PlayStation VR 2 and Horizon Call of the Mountain are inseparably intertwined. Thanks to the technology found in the PSVR 2, the Guerrilla and Firesprite release is a virtual reality success, and the game best exhibits the PSVR 2’s possibilities. It’s true that there is a pretty high entrance hurdle to experiencing it all: you’ll need to have a PS5, buy the $550 headset, and then add the $60 game on top. Yet those who do will be rewarded with a game that is both a fun Horizon game on its own merits and an amazing technical spectacle.
The action of Cry of the Mountain takes place in the same dynamic environment that Aloy frequently explores. Yet, Ryas, a Shadow Carja member who was jailed for dubious behavior, serves as the game’s protagonist. In order to discover why the mechanical creatures of Horizon’s worlds are misbehaving, Ryas gets released from prison and embarked on a dangerous expedition.
The story is largely carried by Ryas, which is a common narrative beat for a Horizon game. Ryas’ brother vanished when he was working to solve this particular mystery, thus he has a personal interest in going above and beyond to assist individuals around him in order to understand what’s happening, even if they treat him strangely. I was mostly interested in Call of the Mountain to see how it made use of the new hardware, so it surprised me to see that I had grown attached to Ryas as a person. The game does a fantastic job of gradually delving into his backstory and demonstrating that there might have been more to his past than what is initially apparent.
He makes a competent tour guide as well. He will occasionally add context and history to further enliven the environment as you scramble about huge structures, whether they be abandoned skyscrapers or rusty metallic behemoths of old, and go to various locations throughout the globe. He isn’t the academic kind, so a lot of what he says is from the viewpoint of someone who has heard tales of battles or is familiar with elements of different cultures. It strikes a wonderful balance between telling you stuff all the time and letting Ryas stand in for you. He also challenges some of his own assumptions about things he has always been told or believed, and as a member of the denigrated Shadow Carja, it’s interesting to see his incremental improvement along the road, even if it isn’t particularly significant.
Ryas may not be a well-educated man, but you can tell he’s a capable one when you have to climb walls and fight monsters. Ryas is a climber, and as his occupation suggests, he is completely devoted to the sport. This is done using the Sense controllers, which, as we highlighted in our review of the PSVR 2, are highly capable input devices that also incorporate finger-tracking in addition to all the buttons, triggers, and analog sticks you could need to interact with a game correctly. Holding down the triggers and physically moving your real arms to move your virtual character around in Call of the Mountain allows you to grip onto climbable edges (highlighted in white) and matches your real hands to the virtual ones.
There are several virtual reality climbing games; the gameplay idea is quite well-known, and nothing in this game really advances it. Having said that, it’s done extremely well. The PlayStation 5 and the PSVR 2 headset portray the scene around you with a fidelity compelling enough to instill a sense of anxiety and peril as you walk around, and the Sensation controllers make the act of clambering feel tactile and pleasurable.
I was aware of where I looked since, occasionally, I experienced vertigo when looking down, so I had to balance while scaling cliffs, shimmying through dangling ropes, and leaping across wide gaps. Because the game is quite forgiving about making corrections or using your other hand to recover from fright, I always had a sense of terror when my virtual hands didn’t properly grab a handhold or ledge, even if it was just for a moment. This sense of peril was especially strong when I had to leap from a ledge quickly or swing across a gap using a tool. My advice: Don’t look down.
The PSVR 2 headset and Sense controller generally maintained the same sense of being plugged into the outside world during other interactions. In Call of the Mountain, I elected to move by moving my arms up and down to mimic walking, which sounds and appears ridiculous but felt like a reasonable compromise between physically controlling the figure and teleporting quickly. The latter of those is a possibility, but I really found it to be disgusting. You may be able to discover the sweet spot for you by experimenting with the other settings that let you change how your character moves and turns.
With the ability to walk along a predetermined path on the battlefield, combat modifies the setting to be more linear. Generally, it’s just a wide circle around the arena, and you’re either frantically attempting to avoid a charging Thunderjaw or dodging the assaults of agile Watchers while trying to fire arrows into their eyes. Call of the Mountain is a perfect example of how effectively Horizon’s encounter design, which is based on hitting weak places to strip metallic animals of their armor and the machinery that allow them to conduct lethal strikes, works. The majority of encounters involve a dance of dodging fireballs, gunfire, tail swipes, and claw strikes, identifying weak points with your senses, and then unleashing a barrage of arrows to take them out. Even if the use of bow and arrow mechanics in a VR game is not novel nor inventive, it is really nicely done. The ability to choose the appropriate kind of arrow for the enemy you’re fighting and then have the quickness to reach over your shoulder and pull it out while attempting to escape harm requires some level of forethought.
The visuals, and thus the immersive nature of playing Horizon Cry of the Mountain, steal the show, though. Once more, the PS5 and PSVR 2 that the game is running on are working together to make this possible. Being in the environment of Call of the Mountain is a real delight, whether I was up close studying the specifics of items I was making to help me on my quest or gazing in awe at a distant vista of lush woods, gushing waterfalls, and crumbled buildings reclaimed by nature. There is something remarkable to witness around every bend and ascent, whether it be the environment or the inhabitants of it. It’s simple to become engrossed in simply taking in the views since it becomes even more amazing when the larger set pieces are involved. As a result, Cry of the Mountain checks off one of the many other VR gaming categories: the virtual travel experience. Call of the Mountain transports players to a world they are familiar with while allowing them to experience it with an unheard-of level of intimacy, which is nothing new.
The distinguishing feature of Cry of the Mountain is its constant theme of “familiar done well.” The game isn’t really ground-breaking or unexpected, so it ends up being exactly what it appears to be: a well-made VR version of the Horizon series with attractive scenery and solid climbing and shooting mechanics. It more than successfully accomplishes its goal of serving as a demonstration of what the PSVR 2 is capable of.