The best thing about the PC version of Horizon Zero Dawn is not what I expected when I first installed the game.
The visual upgrades, especially on a powerful system, will almost always be in focus when a console showpiece jumps to the PC, and Horizon do not disappoint in this area. The frame rate has been unlocked – a big change from the 30-fps limit when played on a PlayStation 4 or PS4 Pro – so anyone with a beef gaming computer will be able to play in 4K, at 60 fps or higher.
There are plenty of visual switches and a benchmarking tool to ensure you find the best balance between performance and aesthetics, support for ultra widescreen displays and an adjustable field of view.
It’s all well and good, and many people can stop reading there. This is the information they came up with, if all they care about is how the game looks on modern gaming computers. But the best thing about this gate for me was not what it looked like, but what it was like played, and that everything comes down to the controls.
Why the controls matter
Horizon Zero Dawn is a game about a seemingly pissed off young woman in a future so far ahead of us that giant timber machines are treated like dinosaur-like ancient relics. She’s an outcast, there’s an external threat, and she has to go hunting to save her people … even if they do not seem to want her. And while some of the ancient technology in the Forbidden Places still works, the people of her tribe still hunt and fight with traditional weapons, including our hero’s bow.
Accuracy is important. Knowing how to scan your mechanical opponents and find their weaknesses can make the difference between clearing away multiple targets with a single shot or death. And that’s the catch: knowing that the thoughts behind some enemies will explode does not help if you can not beat those thoughts, and to do so is a pulp easier with a mouse and keyboard, at least for me.
It’s not that Horizon poorly controlled on the PlayStation 4, it’s just that the extra precision that comes with the mouse and keyboard are huge assets in a game that focuses so much on hunting and survival. Stroke conditions can change quickly, and sometimes it’s this shot that makes all the difference, and I had a much easier time making that shot on PC. It does not hurt that the game also runs with a solid 60 fps on my rig, which further helps to respond.
Playing one of Sony’s most famous exclusives on PC is already news, but the increased mortality that I find with the new controls and the increased frame rate undoubtedly make this the more fun version of the game. I’m the same hunter, only with a little better equipment.
Horizon Zero Dawn will be released on PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store on August 7.