Horizon Forbidden West Complete Edition review: PlayStation banger plays best on PC

Horizon Forbidden West Complete Edition review: PlayStation banger plays best on PC
Images via Sony

Written by 

Joshua Boyles

Published 

27th Mar 2024 14:09

Two years on from the debut of Horizon Forbidden West on PlayStation 5, it’s finally made its way to PC. With Aloy’s journey continuing through the dilapidated Pacific West of the future, Forbidden West saw developer Guerilla Games flex its muscles more than ever before, becoming one of 2022’s best open-world action RPGs - there was just the small matter of Elden Ring standing in its way come Game of the Year nomination time.

The Horizon curse continues with this PC release, as not only was the original game overshadowed by Breath of the Wild, but this version now goes toe to toe with Dragon’s Dogma 2. If you’re looking for an action RPG that’s a bit more accessible and with a touch more sci-fi, you can’t let this port of Forbidden West pass you by.

Despite a little more polish needed on the handheld front, the PC is now the best place to experience the second part of Aloy’s journey. Packed with all the latest rendering tech and a steady, scalable framerate to boot, PC players will likely be very pleased with the work that Nixxes offers here.

GGRecon Verdict

There’s still some tweaking to do to get Forbidden West running desirably on handheld machines, and it would have been great to see some UI scaling options for both accessibility and compatibility reasons. However, unless you’re playing on the Steam Deck, Horizon Forbidden West is a marvel to behold on PC. 

This is quite easily one of the most gorgeous open worlds you’ll explore in a modern video game. With a stellar set of graphical customisation options and admirable performance on rigs that meet the recommended requirements, there’s currently no better place to experience Aloy’s journey.

King of the Jungle

To be clear, this review will mostly explore the technical aspects of how Horizon Forbidden West performs on PC platforms rather than dive into the quality of the original game itself. We reviewed Forbidden West when it first launched back in 2022, giving it 4.5 stars and boldly claimed that it’s one of the best open worlds ever made, marred only by a few qualms with the combat.

All of what we said in our review of the base game and subsequent review of the Burning Shores expansion (which is included in this PC edition) holds up - Horizon Forbidden West is a marvel in both its gameplay and technical prowess. With an expansive open world that’s full of variation, much of which includes deliciously verdant vegetation, you’d have thought running this game would be a chore for any but the most beefy of PC rigs.

Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case, as port developer Nixxes has worked some magic to make Forbidden West accessible and scalable depending on your PC rig. 

For context, here are the PC specs I used to test this version of the game:

Component Type Component used in testing
CPU Intel i9 10900K
GPU Nvidia RTX 3080
RAM 16GB DDR4 @ 3200 MHz
SSD 2TB Kingston

With this hardware configuration and using the basic ‘High’ preset at a resolution of 1440p and with DLSS set to ‘Balanced’, I could maintain a solid 80 fps at all times while playing the opening sections of Forbidden West. To my eye, the visual clarity was slightly better than what I experienced when playing the game on PS5 in its Performance mode, with the added benefit of a few more frames on top.

I was overjoyed to see that this level of stability continued into the open-world sections, with the frame-time graph remaining remarkably stable, even during more intense combat sections. Of course, I could have tweaked these settings even further to find an optimal balance between visual clarity and performance. Nixxes has included all the modern rendering offerings to suit your needs, including DLSS 3.0 for frame generation, AMD FSR 2.2, and the Nvidia Reflex Latency booster.

The graphics menu in Horizon Forbidden West
Click to enlarge

For those on lower-end rigs, there are plenty of graphics options to fiddle with in the settings menu. These are all laid out excellently, with each setting providing a visual representation of how each variable will affect performance and visual quality. What’s more, you can see your own game running in the background behind the settings menu, letting you assess option changes in real-time.

PS5 DualSense controllers are supported with this version of the game, taking advantage of the haptic motors and triggers just as the game did while running on its home turf hardware. If you’re a mouse and keyboard purist, though, you won’t be disappointed - the game translates very well to the input methods, with full key rebinding options if you want to get granular with it.

Almost flawless 21:9 support

Horizon Forbidden West running at 21:9
Click to enlarge

PC is all about being scalable to different setups, and the rise in popularity of 21:9 widescreen monitors has only exemplified this. While some titles can skimp out on providing native support for the 21:9 aspect ratio, Forbidden West isn’t one of them, as it supports the wider resolution right out of the box.

Performance only takes a slight hit when set to this slightly higher resolution, but the game correctly shows off more of the world on either side of the screen. With a world that looks as gorgeous as this does, it truly enhances the gameplay experience, providing a more immersive way to play out Aloy’s adventure.

