Following a 2017 release on the PS4, Horizon Zero Dawn has followed in the footsteps of Death Standing with the release of a PC port, and there are plenty of benefits to playing the futuristic open-world game on a PC too. Aside from the addition of a new ultra-hard difficulty setting to further challenge open-world gamers, the biggest benefits are the improved graphics and performance on offer.
It’s not that the game ran badly on my PS4 Pro when I originally delved into the world of Horizon Zero Dawn, but simply put, I had no idea just how much better it could look. Horizon Zero Dawn is a stunning technical achievement on PS4, but the experience on PC can be so much smoother, and it got me thinking about the PS5. Is this the kind of transformative experience we should expect from next-gen console games?
The biggest change when it comes to Horizon Zero Dawn on PC is framerate. When the game was available on PS4, it was capped at 30fps, regardless of whether you had the standard PS4 or beefed up PS4 Pro. That framerate cap has been removed on PC, allowing for 60, 144 or even 240fps performance depending on your setup and display refresh rate, and it’s nothing short of glorious.
Everything feels smoother, and it certainly makes for a more responsive combat system, complete with buttery-smooth attack animations. That’s admittedly further enhanced by keyboard and mouse control, giving you impeccable aim with your bow simply not achievable with a controller, but that’s probably not something next-gen console gamers will get to experience, so I won’t get my hopes up too far there.
There’s also the fact that you can run Horizon Zero Dawn at true 4K@60fps on PC, providing more detail than that of the PS4 Pro’s 2160p checkerboard output, and you can crank the textures and volumetric cloud quality way past that of the consoles. The render distance is much better on PC too, with less of a noticeable pop-in effect as you explore the stunning, yet dangerous 31st-century open world.
Considering the PS4 (and the Xbox One) were released back in 2013, they do an impeccable job at providing a great quality gaming experience, but let’s be honest, that tech is 7 years old now. With the 10.28 TFLOPS of power on offer from the PS5, combined with the company’s proprietary SSD with high-speed data transfer, this is the kind of performance that we could come to expect from next-gen games – especially if the Unreal Engine 5 demo, captured on PS5, is anything to go by.
Here’s the thing; it’s not the perfect PC port, especially when compared to the PC port of Death Stranding a few months ago, but it’s not always bad. I’m lucky enough to use an RTX 2080Ti alongside other high-end components in my main gaming rig, but despite this, I struggled to get the game to run at a consistent 1080p@60fps – even when dropping down to medium quality, akin to that of the PS4 version of the game, the experience was marred with stuttering.
But, when I switched to the 2019 Razer Blade Pro, with comparably less powerful (but admittedly still high-end) components like the RTX 2060, and I could get 100+fps on Ultra quality at 1080p. I thought it was a problem with my computer, but Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry report cites the exact same issues – and that’s with a pre-release 35GB patch applied.
There’s also a lack of PC rendering technology, with the main omission being DLSS 2.0, despite Death Stranding featuring the tech and the fact that Death Stranding uses the same Decima Engine as Horizon Zero Dawn. There is adaptive resolution scaling available, but it’s nowhere as good as what you’d get from DLSS, with sometimes noticeable drops in resolution to achieve a steady framerate.
Some of these performance issues can, and hopefully will be, fixed via a patch, but it’s a shame to see performance inconsistencies in a game regarded as a technical benchmark when it was originally out on PS4.
When Horizon Zero Dawn works well, producing smooth gameplay and high-quality textures, it gets me excited about the future of next-gen consoles and the kind of experiences that’ll produce, but in terms of a PC port, it’s inconsistent to say the least.
Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition is now available to buy on PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store.