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Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores Basks in Impressive PS5 Spectacle

Aloy is back, and the threat is bigger than ever.



Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores Review

Developer: Guerrilla Games | Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment | Genre: Action, Adventure | Platform: PlayStation 5 | Reviewed on: PlayStation 5

Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers for the base game of Horizon Forbidden West.

When news broke of Horizon Forbidden West’s Burning Shores DLC expansion being exclusive to the PlayStation 5, naturally this raised questions as to whether making such a move would be worth alienating the PS4 audience that has been enjoying the base game since its 2022 release. After all, Horizon Forbidden West was already a technical marvel that allowed players to soar into the sky in its final act and explore the open world in new and exciting ways, pushing the boundaries of PlayStation hardware in the process. As it turns out, shedding the technical limitations of the PS4 has allowed Guerrilla Games to reach even greater heights with Burning Shores, culminating in a finale that no fan of the Horizon franchise would ever want to miss.

Burning Shores can only be accessed after completion of the base game, and sees protagonist Aloy venturing into the flooded and volcanic ruins of Los Angeles in search of a rogue Zenith who separated from the rest to pursue his own sinister projects. The new region is visually breath-taking and, while surprisingly sparse on side content with only three major side quests and some collectibles, is nonetheless a joy to explore thanks to its integration of the base game’s flight mechanic. Similarly to Horizon Zero Dawn’s The Frozen Wilds DLC, there is only a small number of new machines in Burning Shores which is a slight disappointment, but the clear focus on quality over quantity pays off in dividends by the end of its 6-8 hour story. Reasonably priced and featuring a plot that both thrills and teases what’s coming next, Burning Shores is a delight and a very impressive showcase of the PS5’s technical capability.

The Ruins of Hollywood Hills

HFW:BS screenshot showing Aloy flying near a ruined tower.
Image: Sony

Accessible via a cutscene that only unlocks after completing the base game, the Burning Shores is a brand-new region of the Forbidden West separated from the mainland. Featuring a dilapidated broken city ruins in the centre with island offshoots in every direction, it is quite the visual feast, and home to numerous threats both old and new. Aloy can find a variety of machine sites for the base game’s fiercest foes such as Tiderippers and Slaughterspines, in addition to new and even more dangerous machines capable of overwhelming her in previously unexplored ways. It’s only a small selection of new threats, following the precedent set in The Frozen Wilds DLC, but Burning Shores makes sure that every addition spices up the gameplay by bringing something new to the table and making players think twice about their choice of weapon in each encounter.

The Burning Shores is home to a variety of activities, though a little sparse and not always worth the time. Camps similar to the rebel camps in the base game provide a familiar threat with the only difference being the faction of enemy being fought, while collectible dinosaur figurines echo The Frozen Wilds’ wildlife figurines complete with a special location to place them. Additionally, Aloy can find more collectibles aside from those pointed out on the map, including special flight paths activated by discovering beacons in the world which act as a flying version of the base game’s black boxes and vista points rolled into one. There are six of these, but finding them all can be a pain without map icons, and the same can be said for the delver’s trinkets which when collected unlock a slightly underwhelming treasure trove. Encouraging players to explore the map without simply homing in on map icons is admirable and should be encouraged, but the seeming lack of purchasable maps for the hard-to-find collectibles is a little frustrating.

A New Side of Aloy

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores screenshot showing a close-up of Aloy flying through the clouds.
Image: Sony

The three major side quests, as well as the main story of Burning Shores, bring some much-needed character development to Aloy following her arc in Horizon Forbidden West. Now more comfortable around other people and looking for allies instead of pushing them away, Aloy meets some new and interesting characters from the Quen clan in a large settlement called Fleet’s End and helps them not for her own benefit, but rather to see a brighter future for the clan. One side quest focuses on fighting back against the oppression of the Compliance officers of the Quen, tasked with reporting and punishing deviant behaviour in a clearly fascistic manner. A different side quest involves helping a familiar face at a delving site, and ends with a beautiful speech about loneliness and Aloy offering to lend her ear whenever her friend needs her.

