Over the last few months, Sony has released a fairly steady drip-feed of games big and small to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 users. There's no need for a PlayStation Plus subscription, and there are no hidden catches. As long as you have a console and an internet connection, you can download and keep a wide variety of games.
This is all part of Sony's Play At Home initiative, which recognises that being stuck inside due to COVID-19 restrictions has sucked. In an effort to keep us entertainment, the company has made a string of great games available, from Ratchet & Clank to Subnautica.
It's provided a great opportunity for PlayStation owners to try out a number of smaller games they might not otherwise have tried, and this week has seen Sony drop the headline act. 2017's sprawling, critically acclaimed Horizon Zero Dawn is now completely free to download and keep.
I can't quite get over how huge a move this actually is. Horizon Zero Dawn, as I'm sure you know, is one of the PlayStation 4's most successful exclusives. The open-world action-RPG is packed with dozens of hours of content, a gripping story, and some of the most beautiful visuals ever committed to a home console. It's definitely not my favourite PlayStation exclusive, but I had a blast with it and absolutely understand why so many people regard it as a masterpiece. I wouldn't go that far, but it's pretty damn great, and I recommend it to anyone who has yet to try it out.
Which brings to why I think it's so awesome that Sony just dropped such a major release down to the low, low price of nothing at all. For one thing, this isn't a rental. There are no unexpected caveats, and Jim Ryan isn't going to climb down your chimney to wipe the game from your console after an allotted time. Sony is straight up giving you one of its very finest games as a gift.
To be very clear, I'm extremely grateful for every free game Sony has offered us so far. I love me a smaller indie experience, and I've got nothing but time for Ratchet & Clank. But Horizon Zero Dawn? This just feels like it's on another level, as far as gestures go.
This is a game that a good chunk of PlayStation owners have already purchased, sure, and it's usually possible to get it for under £20 in sales these days... but the fact we're suddenly getting such a major PlayStation release for free just four years after it released is major. It's like Nintendo turning around and giving everyone The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild for nothing. Something I'm fairly confident will never happen, by the way.
I'm also fully aware that dropping Horizon Zero Dawn for free has benefits for Sony, especially with the in-development Horizon Forbidden West on the way. But put your cynicism aside for one second and just delight with me in the fact that a ton of new players are about to enjoy Aloy's debut adventure for the very first time. Maybe they won't vibe with it. Maybe they'll have found a new favourite video game. Either way, it won't cost them a damn thing to find out.
There's been a lot of understandable criticism levelled against Sony over the past few months. Announcing its plan to shut down the PlayStation 3 store before ultimately changing its mind as well as the recent reports that it wants to focus on blockbuster games and remakes of titles like The Last Of Us over new experiences has drawn widespread ire. It's certainly been enough to give even the most die-hard PlayStation fans out there pause.
With Horizon Zero Dawn now being made available to everyone, however, you have to wonder if maybe, just maybe, Sony is still very much "for the players" after all.
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