Horizon Forbidden West Is Another Solid PC Port from Nixxes

Two years and a month after Horizon Forbidden West launched on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 consoles, PC gamers can finally step into the vast and gorgeous post-apocalyptic Western USA created by Guerrilla Games.

The main work on the PC version was done by Nixxes, the Dutch port team that worked for years for Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montréal, and IO Interactive before Sony came in and acquired them in July 2021. This acquisition was a critical component of Sony’s plan to expand its prized console exclusives to the PC platform. In less than three years, Nixxes already worked on four games, starting with Horizon Zero Dawn (although they only worked on post-launch patches as Virtuos made the base game) and then focusing on Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales, and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Of these three, only Rift Apart showed some issues at launch due to stuttering, lack of ray tracing on AMD hardware, and even some weirdly missing effects and texture loading problems. The ports of the Spider-Man games, on the other hand, were excellent.

Thankfully, Horizon Forbidden West is another solid example of a PC port from the experienced studio based in Utrecht. As we’re used to from previous Sony ports, almost the entire breadth of features is available here: Ultrawide support (21:9 and 32:9), NVIDIA DLSS Super Resolution and Frame Generation, NVIDIA Deep Learning Anti-Aliasing, NVIDIA Reflex, AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution, Microsoft DirectStorage, not to mention full support for the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, and built-in speaker.

The High Dynamic Range implementation is good, too, although the main slider to set your display’s Max Luminance currently doesn’t work. However, the sliders for Paper White, Shadow Boost and Highlight Boost work just fine, and they’re way more than what HDR users can find in the average PC game when it comes to tweaking their HDR experience.

While Horizon Forbidden West does not offer native support for Dolby Atmos, users with an Atmos-compatible soundbar or surround system can successfully enable Atmos in Windows and then use the upmixer functionality available through the Dolby Access app. The result is surprisingly good, owing to the high quality of the 7.1 sound mix prepared by the developers.

Of course, simply adding most of the cutting-edge features is only the first step in making a proper PC port. The other, more important question is whether the game performs decently. Too often of late, PC gamers have had to deal with stuttering and similarly annoying issues upon release.

That’s not the case here at all. Despite the vast and highly detailed open world featured in Horizon Forbidden West, stuttering is nearly non-existent, and powerful rigs can focus on turning on all the graphics settings without worrying too much about performance. Personally, with my RTX 4090 GPU, I went with a combination of DLSS Frame Generation and DLAA to achieve maximum visual fidelity while keeping an average of over 70 frames per second (and consistent frame times) at 4K with maxed settings.

When I reviewed the game on PlayStation 5, one of my few complaints was directed to the aliasing that plagued the Performance mode. Guerrilla Games has thoroughly improved this area on PS5 through various patches, but the PC version still easily takes the cake when it comes to visual clarity when DLAA is enabled.

However, and here’s why I called it a solid port instead of an awesome port in the headline, there isn’t much more in the way of visual enhancements compared to the console version. You can set Anisotropic Filtering to 16x, of course, and Nixxes told Digital Foundry they improved the shadow filtering and resolution. Other than that, it’s the same game. Even ambient occlusion is limited to just SSAO. Horizon Forbidden West still looks amazing, mind you, but it is a little disappointing that they didn’t inject any more advanced graphics features. In the DF interview, the studio stated ray tracing was considered but discarded due to the heavy reliance on natural environments like trees and the sheer scale of such a task.

Still, like I said, Horizon Forbidden West looks great anyway and performs nearly flawlessly. As for the game itself, as I explained in my original review of the console version, it’s an excellent title that any fans of the genre should consider buying.

Horizon Forbidden West is a worthy sequel to Zero Dawn in every way, proving that Guerrilla is no one-hit wonder when it comes to the action RPG genre. This huge and beautiful world has an incredible amount of things to do and most of them are really fun, thanks to improvements to combat and traversal. The game also features another great storyline that will get fans talking about the inevitable sequel.

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