The recurring theme of Burning Shores is that of togetherness and belonging, and nothing cements this more than the introduction of Aloy’s newest companion Seyka. A soldier of the Quen clan, Seyka immediately relates to Aloy’s emotional struggles and the two slowly bond over the course of the story, sharing their life experiences with each other and finding comfort in not feeling alone anymore. Seyka is in some respects a mirror image of Aloy, and this allows the pair to form a deeper bond and intuitively understand each other in a way few others could. The calm moments they share and the trust that is forged from their moments of conflict serve to create a very realistic depiction of human connection, culminating in a relationship that gives Aloy the strength and confidence to face bigger threats than ever before with a renewed sense of what she is fighting for.

Cult of Personality

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores screenshot showing Aloy flying over the ruins of the Hollywood sign.
Image: Sony

While not a particularly complicated story, Burning Shores nonetheless delivers a satisfying and meaningful new chapter that further explores the uber-powerful Zeniths introduced in the base game. Walter Londra is an old world celebrity and entertainer, separated from the rest of the Zenith pack to pursue his own personal projects for a mysterious purpose. Aloy naturally seeks to investigate further, and finds herself stranded in the Burning Shores in search of the elusive Londra for answers. What follows is a tale similar to that of the other Zeniths, but with a surprising twist as Londra manipulates those around him with a greater purpose in mind. A villain that is clearly designed to be hated in a satisfying way, Londra sometimes feels pulled directly from a James Bond movie in his devious antics and moustache-twirling monologues, but this is hardly a complaint. Across the DLC’s five main story missions, the mystery unravels at a very solid pace with a few scattered hints as to what’s coming at the end.

Without spoiling anything, the finale of Burning Shores is among the most impressive set-piece moments in any game of the past few years. Dedicating an entire mission to the final boss fight, Aloy and her new ally Seyka fight tooth and nail to secure a future for the people of the Burning Shores, culminating in jaw-dropping visual spectacle and a technical achievement that blows previous Horizon games out of the water. Broadly speaking, this is what Guerrilla Games had clearly been wanting to do for the past few years and only just got the opportunity to properly pull it off. It doesn’t feel like too much of an exaggeration to say that this mission single-handedly justifies the move to PS5 exclusivity, delivering a feast for the senses in a borderline unnecessarily epic finale sure to send shivers down the spines of anyone who experiences it. It’s not without its occasional janky moments, but these gripes hardly detract at all from what is otherwise undoubtedly the star of the show.

Burning Shores is Good News for Horizon’s Future

HFW:BS screenshot showing an overhead view of Aloy flying through the clouds.
Image: Sony

If Burning Shores is what Guerrilla Games is capable of achieving in just over one year of development using PS5 technology, then we can only imagine what the now-confirmed third Horizon game could look like four or five years from now. Burning Shores is certainly not the largest scope of DLC in recent memory, but it strives to make every hour count and does so with great success. The side missions are memorable with a small but well written cast of characters, and when combined with the gorgeous scenery of a dilapidated Los Angeles and a soaring orchestral soundtrack that enhances the DLC’s climactic moments, the result is a new adventure that builds upon the foundation of the base game in meaningful ways and flaunts its technical achievements like a peacock baring its vibrant feathers.

Aloy has come a long way as a character since the events of Horizon Zero Dawn, and has now blossomed into a heroine whose strength no longer has to come from within. Burning Shores is the icing on the cake after Forbidden West’s emotional journey, allowing our fiery-haired protagonist to express herself more openly and have more confidence in herself and her allies as she faces the next oncoming threat. The future of the Horizon franchise is looking bright now that Guerrilla Games has flexed their PS5-exclusive muscles, leaving the past behind and looking to the future filled with hope just as Aloy looks to the future with her friends by her side. Book-ended by fantastic performances from the late Lance Reddick as the iconic anti-hero Sylens, Burning Shores is an excellent final chapter to the Forbidden West story and is a masterclass in using the PS5’s technology to create an unmissable and epic final act.

James is a university graduate based in England whose main hobbies are history, languages, and of course video games. His favourite games are Hollow Knight, Horizon Zero Dawn, and anything made by Atlus or FromSoftware, and you can usually find him on Twitter @sacGOONER63 drooling over these games and many more. You can also read his weekly ramblings about games at if you so wish.