PC REVIEW HORIZON ZERO DAWN. Horizon Zero Dawn was considered one of the best PS4 exclusives and a must for anyone who chose to buy the Sony system. I say “was considered” since this title is no longer an exclusive, having now arrived on PC. It’s been over three years since Guerilla Games’ new IP first wowed us on PlayStation, but a lot has changed since its release and PC audiences can be a stickler for poor ports. Here’s how Horizon Zero Dawn holds up on PC with the “Day One Patch” installed.
Back to 2017
While reading the 2017 Game Revolution review on the PS4 version, I found myself nodding to many of the game’s strengths, which still three years later. There is the “living world, which breathes with day / night and weather cycle” that still offers breathtaking views and almost forces you to use the full photo mode. While a 30 FPS cap was the cost of great visuals on PS4 and PS4 Pro, there’s no such sacrifice on PC, as you can enjoy both high details and high frame rates.
Even the “frantic combat with the on-the-fly creation system” is still fantastic and satisfying. Taking on a huge mechanical beast and scratching its various weaknesses, watching how pieces of armor break, never gets old. Different enemies require different tactics, with some types of weapons and ammo working better than others. Collecting materials to craft ammo and other resources is also fast and never strenuous.
Where things haven’t aged that well are in the design of the side missions, which while quite varied, don’t hold a candle to other open world titles that have blurred the lines between main and side missions. That said, as long as you set your expectations and anticipate a lot of research for forgettable minor characters (who are sometimes plagued with quirky animations), then you should be fine.
And by “forgettable minor characters” I mean pretty much everyone besides the protagonist Aloy (Ashly Burch) and the deuteragonist Sylens (Lance Reddick). While Aloy and Sylens undergo some interesting character development, you don’t really see it anywhere else. This makes the main story missions decidedly premium over secondary content.
Personally, I just wanted to keep moving forward with that main story, as it presents a really gripping mystery for the player to solve. The good news is that there is no real difficulty here. As you level up and gain new skills, there are a ridiculous number of difficulty options you can use to quickly level the playing field. Choose “Story” if you just want to see what happens next without having to go off the beaten track, and choose “Ultra Hard” if you want the hardest experience possible and need that grind for some crucial next level skills.
Horizon Zero Dawn on PC offers gamers the opportunity to enjoy both fascinating visual detail at high resolutions up to 4K and with ultra-wide support, as well as an unlocked frame-rate. This performance combined with all the content included in the “Complete Edition” of this game means that PC gamers are playing what is the definitive version. If you’ve waited three years to finally enjoy this game, then you’ll have the best time on PC, with all previous patches and DLCs included.
Keyboard and mouse are surprisingly useful when it comes to spotting weak spots on enemies, although I imagine most will use a controller, which obviously works great. (It still makes me laugh when I see Xbox controller symbols popping up on a PS4-exclusive game I’m playing on a PC.)
PC gamers can also enjoy an adjustable field of view, as well as improved lighting and reflection systems, as well as more dynamic foliage that reacts to player movements. The point here is that this isn’t just the PS4 version launched on PC and with a higher frame rate, as it has undergone a few other improvements to make it even better.
Know your limits
With the latest Nvidia driver installed, which notably detects optimizations for Horizon Zero Dawn on PC and the “Day One Patch” which was implemented in advance for fully implemented reviewers, I enjoyed a stable experience especially above 60 1080p FPS on auto preset. However, taking matters into my own hands for my 4K display, I changed the settings. I normally go with 1440p High / Ultra for modern games at 60 FPS, but that’s not currently possible with this title. For 4K Ultra, you’ll need a really robust system.
My Ryzen 7 3700X / RTX 2070 / 32GB RAM combo was rendered weak, despite the recommended settings suggested on the game’s store page. For this reason, I recommend buying directly from a store with a good refund policy – Steam and Epic Games Store have proven systems – in case you find yourself hit by unexpectedly bad performance.
After coming from Death Stranding, which also uses the Decima game engine, and playing it at 1440p / 60 FPS, with maximum settings and graphics with DLSS 2.0 upscaling to 4K, I was a little disappointed to go back to less options. interior of Horizon Zero Dawn. Sure, they’re completely different games, but my point is that it’s possible to really push the boat out when creating high-end PC experiences. Horizon does enough but fails to really surprise me.
If you struggle with performance, as I imagine the average PC gamer will do, there is an “Adaptive Performance FPS” option, which reduces the resolution to keep the game running at the required frame-rate. You can also manually adjust the “Render Scale” to get those few extra frames above 60 FPS. Note, however, that images can quickly become blurry with this option enabled.
There’s also HDR, with which Windows 10 can still be a bit funky. Make it work though, and Horizon Zero Dawn shines just like on PS4. It’s a vibrant world that can really make your new TV or monitor pop. The settings menu allows for basic HDR customization which should make the game look good even on budget screens.
I should also mention the crash issues, which for me disappeared once the new patch was installed. To avoid conflicts, I completely uninstalled the game and reinstalled it for good measure!
Horizon Zero Dawn PC Review | The final verdict
Horizon Zero Dawn is a 2017 Game of the Year contender that is still worth playing in 2020. Given the PC improvements, if you own a decent gaming rig then this version should now be considered the definitive edition in which both the high details that smooth performance combine to create a largely uncompromising adventure.
While performance isn’t high enough when compared to other port-ex exclusives ported, the PC version takes steps in the right direction to shed its 30 FPS cap with some additional graphics bump-ups that help look the part in 2020. You’ll have still oddities dragging you back into 2017, but for the most part the game has aged well, with a story you’ll want to see to the end and a fight that pushes you forward with new weapons and upgrades to take down even bigger beasts.
Horizon Zero Dawn for PC earns a great score as it still does so much good, easily deserving the attention of all curious PC gamers who feel like they’ve lost, and anyone happy to jump to that $ introductory price. 50.