"Horizon Zero Dawn" is two kinds of gamey.
Not only do you hunt animalistic robots across a post-post-apocalyptic landscape in Guerrilla Games' new open-world RPG, but the developer regiments your little safari with almost every immersion-busting game convention imaginable: waypoints, crafting components, skill trees, etc.
I'm still only about 20 hours into my review copy of Sony's anticipated hit PlayStation 4 exclusive, so I've yet to fully decide where I land on it. However, I can pass along a few tips for those who planning on getting the game when it releases Tuesday, Feb. 28:
1. Play with the HUD. By default, "Horizon's" heads-up display throws all sorts of data at you: a compass, health, current objectives and more. When you start the game, do your eyes a favor and disable the HUD so you can savor Guerrilla's lusciously designed world. Thankfully, the developer gives you plenty of options for doing so. You can make the whole HUD dynamic — appearing only when relevant — or you can customize it by setting each data point to be either dynamic or permanently off. And if you still want to see the whole HUD? Just tap the DualShock controller's touchpad.
2. Unlock the stealth takedowns. Your huntress protagonist, Aloy, will have little trouble with the first robots she meets in "Horizon Zero Dawn." Before long, though, she encounters much more dangerous mechanical game. The stealth takedown skill, and its aerial companion, are two of her strongest equalizers, each able to knock a sizable chunk off the health of Ravagers, Sawtooths and more. Both skills can be unlocked rather early in the game.
3. Hunt everything. While the luminous robots of "Horizon Zero Dawn" will draw your bow's attention, don't ignore the boars, turkeys and other more conventional game on the landscape. Their meat and skins are required for several of the game's crafting recipes, such as health potions, inventory expansions and fast travel packs. Speaking of which...
4. Try not to fast travel. "Horizon's" world is generously peppered with bonfires that serve as save and fast travel points. And, looking at the map, that world would appear pretty damn vast. But most quests won't require more than a few minutes on foot. It's not until the game opens up halfway, and the side quests start pouring in, that fast travel becomes more necessary. Still, be selective: Fast-traveling in "Horizon" requires a provisions item that can be crafted or, sometimes, recovered from the game's human enemies.
5. Do the cauldrons, skip the bandit camps. As its open-world ambitions would suggest, "Horizon Zero Dawn" includes several side-quest type activities scattered across its world. Cauldrons are dungeon-like enclosures set in dark, futuristic decks that all but require stealth and some environmental puzzle-solving. They're far more worthwhile than bandit camps, which distill everything uninspiring about the game's human combat into button-mashing romps.