Horizon Zero Dawn PC Review
Guerrilla's open world shines on PC.
Originally released in early 2017, Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the best games on the PlayStation 4. A departure from the typical shooters made by developer Guerrilla Games, Horizon quickly became a fan-favorite PlayStation game, and the game’s protagonist, Aloy, has since become one of the most recognizable PlayStation characters alongside Nathan Drake and Ratchet and Clank. While the highly-anticipated PS5 sequel Horizon Forbidden West is likely still a long way off, we’ve been given a taste of what an enhanced version of Horizon’s world could look like with the PC release of Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition. Just like Death Stranding, Horizon feels at home on the PC platform, and the countless technical improvements make it feel like an entirely different game.
Horizon Zero Dawn PC Video Review
If you’re unfamiliar with Horizon Zero Dawn, the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic America where giant beast-like machines rule the land. Cities and buildings have long since eroded and decayed, leaving behind hardly recognizable concrete towers overtaken by foliage. Humanity still remains, although society is largely tribal. Because you’re only armed with fairly primitive tools like bows and slings, you’ll have to outmaneuver your foes and target specific weak points to take down huge machines. The clashing ideas of advanced technology and primitive society give Horizon a very unique setting, and it’s mysteries are a joy to uncover.
The PC release of Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition includes everything that came with the original PS4 version. The base game and The Frozen Wilds expansion are included, so there are dozens of hours of content to get through. A few extra bonuses are included as well, like a digital art book and some in-game outfits. Everything we said about Horizon Zero Dawn in our original review still stands. The world is an absolute joy to explore, the central mystery is intriguing, and the combat is immensely engaging. The same goes for our review of The Frozen Wilds, which is an excellent expansion to an already great game. However, playing Horizon on PC amplifies each of the game’s strengths.
After spending dozens of hours with Horizon on PlayStation 4 Pro (even going so far as to Platinum it), the PC release is liberating. Horizon’s combat was meant for a mouse. Using a mouse allows for unparalleled precision, and slamming an arrow right into the eye of a watcher is more satisfying than ever. Even with a controller, Horizon’s combat excels on PC. A buttery smooth framerate makes it much easier to keep track of incoming attacks and projectiles, and the detailed combat animations for both Aloy and the machines can really shine at high framerates. Using a controller in the original PS4 release, targetting specific weak points on machines that were always on the move practically required the use of skills that slowed down time to be able to land shots, but on PC, nailing shots with pinpoint precision has never been easier.
Playing with a mouse and keyboard also fundamentally changed the way I approached combat encounters. During my first playthrough on PlayStation 4, I would meticulously place traps and tripwires around an arena before taking on a tough enemy, and I would use things like fire arrows that didn’t necessarily require hyper-accurate shots to be effective. I would use precision weapons like the Sharpshot Bow when I had an opening, but it’s a bit tricky to line up a shot with a Ravager coming straight for you. Playing on PC, I still laid traps, but I found myself much more comfortable doing that sort of stuff on the fly during a combat encounter. I knew I could easily set up a tripwire in a machine’s path as it charged at me or land a precise shot just after dodging, and that made Horizon’s combat into a much more aggressive affair. It still requires thought and preparation in order to succeed, but I felt more like the hunter than the hunted while playing Horizon on PC.
The Decima engine can achieve insane fidelity with the right hardware, as seen in the PC release of Death Stranding, and Horizon Zero Dawn is no exception. The game includes an original preset that is equivalent to the PlayStation 4 version’s graphics, but this preset only sets everything to medium. You can achieve some crazy results with powerful enough hardware, but it doesn’t take a monster of a PC to attain great graphics. The game is incredibly optimized, and the graphical settings allow for fine control of the game’s presentation and performance. There are even images and explanations of what each graphics setting does, which can help when you’re trying to decide where you should cut back to maintain a high framerate. Everything is breathtaking in motion when set to the highest possible settings though, especially if you’re playing on an ultrawide monitor.
If you’ve got the hardware to run it, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas just about everywhere you look. The upgrade in visual quality makes exploring the world even more enjoyable than before, and first-time players will no doubt be just as drawn into the overgrown ruins, lush forests, and arid deserts of Horizon’s world as those who played the game when it first came out. None of the magic has been lost in the three years since its release.
If you’ve never played it before, then you should definitely play Horizon Zero Dawn. That much was made apparent by our original review of the game – it’s one of the best games of the last few years – but the PC version especially is a sight to behold, so much so that returning players should absolutely consider double-dipping for the PC version of Horizon. It really is that much of an upgrade over the PS4 version. Not only do the graphical and technical improvements make the world much more exciting to explore, but the increased framerate and ability to use a mouse elevate the combat to new heights. The PC platform allows Horizon Zero Dawn to be the best game it can be.
- This article was updated on:August 5th, 2020
Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition
- Available On: PC, PS4
- Published By: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Developed By: Guerrilla Games
- Genre: RPG
- US Release Date: August 7, 2020
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "The PC platform allows Horizon Zero Dawn to be the best game it can be."