There are a couple of small areas where the 21:9 support feels a little half-baked, however. The biggest omission is the lack of any UI scaling options, which means some UI elements remain anchored to where their 16:9 counterparts would appear. It would have been fantastic to have the option to push these elements right out to the edges of the screen at 21:9 resolutions - instead, they hang unceremoniously near the centre.

That said, most of these UI elements disappear during moment-to-moment gameplay when set to the ‘Immersive’ mode, which is my favourite way to play Forbidden West. As such, it’s only the compass that’s on-screen permanently, and this sits neatly in the top centre of the screen, unbothered by a wider resolution.

The only other issue caused by 21:9 displays is that cutscenes have the potential to show visual glitches in the extra space shown on the side. This makes sense, as Geurilla originally designed these cutscenes to render on 16:9 TVs.

Nixxes’ solution is to have the option to enable black bars on the sides of the screen when in cutscenes, which hides these visual glitches at the expense of a cinematic view. This feels like a bit of a band-aid fix to the issue, and it would have been great to see the developer fix any egregious visual errors rather than block them out entirely.

However, it’s great that players are given the option to choose between the two. In any case, I chose to not block out the sides during cutscenes, and while this may change the further I play through the game, I didn’t notice any visual glitches in cutscenes during the opening hours.

Handheld woes

Close up of Horizon Forbidden West running on Steam Deck
Click to enlarge

I also tested out Horizon Forbidden West on a Steam Deck OLED, given that’s how I end up playing most of my games these days while I’m on the go. The good news is that, while Nixxes hasn’t yet managed to get official Deck certification from Valve, the game is technically playable on the portable device. The bad news is that it’s far from the optimal way to play, to the point where you may want to wait for a few patches before diving in.

To get the most optimal frame rate, I had to knock all of the graphics settings down as low as they could go, except for the texture quality which I left on ‘High’. Lowering this any further would cause icons in the game’s HUD to appear blurry and often impossible to parse.

Combining that with the native offering of AMD’s FSR 2.2 set to ‘Balanced’, I was able to get anywhere between 30 and 45 fps when exploring the open world. Unfortunately, this is not a consistent frame rate, with the frame time graph jumping all over the place. Locking the refresh rate of the Deck to 30 or 40 sadly does little to help here, as the frame rate will also drop down into the 20s when entering combat.

Horizon Forbidden West running on Steam Deck
Click to enlarge

The same occurs when loading into a new area of the game’s open world, causing the Deck to occasionally slow down to a complete stop while it loads in the next chunk of the environment. On a couple of occasions, this hard-crashed my Deck, resulting in a complete restart of the machine. It seems that the super-fast SSD of the PS5 is really needed for a game of this scale.

Even when Forbidden West is running smoothly on the Deck, it’s not a looker. Due to much of the environment involving fine vegetation, there are lots of small edges that FSR struggles with. Even on assets like Aloy’s flowing hair, it’s hard to ignore the vast amount of smudgy ghosting that appears when the game is in motion.

Ghosting is also an issue on UI elements as they’re rather small on the sub-8” screen. Again, this feeds into a lack of UI scaling options which would have been great to see from an accessibility point of view, never mind performance.

As such, playing Horizon Forbidden West in a portable fashion isn’t something I can wholeheartedly recommend just yet unless you’re playing on a more powerful ROG Ally or MSI Claw. It sounds like Nixxes is working to deliver slightly better clarity and performance to handheld devices, though - so you may fair better a few patches down the line.

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The Verdict

There’s still some tweaking to do to get Forbidden West running desirably on handheld machines, and it would have been great to see some UI scaling options for both accessibility and compatibility reasons. However, unless you’re playing on the Steam Deck, Horizon Forbidden West is a marvel to behold on PC. 

This is quite easily one of the most gorgeous open worlds you’ll explore in a modern video game. With a stellar set of graphical customisation options and admirable performance on rigs that meet the recommended requirements, there’s currently no better place to experience Aloy’s journey.

4/5

Reviewed on PC, code provided by the publisher.

Joshua is the Guides Editor at GGRecon. After graduating with a BA (Hons) degree in Broadcast Journalism, he previously wrote for publications such as FragHero and GameByte. You can often find him diving deep into fantasy RPGs such as Skyrim and The Witcher, or tearing it up in Call of Duty and Battlefield. He's also often spotted hiking in the wilderness, usually blasting Arctic Monkeys.

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