Horizon Zero Dawn PC Hands On 1

Time sure does fly when you’re enjoying a quality lineup of exclusives, doesn’t it? It’s already been well over three years since Horizon Zero Dawn first ushered us into its world of technology-worshiping matriarchs and colossal robotic fauna on the PlayStation 4. A PC port of Guerrilla Games’ excellent open world debut has since been greenlit, and we’ve finally gotten our hands on it. The results? Not only is Horizon Zero Dawn on the PC a staggering display of the Decima engine’s scalability, but it’s also a pertinent peek at the PS5’s viability and potential as a future games machine on the cutting edge.

As far as content is concerned, Horizon Zero Dawn’s PC port is identical to that of its PS4 Complete Edition counterpart. As is to be expected, the full game and its great Frozen Wilds expansion are here and accounted for – no surprises there, but things do begin to diverge as soon as you hit the settings menu.

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All the typical PC trappings have been added with new toggles and sliders aplenty. You have control over the game’s visuals with the ability to tinker with things like shadow and reflection quality, and a standardised selection of resolutions and frame rates are made available, too. If you don’t have the horsepower to crank everything to 11, you can rest assured knowing that the game is still a visual treat at its lowest settings – even though it’ll look markedly worse than the PS4 original. But, at that point, you may as well just hop on the PS4 unless you’re shooting for higher framerates.

However, you’d be completely forgiven for wanting to see what Horizon Zero Dawn looks and feels like at those higher framerates, because it sure is extraordinary. The enhanced smoothness that comes from being able to push everything to 60 frames-per-second and beyond will have you ogling at small details like how the foliage smoothly sways in the breeze or how animal-like the movements of the ridiculously intricate and detailed machines are.

Those higher framerates also translate to an augmented sense of responsiveness that feels especially remarkable here. The PS4 original was already snappy courtesy of how quick Aloy is on her feet, and the increased performance brings that briskness further to the forefront. You can dodge out of a charging trampler’s way on a dime, and the combat’s frequently frantic pace feels even more fantastic courtesy of how instantaneous aiming is.

The other major improvement that comes with the PC version is the benefit of faster load times. If you’ve got an SSD with space to spare, you only need to wait for a few fleeting seconds when resuming your save or fast-travelling across the map. Even if you don’t, you can expect load times that are almost universally faster than the PS4 original’s. Spending less time staring at a load screen may sound like a minor upgrade, but it’s hard not to notice longer load times now that we’ve been spoiled with Ghost of Tsushima’s startlingly swift load screens in a similar open world setting.

These advantages that come alongside running Horizon Zero Dawn on a PC with powerful hardware have us especially excited for PS5’s potential. There’s a strange sense of exhilaration that comes from being able to blink across a map in a few seconds when it used to take minutes. Not even the fastest consumer-grade SSDs can compete with the storage throughput numbers Sony has put out, and those specs should lead to load times even faster than anything we saw with this PC port. Alongside the enhanced graphical capabilities of the PS5, there’s no doubting that Horizon Forbidden West will be a stunning technical showcase when it finally releases considering the first game can look and run this good.

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All that being said, our time with the PC version wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. When you start the game up for the first time, you’re greeted with a screen telling you to wait while it optimises everything for your specific hardware. While it does warn you that it may take a few minutes, this process took nearly ten minutes for us. Make sure to update your graphics drivers beforehand too, otherwise the game will have to do it all again. A ten minute wait is by no means unbearable, but it’s the first time we’ve seen such a thing for a game on PC. It serves to highlight the convenience afforded by a console where all the optimisation is already done for you before booting a game for the first time. It’s also worth noting that there isn’t any cross-save compatibility as of yet, so if you’ve got an existing save file sitting around somewhere, you’ll still have to start this port from scratch.

Nevertheless, it’s hard not to be happy with Horizon Zero Dawn’s PC port. It’s an exceptional edition of an excellent game that’s now being made available to a whole new audience of prospective players who haven’t yet partaken in its bountiful delights. If you’re returning to Horizon’s wilds and are looking for a place to play through the game a second time, you’d likely be better served sticking with the PS4 version you already own unless you’re okay starting a brand new save and have a solid gaming computer lying around to push the game’s beauty beyond the 30 frames-per-second mark. Any PS4 controller you’ve got lying around is plug-and-play compatible, though, and if you do decide to pick up this PC version, your eyes are in for some unrivalled visual splendour.

Will you be playing the PC port of Horizon Zero Dawn? Are you hoping the game receives a meaningful upgrade on the PS5? Tweak those settings in the comments section below.