping large gaps in slow motion or sending a rope dart across a cliff before zipping across. 

Guerilla doesn’t shy away from forcing players to keep moving to higher ground. So much that players will switch between a pickaxe, grappling hook, rope dart and shuriken to solve puzzles. While these moments are supposed to be challenging, players will be seeing the same environmental prompts which start to feel like a chore. It’s simply a cycle of climbing, looking around for an obstacle and selecting the right tool for the job.  

Call of the Mountain feels like an exploration-first game, which is more than enough to showcase scenery and walk players through VR basics…”

By the end of the game, players can quickly move up mountains and have more time to admire Horizon’s locales in awe-inspiring scale. Call of the Mountain still finds plenty of variety for its climbing sim, including a chance to scale a Metal Devil’s tentacles above a snowy mountain and explore derelict military bases below. In true walking simulator fashion, players can occasionally explore two separate paths with their own set of challenges.  

Call of the Mountain feels like an exploration-first game, which is more than enough to showcase scenery and walk players through VR basics, but it can disappoint Horizon fans looking to take on some machines and the world’s variety of tribes. Guerilla ultimately caves into exploration across empty corridors instead of defining Call of the Mountain with Horizon’s engaging combat, stealth and evading machines.  

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Horizon Call of the Mountain

When Horizon starts to get exciting, players will have opportunities to fight machines along their journey. Call of the Mountain appropriately puts a bow and arrow into VR hands. While Guerilla has made archery a natural and responsive part of combat, players won’t take long to grab an arrow from over their shoulders, pull the bowstring back and release. The game does so with an easy momentum that makes shooting in succession a satisfying thing.  

It’s satisfying for players to spot some hidden targets and test their sniping halfway across the map. While an additional challenge mode lets players indulge in the game’s superb VR archery, much like Vader Immortal’s replayable dojo mode, Call of the Mountain still makes an effort to give players replayability after clearing the 7-hour campaign. It’s also a handy way to practice your aim against some homicidal Hasbro dinos gone wild. 

Here, Call of the Mountain’s sole enemies are the machines—robot dinosaurs who reclaimed the earth after a cataclysmic event known as the Faro Plague. The smaller Watchers are raptor-type machines which are awesome to see in life-sized proportions. Guerilla has also made them a versatile VR enemy for both face-to-face combat and stealth climbing. There are some tense moments to be had with escaping a Watcher’s gaze before climbing on, but Call of the Mountain shines when players pick up their bow and face the machines head-on. 

Combat in VR starts to take on a life of its own with some Horizon-themed mechanics. Players will mostly be whittling down Machines from a distance. The aforementioned Watchers, Glinthawks, Scrappers and Bellowbacks are much cooler to see in true 1:1 scale. Each one feels like a formidable threat as fresh players will be struggling to chip away at their health bars with primitive weapons. Call of the Mountain has found a way to make combat accessible by means of strafing around enemies in open areas. It works enough to keep players moving and shooting without Aloy’s third-person verticality. 

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Horizon Call of the Mountain

But like the console games, it’s important to spot weaknesses and know exactly where to shoot. Call of the Mountain does a wonderful job of highlighting enemy armour that can be exposed. Once a Machine’s soft parts or nodes are exposed, fights start to feel much easier. Here, players can also craft a number of trick arrows apart from their standard ones to even the odds.

Guerilla makes crafting engaging by letting players attach resources to arrows. Some items acquired during exploration go directly towards arrow types including fire, electric, ice and rift. These add an elemental strategy for combat, with Ryas dropping some occasional hints about a Machine’s vulnerabilities.  

Call of the Mountain is daring enough to throw players toe-to-toe with larger machines such as the Shell Walker, Stormbird and a few Thunderjaws. These massive boss fights are rare but give VR players an exhilarating rush. Each of these enemies come with a multitude of ranged attacks that keep players on the move. While it’s still unbelievable to see Thunderjaws topple under the salvo of arrows, against all odds, Call of the Mountain’s boss fights are a real treat to experience without a DualSense. 

Call of the Mountain showcases an impressive graphical dream simulated by PlayStation’s latest console.”

This VR Horizon game doesn’t offer the same full-scale experience as its console counterparts. But Call of the Mountain still uses its platform to create an engaging adventure across the Sundom. As per my PSVR 2 review, players will benefit from modern controls. But it pushes the VR platform forward with added power from the PS5. Simply put, the PSVR 2 does more with an exciting console which has been out for years. These top-notch graphics are pushed to the limit in Call of the Mountain. There’s no doubt players will be seeing Horizon’s open world in a believable, grounded perspective.  

The fur on Ryas’ gloves moves to the gentle breeze on a cliffside. Beams of sunlight diffuse through thick jungles. Water is reflected with the withering image of a Snapmaw viciously wriggling in a river. Some of my favourite Call of the Mountain moments include simply stopping to admit the view from up high. While VR players can feel some vertigo looking down at a sea of clouds as they dangle off a rope. Guerilla aptly makes this game look more than just a true PS5 game. Instead, Call of the Mountain showcases an impressive graphical dream simulated by PlayStation’s latest console. 

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Horizon Call of the Mountain

Call of the Mountain’s best gimmick comes with haptics. I’m hoping more PSVR 2 games will leverage vibrations and adaptive triggers the way Guerilla has. Crumbling walls, a Thunderjaw’s footsteps and taking damage all send rumbles to the headset’s strap. Players using the Sense controllers not only get the same haptics from DualSense, but Call of the Mountain brings this out with detail for materials. Worn ropes feel fuzzy and full of friction in VR palms. Bowstrings come with added resistance the more players draw an arrow back. These haptic sensations deepen Call of the Mountain’s immersion and maximize its scenic outdoor escape. 

Call of the Mountain leverages the PSVR 2’s eye-tracking feature for some intuitive menu selection with a gaze. Players can also choose from a seated or standing experience. For maximum immersion, I highly recommend players clear a 6 by 6 feet space and turn with their bodies, and players can still choose a traditional first-person experience by moving with one joystick and turning with the other. Guerilla knows how to make a VR game that can be as comfortable as players need it to be. 

More importantly, Guerilla’s action-adventure does enough to make Call of the Mountain less of a tech demo. It’s one thing for VR enthusiasts and PS5 owners getting a headset for the first time in years, while Call of the Mountain only sweetens the feeling of owning a premium add-on with a AAA experience that (mostly) impresses. Fans of the series will have fun trekking through its retro-futuristic wildlands at the moment they wake up on a safari. 

Final Thoughts

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