Horizon Forbidden West Is A Graphical Showcase On PS4 And Runs Well Enough

Guerrilla’s follow-up to its open-world action-adventure RPG Horizon Zero Dawn, Horizon Forbidden West, is out now. This is another of Sony’s first-party showstopper for the PS5 graphical wise, but what if you are still stuck on the PS4? How does this cross-gen title play on what is now an old console?

Since I and the rest of the Gamer Matters crew don’t have a PS5 right now (like everyone else), we are currently working on a review based on the PS4 version. Running on the most based of all base PS4: the parallelogram-shaped early launch model (CUH 100-6A).

So how does it fare up, performance-wise? The short answer is definitely playable, with some niggles here and there.

Spectacular Graphical Upgrade

When you first boot up Horizon Forbidden West, you’d be surprised that for some reason it’s running at 60fps. But that’s just the initial boot. Once in the game proper, it’s a solid 30fps. If you are now used to 60fps+ it does look off a bit for a while until you adjust your expectations.

But if you have been comfortable all the while with 30fps, just like Horizon Zero Dawn, Forbidden West has its framerate rock solid. Even when it’s dipping, it dips down and maintains that consistent framerate until the action has unfolded and raises back to 30fps.

(However, I did spot a few times where the game is consistently skipping frames. It’s only in rare instances, and solvable by dying and respawning again. So this is likely a bug rather than a performance issue.)

The craziest part is how big of a graphical leap Forbidden West is, and still running decently on PS4. Zero Dawn is already gorgeous but apparently, the bar for visual fidelity can still be pushed higher on this old hardware. Forests look lusher, clouds look fluffier, storms and nighttime more real. I played Zero Dawn to completion just right before starting out Forbidden West, so I’m comparing this from recent memory: it’s a real big step up in the visuals department.

Even the character models have visible glow-ups: Aloy’s face has more detail than before, and you don’t need next-gen performance to see it. Maybe a bit pared down compared to the PS5, but impressive improvements nonetheless.

Don’t call it a graphics downgrade. Forbidden West on PS4 looks so much nicer when you compare it to Zero Dawn. So much of its graphical detail is still on display on the last-gen console.

So What’s The Catch?

However, there are some slight issues. You know how these new current-gen consoles heavily tout the power of super-fast SSD storage that make load times instantaneous? Well, that really is something worth lusting over after you have to wait for Forbidden West’s loadings.

Fast travel is similar to Zero Dawn in which it takes half a minute or so for it to load. And retrying after death can also take a good amount of seconds. Long enough to be annoying, but too short to pull up the phone and doomscroll. But these are known quirks of the series, if you’ve bared through Zero Dawn, you’ll be fine with Forbidden West.

What will likely bother you is how less snappy the menus are this time around. Pulling up the map is instantaneous, but it takes a hot few seconds before it’s populated with all the markers.

So if you pull up the map, took a look, close it back and then want to double-check something and pull up the map again, it’s a hassle with precious seconds wasted looking at an iconless map.

Similarly, the new crafting menus at workbenches and shop menus have a bit more delay before it’s fully loaded in. The machine catalogue can also feel a bit sluggish to navigate.

But the UI isn’t the only bit that is affected by how fast your internal (or extended) hard disk can spin around. Textures also don’t load quick enough during some cutscenes. The game tries its best, but you will occasionally see pop-ins, rough textures, blocky objects, or worse, objects simply not loading in time so the game suddenly cuts to black for a bit.

The intro cinematic is rendered in-engine, and I know this because in one scene Aloy is climbing a cliff that has yet to be properly loaded, which was a funny oopsie to see given how this is supposed to be the hype montage.

But the fact remains: most of the cinematics are running in-engine, and when it works, it looks spectacular on PS4.

Once you’re far enough to actually go into the Forbidden West proper, the sudden black loading screens will crop up here and there. The game will force you to slow down a bit as it tries its best to get everything loaded in.

If you have the game installed in an SSD, it’s likely you have a better experience in this regard. I am using a regular 1TB external hard disk (7200rpm) to install the game, and more often than not it’s capable of matching the requirements for seamlessly loading the world. But don’t expect it to be that seamless- but nothing deal-breaking.

So Is Horizon Forbiddden West Playable On PS4?

It definitely is.

Sure, you’ll be missing out on some of the cool tricks and features the PS5 version can do, as well as the really nice performance boost and/or better screen resolution. But if you are still on PS4, can’t get a PS5 yet but still want to play Horizon Forbidden West, it’s definitely playable and worth the purchase. And you get a free next-gen upgrade to boot, the last PlayStation game getting it.

The open-world is optimised enough for the old console to keep up most of the time, though you would likely fare better with a faster hard disk or an SSD installed. It’s still playable with the most basic and lowest performance PS4 setup, as it should for a console game.

The UI performance is something you just have to live with, but other performance issues are not dealbreakers. The most important part is that it has a steady framerate, and that framerate is rock solid. Which is what any game should prioritise.

Don’t think of Forbidden West on PS4 as a downgrade version of the PS5 release. Rather, it’s the big sequel to Zero Dawn that pushes the PS4 to its very limits. And the PS5 version is when you have all those limiters off.

Stay tuned for our full review of Horizon Forbidden West.

Played on base PS4. Review copy provided by the publisher

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