Ah, the internet. A wonderfully civil place where polite discourse and harmless back and forths take place, connecting us all together and ultimately, enriching our lives. If you haven't been able to tell from my use of hyperbole, this is obviously never the case. One particular conversation that sparked 'civil discourse' was surrounding Horizon Forbidden West and the character of Aloy.
This initially stemmed from gameplay footage showed as part of PlayStation's State of Play in May earlier this year. Soon after, the likes of Reddit, Twitter, and various other forums began to criticise the new appearance of the Horizon protagonist, claiming Sony has made her too masculine. There were even a few outlandish statements saying that fans should be hired instead of qualified developers and artists, citing a fan-generated image that made Aloy look more ready for a night out than Kylie Jenner.
The reality is that Sony and developer Guerrilla Games are making Aloy more real, warts and all. This was detailed in a new blog post explaining how the character has been evolved for the PlayStation 5, with multiple teams investing "countless hours in her every aspect: her combat moves, her animations, her gear, her hair, and her dialogue," according to Guerrilla’s narrative director Ben McCaw. All of which has been done in the name of making Aloy someone more believable.
Men will see women with their hair up and no makeup and be like “ is this a man” pic.twitter.com/YzgD4zWnLwMay 30, 2021
And isn't that's surely what we want? A more fleshed out, well-rounded character that is more genuine than ever. Not another fake representation that paints women with unrealistic body expectations. Aloy looks the way you'd expect a kick-ass hunter to look. The world of Horizon Forbidden West itself looks stunning. How anyone can look at either and think otherwise is pretty unfathomable at where we are in the generation.
It's been chosen as the flagship technical showpiece of the PlayStation 5 for a reason. The increased layers of detail and authenticity brought upon by the new hardware are something to be revered, not lambasted because Aloy doesn't look like the new Barbie. She has flaws as we all do. She's a hunter living in a post-apocalyptic world, not a runway model about to attend the Met Gala.
Interestingly, we got a breakdown of this by Guerrilla lead character artist Bastien Ramisse, who dove into the differences between Horizon Zero Dawn and its sequel, as well as how Horizon Forbidden West won't compromise its visuals on either PS4 or PS5:
“The most noticeable differences and improvements for Aloy in terms of technology is the push of facial and body capture accuracy, allowing more realistic shapes and surface details on characters as well as the careful increase of polygon density to capture handmade and used outfits."
It's clear from this that Guerilla is looking to push the boundaries of what motion capture is capable of. This will only grow ever more as technology advances. The studio's decision to create an authentic female protagonist that represents women as real women is a big step in the right direction – and is something that this industry should be proud of.