For instance, Star Wars might be "Flash Gordon meets The Hidden Fortress", Jurassic Park might be "Westworld meets Jaws", and Dunston Checks In might be "The Shining meets Planet of the Apes".
You can do much the same thing with most video games. Unfortunately, there's no quick and pithy response when it comes to Horizon Zero Dawn. It's not Game X meets Game Y... it's more "Far Cry meets Tomb Raider meets The Last of Us meets Uncharted meets The Witcher III meets Watch Dogs meets Arkham Asylum meets Shadow of the Colossus".
You see, there's scarcely an original idea in Horizon Zero Dawn. Okay, okay - robot wildlife and that... but comic creators Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill did the exact same thing in 2000AD years ago.
Admittedly, video games have rarely been original - even Pong, the game which started it all, was a rip-off of somebody else's idea. Plagiarism is de riguer in gaming, and Horizon Zero Dawn celebrates it in considerable style.
And there is nothing funny nor little about it.
In Horizon Zero Dawn you play Aloy, a nice lady with a bow and arrow, who lives in the far future, following the fall of civilisation.
Some sort of war has lead to humanity devolving, while machines evolved into dinosaurs and other wildlife. People live in tribes which are massively distinct from one another - both in terms of their inexplicable hipster fashion sense and accents - despite just being a short walk away.
There are villages and cities, and there are the decaying remnants of the old world - above and below ground. And there are lots and lots of forests, and woods, and mountains, which - sorry - I'm sick to my hairy nipples of seeing in games, however pretty they might look.
In short: it's one of those games set in an enormous open world, where you have to forage for resources, take down enemy bases singlehandedly without setting off the alarm, and unlock new parts of your map by climbing towers (which, in this instance, just happen to be the necks of robot brachiosaurs).
With this in mind, describing the gameplay in Horizon Zero Dawn would bore us both, given that we've all played a game like this. It has arrived right at the cusp of my tolerance for open world games, when I'm starting to demand more from them.
Basically, just imagine your favourite open world game, and picture robot dinosaurs wandering around. At points, it's shockingly derivative; apparently, nobody on the development team ever stopped to question whether there was a new or better way of doing any of the things it has simply transplanted wholesale from other games. I mean, it doesn't even try to disguise them.
The closest Horizon Zero Dawn gets to anything original is in the hunting. Running headlong into a herd of metal beasties, armed with your spear and bow, will only get you killed or skanked-up. Instead, you're faced with the choice of sneaking around them, or taking them down through stealth. Later in the game you get to hack into these machines, and turn them to your advantage.
It's a fun - and surprisingly tough - conceit, but somehow even this element feels like we've seen it before.
Horizon Zero Dawn's world is stunning. Without a doubt it's one of the best looking games ever. From tundra to desert, from day to night - the constantly evolving scenery could take away the breath of even the hardest cynic.
What makes it even better looking is how seamless everything is. Nothing is a chore. It all feels robust, and just the right side of realistic. Nobody in the real world can jump and climb and roll in the way that Aloy does - but what it sacrifices in realism, it more than makes up for in sheer playability. It's a very easy game to spend time with, if not always so easy to succeed at (in a good way). It lets you enjoy that gorgeous scenery without wrestling with the controls or frustration.
Where it's less successful is in its storytelling. Frankly, the acting is dull and all over the place. There's no consistency between accents or tone, even within members of the same tribe. Why do some characters talk like they've stepped out of Lord of the Rings, while others sound like bus station puffy jackets? The names are back-of-a-fag-packet lazy (Bast, Teb, Den, Brom, Rost...), and the dialogue is just risible.
And all of this is a shame, because the world and the story are compelling and interesting - you just have to suffer through so much half-hearted nonsense in order to let Aloy's story play out. It's a pet peeve of mine, because of my day job, but it feels even more of an issue in a game which has clearly had so much money lobbed at it.
If you're going to inflict cut-scenes on us, you'd better make sure they're worth watching. Spend some of that budget on a director who can work with actors to get the best performance out of them, and a writer who knows how to give them material they can get their teeth into. There's little wit, emotion or humour anywhere in HZD's script.
I'm sick of it, because it feels like it's where video games are letting themselves down, by only ever employing writers and directors who've worked on video games, and whose experience with writing extends only as far as having watched every episode of Game of Thrones.
Yes, video game writing requires a writer who understands video games... but first and foremost, with this amount of story and cutscenes, you need a writer who knows how to write, for pity's sake.
In all honesty, I'm embarrassed by it. It's a massive barrier to the mainstream acceptance of games as something other than a nerdy thing beloved of nerds. Or, at least, that's how it feels to me.
Even the title - Horizon Zero Dawn - is off-puttingly clunky and sci-fi.
For all its unoriginality, for all that I've tired of the ideas that Horizon Zero Dawn trots out, it somehow still succeeds in becoming a consolidation of those ideas rather than running them into the ground.
I'd like to think that this is a last hurrah for these sorts of games - arriving at the precise moment at which the new Zelda points to a future which offers a fresh template for open world games. Indeed, Horizon Zero Dawn and Zelda are night and day. Where HZD is bloated and pompous, Zelda is full of space and whimsy... yet both are playable and succeed in their own right.
Unfortunately, I suspect that Breath of the Wild will continue to be the open world exception. Horizon Zero Dawn is so slick and polished that you can already hear the bandwagon leaving the station, continuing on its pointless journey to Law Of Diminishing Creative Returns Central. If it ain't broke, why try and fix it? Well, because sooner or later everyone's going to get bored.
For now though... there's no doubt that Horizon Zero Dawn works. For all its unoriginality, despite its dreadful scripting and acting, it's still an astonishingly polished, gorgeous, and massive experience.
SUMMARY: Very nearly exhausting my patience for these sort of games, but somehow still an enjoyable experience. Just sort out that script and acting, eh?
SCORE: 8.123123555 meets 10.19991123112