LEGO 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck full review

76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck is an amazing LEGO model that wonderfully captures the identity and spirit of the video game it is based on. Sequel to 2017's Horizon Zero Dawn, this year's PlayStation video game Horizon Forbidden West continues the adventures of hunter Aloy, through an overgrown, post-apocalyptic world populated by large, mechanical beasts. The game is a story-driven open world journey through some of the most scenic, colourful and wide-ranging landscapes so far seen in modern gaming, blending aspects of nature and machinery across a vast landscape that the player explores through immersive and varied gameplay.

You play as Aloy, a skilled hunter on a quest in Zero Dawn to discover who she is and what her role in this world is, and in Forbidden West determined to save everything she has come to love as she travels into the unknown territories of the Forbidden West. Horizon Zero Dawn was one of PlayStation 4's most successful titles, selling more than 20 million copies in its first four years, and 2022's Horizon Forbidden West is so far the third biggest launch for the PlayStation 5. This is a property with a large and passionate fanbase and - as opening sales of 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck have demonstrated - one very much ready for the franchise's venture into LEGO bricks. 

For how impressive the set looks, it's no surprise that 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck sold out inside 24 hours in the UK, US and most other territories - but is there substance to the LEGO set too?

-- Set details --

Theme: LEGO for Adults Set name: 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck Release: May 1, 2022

Price: GBP69.99 / £79.99 / EUR79.99 Pieces: 1,222 Minifigures: 1

LEGO: Available now

-- Build --

Quite simply, yes. 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck is as detailed, colourful and accurate to the source material as any Horizon fan could hope for. From the impressive scale of the model through to the specific details captured throughout the titular machine's bodywork and frame, this is a LEGO set that has been designed with care and attention to everything that makes the game as immersive as it is, and the Tallneck as unique as it is.

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These beasts are like nothing else you have seen before and are compelling subjects to take in - in all their glory in the game and, with the Tallneck here, in LEGO form just the same. The Tallneck is a more neutral beast that Aloy encounters at stages of her travels, compared with others like the Watchers (one of which is also included in 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck), Thunderjaws or Snapmaws.

She can climb up a Tallneck, override their programming with the Champion's Spear (which is included with the minifigure here) and then gain a greater view of her surroundings and map out the distant horizon. Scaling the side of one of these gigantic machines is a memorable challenge in game, both for the sheer size of them and for how impressive and authentic the experience is. Coming in at 36.5cm tall (higher than the box art indicates), 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck perfectly captures that same, impressive stature, and is a LEGO set that stands above a number of others within the same price range.

It stands above other sets quite literally for that height, but also stylistically for how well it mimics every juxtaposition that the in-game Tallneck represents. For such an immense size and for being covered in all sorts of complex, mechanised workings and armour, the Tallneck maintains an animalistic nature, with an organic form and movements that are as borne of nature as they are created by whirring gears. It's a beast that is both alien in appearance yet incredibly familiar, and when you first encounter it, it is both unsettling and unpredictable, yet mesmeric and calming to observe.

While the LEGO set certainly benefits from such naturally strong design and unique form of the original source material, in how interesting and realised these mechanical beasts look and feel, it is through clever and purposeful brick design that all the details that make these machines so compelling are all present and strongly felt as you piece together the model. The Tallneck is very specifically shaped as a beast, with particular curvature in the central body stretching up through the angle of the neck that supports that large, dish-shaped head. How this is replicated in LEGO is a particular highlight in putting together 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck, and is the sort of subtle but important detail that you actually don't notice in the final model until you have built it.

It's indicative of the attention to detail found throughout 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck, which so wonderfully captures the look and feel of the Tallneck, from the mechanised elements covering the entirety of its body through to how those are coloured and the way in which they change direction and angle to mimic this long-legged creature.

The LEGO set captures both the industrial look and feel of the Tallneck and that same organic nature to it through intelligent and incredibly careful design - 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck could so easily have been chunkier and out of proportion, or have focused too much on either the physical parts to the machine, or on the animalistic form, at the expense of the other. Instead, what is so skilfully captured in balance in Horizon Forbidden West is just as skilfully replicated in LEGO form in 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck. The skill and care that has gone into 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck translates into even the base of the model, too.

It is practical in design, holding steady the Tallneck through some Technic pin attachments in each foot, but it also adds to the all-round display nature of the LEGO set, offering a neat snapshot into the post-post-apocalyptic nature of this overgrown Earth with a patchwork style of grass, pavement and track and the nice offset contrast between a tree and an old traffic signal. What could have been an all-black, very basic and pragmatic base is instead full of the same detailed and authentic building that then carries on through into the centrepiece model itself. It adds not only an added level of immersion to the subject matter, but also a level of luxury that not every LEGO set can boast the same.

Indeed, the best measure of the amount of building that goes into the base is in the fact that, beyond putting together the small Watcher and the Aloy minifigure, the first three sets of numbered bags are dedicated entirely to it.

If it's not already obvious, 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck is an enjoyably immersive LEGO experience. It is also a markedly intelligent design and includes some build techniques that may look familiar, but actually manage to take the apparent limitations of LEGO that one step further. You thought you knew SNOT (Studs Not On Top) technique?

You thought you had a handle on the dimensions of plates, bricks and some very specific pieces in between? This build will redefine both those things in a way that really makes building 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck a stand-out experience for returning builders, and one hell of a first experience for the likely high number of newbies brought in by this set.

-- Characters --

Alongside such an impressive LEGO model is one of the most detailed and accurate LEGO minifigures so far created in Aloy. As a character she is created for a specific purpose within the Horizon world and storyline, to navigate the tricky, challenging landscapes across the overgrown world.

Her appearance reflects both her action elements and the tribal nature of the people who inhabit the Earth at this time, and so much of it is captured in an almost 360-degree print across 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck's minifigure. The stand-out detail is of course the dual-moulded hairpiece that includes a trans-blue circle on the right-hand side, to frame the augmented reality device called the 'Focus', which is printed on both sides of the dual-sided minifigure head. The trans-blue colour represents how the device glows when in use in game.

While this hairpiece, though, does then limit the number of poses that the minifigure can be placed in - push the arms too far back and the hair pops off - for what is primarily a display-based LEGO set, the minifigure here strikes all the right chords to perfectly complement and interact with the gigantic LEGO model she can climb.

-- Price --

76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck represents the kind of value that defines those high expectations we place on other LEGO sets that follow. This is an immersive and highly enjoyable LEGO experience in every way possible, from the intriguing way in which you build the Tallneck, through to the truly beautiful and impressive final model that stands before you, and the highly-detailed minifigure that is dwarfed by its sheer size. It's all part of a LEGO experience that is there to impress you.

The attention to proportions and the inclusion of some very particular parts of bodywork, all at this decent scale - it's all far more luxurious than GBP70 should actually buy you. This is a highlight of a LEGO set in 2022 and is likely to sell out again and again as the LEGO Group struggles to keep up with demand.

-- Pictures --

-- Summary --

76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck is the complete package, offering a detailed and authentic LEGO model of a highly recognisable and iconic creature from one of modern video gaming's most successful franchises. This set represents everything that a Horizon fan would hope it could at the same time as providing LEGO fans with a fascinating and truly unique creation to put together.

There are few LEGO sets that we can describe as faultless, but this is one.

It's rather apt that a LEGO set based on something that stands head and shoulders above all else and offers a viewpoint into an unknown but exciting future should do just the same in the form of 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck.

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