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One Horizon Zero Dawn player is turning the game into artful GIFs

“Like a dance with wild animals”

Aloy, a red-haired woman riding a mechanical beast, aims a bow and arrow at a Shell-Walker, a robot with a hexagonal block on its back, in Horizon Zero Daw Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Horizon Zero Dawn is the latest contender for “best-looking console game ever made,” and with its incredibly detailed open world, unnaturally beautiful lighting and weather effects, and rock-solid performance at 4K resolution, it may capture the crown for the moment. It’s gorgeous on its own, but one Twitter user, SunhiLegend, has been getting a good deal of attention for producing clips that make Horizon Zero Dawn look like a balletic action movie.

Hermen Hulst, managing director at Horizon Zero Dawn developer Guerrilla Games, has taken notice. Hulst has retweeted two of SunhiLegend’s GIFs over the past week, noting in one tweet that the clips make the game’s combat “feel like a dance with wild animals.” Here’s that one:

(In case you’re wondering where the freeze blast that hit the Sawtooth came from, the Twitter replies speculate that the source was an overridden Stormbird.)

This sequence is emblematic of the footage that SunhiLegend makes. For one thing, the clip looks like a professionally produced trailer; it helps that Horizon Zero Dawn lets you disable the HUD. But there’s more under the hood that goes into crafting this kind of video.

If you look through SunhiLegend’s GIFs — and we’ll drop a bunch below, for your enjoyment — you’ll see that they really know Horizon Zero Dawn inside and out. They clearly know how to manage the camera in a way that lends the clips a cinematic feel. (It almost appears as if SunhiLegend slowed down the footage to the film standard of 24 frames per second.)

One of the first unlockable abilities in Horizon Zero Dawn provides Aloy, the player character, with what is essentially bullet time: She can enter slow motion if she aims a weapon while sliding or in midair. SunhiLegend uses this skill to their advantage in creating badass combat footage like this:

Aloy also has a variety of traps at her disposal, and in this GIF, SunhiLegend set enough of them to produce a twist ending on a clip that initially evokes the “clever girl” scene from Jurassic Park. Again, the slow pan of the camera is just perfect.

The end of that clip features something that SunhiLegend does a great job of showing off: the subtle animations that Guerrilla included to make Aloy more lifelike. Note that as the machine runs into the traps and skids toward her, she covers her ears to shield them from the sound of the robot animal crashing into the ground. You can see her do the same thing when she gets hit with a sonic blast from a Longleg here:

This isn’t limited to Aloy. Watch here as she mounts a Strider — the beast bucks as she hops on, and knocks down an enemy Trampler with a single swift kick:

But perhaps my favorite clip of this kind is one in which Aloy dodges a boulder hurled by a machine. She rolls out of the way, then shakes it off and keeps running:

I already loved Horizon Zero Dawn, but SunhiLegend’s GIFs have made me appreciate the game even more than I did before. Some of Guerrilla’s amazing yet subtle touches are easy to miss, but I’m glad someone is out there documenting them in this way.

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