Good News, Horizon Forbidden West Plays Fine And Still Looks Beautiful On Base PS4

Good News, Horizon Forbidden West Plays Fine And Still Looks Beautiful On Base PS4
Horizon Forbidden West on PS4 feels last-gen but doesn't look it. (Screenshot: Guerrilla Games / Sony / Kotaku)

I was ready for Horizon Forbidden West to be a big disappointment on base PS4s. The game is a technical marvel in so many ways on PS5, and developer Guerilla Games hadn’t been showing off a ton of last-gen footage. Surely it would suffer on Sony’s old hardware. Not so. While a clear downgrade, the PS4 version of Horizon Forbidden West still looks great and plays well, easily making it one of the most gorgeous games on last gen.

Horizon Forbidden West’s sun-soaked open world is full of stuff: dust, foliage, rocks, rivers, mountains, waterfalls, giant robot animals. Each piece is incredibly detailed with light bouncing off it to create the effect of a hyper-realistic day dream that shimmers as you move through it.

On PS4 the game still looks very good, especially when not in motion.  (Screenshot: Guerrilla Games / Sony / Kotaku)On PS4 the game still looks very good, especially when not in motion. (Screenshot: Guerrilla Games / Sony / Kotaku)
You can make out more detail in the ruins off in the distance on PS5 in graphics mode, but the differences are pretty subtle.  (Screenshot: Guerrilla Games / Sony / Kotaku)You can make out more detail in the ruins off in the distance on PS5 in graphics mode, but the differences are pretty subtle. (Screenshot: Guerrilla Games / Sony / Kotaku)

All of these effects are dialed back on the PS4 version of the game, but what feels like a step down from the PS5 version still feels like a meaty upgrade from the original Horizon Zero Dawn. While not unexpected — -the first game came out five years ago — it’s a relief when something like Cyberpunk 2077 reminds you of how badly things could have turned out.

Here are some more differences with the PS4 version:

  • Cutscenes aren’t as smooth and the graphical shift between them and the regular game is more jarring
  • Foliage is less detailed and some of it is removed.
  • Tall grass and bushes are stiffer and more jagged.
  • Characters and other objects are less sharply defined and detailed, especially while in motion.
  • There’s more pop-in, especially when new scenes and areas are first loading.
  • There are load times and they’re bad
  • It’s tough playing at 30 fps!
Aloy sliding down a hill on PS4.  (Gif: Guerrilla Games / Sony / Kotaku)Aloy sliding down a hill on PS4. (Gif: Guerrilla Games / Sony / Kotaku)
Aloy sliding down a hill on PS5 in performance mode.  (Gif: Guerrilla Games / Sony / Kotaku)Aloy sliding down a hill on PS5 in performance mode. (Gif: Guerrilla Games / Sony / Kotaku)

By far the biggest difference is that Horizon Forbidden West doesn’t have a 60 fps option on PS4. If you haven’t been playing games on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, or PC, this isn’t a new thing and it won’t feel weird, but after spending all of the last console cycle not caring at all about framerates, it’s hard going back. That said, the 30 fps on PS4 is pretty stable and 15 minutes into a play session, it was bothering me as much.

Even on PS5, there’s some debate about whether Horizon is a series best enjoyed in 60 fps performance mode or in 4K. As a third-person action game with a ton of combat where timing can be key, the higher framerate feels like a no brainer to me. As Digital Foundry points out over on Eurogamer though, there’s a case for Forbidden West being the first PS5 game that’s worth playing primarily in resolution mode. Every view is full of dozens of little visual details and flourishes that are preserved at higher resolution at their sharpest. Fortunately, you’re not locked into one or the other. As in other games you can toggle back and forth at will.

That’s not an option on PS4, obviously, but that version of the game does a great job overall of making the improvements on PS5 seem like bonus perks rather than the baseline. So if you’re worried about whether you should wait to play Horizon Forbidden West on PS5, don’t be. In addition to working just fine on PS4, it’s also cheaper there ($US60 ($83) instead of $US70 ($97)) with a free upgrade to the PS5 version. Your save data will transfer over as well, if and when you can eventually manage to get your hands on an actual PS5.

Comments

  • If a game can run stable on 30 fps then I’ll usually go with visuals over fps every time.
    Of the games I’ve played in the next gen the only one so far where I chose FPS was AC Valhalla because it ran like balls on graphics mode: (That was near release and I didn’t check in later updates)

    I really need to finish the first game but I have a nasty habit of installing it and using it as a hardware test.
    I tried it on an old TV and standard PS4, 4K Bravia and the PS4 Pro, the 4K Bravia and the PS5 and again recently when I got an LG C1.
    It’s crazy how different the game looked at every turn. (Or just how shitty my 2017 4K Bravia was compared with new TV’s)
    On the PS5/LG C1 it put a lot of next gen games to shame.

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