I'll be honest, I never cared much for Guerrilla Games' Killzone series. It always struck me as a response to Microsoft's Halo, only with slightly better art direction. Not even the shininess of their PlayStation 4 launch title Killzone: Shadow Fall could tick my interest-o-meter up one notch from asleep to apathy.
However, during the 2015 Sony E3 press conference, it was the announcement trailer for Guerrilla's new IP, Horizon: Zero Dawn, which got me more excited than any other new game on show. An open world RPG, it showed a new creative path for the studio that is far removed from the space marines it has been lumbered with for years.
The trailer starts with a voiceover spilling forth exposition about "the old ones" over footage of shiny cities, before mentioning the darkness that took over. Following that we see nature reclaim the world over generations and new societies form as a new breed of mechanical beings roam the landscape.
Before long we are introduced to young female protagonist Aloy – who looks like she was modelled on Game of Thrones' Ygritte – being trained for combat by an impressively hirsute old man.
Games have come under a lot of criticism for their reliance on heavily sexualised female characters in recent years, but Aloy's design is sensible and practical for the task of hunting robotic dinosaur beings. This alone gives me hope for her characterisation, which says a lot about the state of the industry. By the looks of things in this trailer she is a competent and thoroughly capable individual.
Showing off the complexity of the combat system, Aloy uses various types of arrow to weaken the mechanical behemoth attacking her. After a few hits she manages to use one of its own weapons against it to shatter its armour and finish it off with an arrow to its exposed power core. This would be impressive enough on its own, but Horizon impressed as a whole. The world appears alive rather than just populated. Reeds swish and sway in the wind, birds scatter when large bipedal robo-saurs stomp past and rock formations shatter when blasted with drone lasers.
With Horizon: Zero Dawn, Guerrilla Games has taken influence from numerous pop culture trends and remixed them into something fresh. If Killzone was Guerrilla Games' answer to Halo then this is their response to Capcom's much-loved Monster Hunter series, with elements of Destiny and Tomb Raider thrown in.
Dark Souls shook up fantasy by taking it into a new direction and Horizon looks set to do the same for the post-apocalypse.
If hopeful Horizon is a sign of anything, I hope it is that the age of the shooty-shooty gun man is coming to an end. Guerrilla Games made its name with military shooters so it is refreshing to see it make strides into exciting, creatively bountiful territory. Even famed dude-bro franchise Gears of War is looking less testosterone-fuelled and more horror-flecked in its third sequel.
Horizon: Zero Dawn's Aloy is hopefully the first of a bold new wave of female game protagonists.