If there was one game I was generally looking forward to this year, that would be Horizon: Forbidden West. The sequel to Guerrilla Games’ huge hit, Horizon: Zero Dawn definitely looks pretty and much more expansive than the original game… on the PlayStation 5. The way Sony promoted this game made it seem as if this was something that could only run on their latest gaming console as it was supposed to be this huge leap forward when it came to content, graphical fidelity, voice acting and more.
Well, it turns out Sony didn’t forget about us lowly PlayStation 4 owners as Guerrilla Games somehow managed to squeeze in the entire game and make it work on their last-generation gaming system. I was a bit wary to get it as, in my mind, anyway, there was no way they could package something as impressive as this without losing a lot of what made it come off as so good in the first place. I was definitely afraid they would butcher the game so much like the hatchet job CD Projekt Red did with their PlayStation 4 port of Cyberpunk 2077.
Even with that in mind and without reading anything about how the game looks and performs on Sony’s aging hardware, I made the decision to go try out Horizon: Forbidden West on the PlayStation 4. Was I going to be surprised at how they fit in all of this content into an aging system or was I going to think I just wasted my money? Well, here are my thoughts on the PlayStation 4 version of Horizon: Forbidden West.
Horizon: Forbidden West takes place a few months after the events of Horizon: Zero Dawn. Our hero, Aloy, has set out after the final battle of that game in search for a possible backup for GAIA. Unfortunately, she’s hit dead end upon dead end as she’s unable to do so. Out of leads, Aloy then gets a message from her foe in Horizon: Zero Dawn, Sylens. Sylens mentions that he has information she may need but, in order to get it, Aloy must travel to the Forbidden West, a land supposedly ruled by bloodthirsty and barbaric tribes known as the Tenakth. Despite the danger, Aloy and her allies, both old and new, set out for the Forbidden West, not knowing of a greater threat from the past that awaits her there.
Before I do review the story or anything else, I like to focus on the gameplay itself and how Horizon: Forbidden West runs on the PlayStation 4. Now, I don’t have a PlayStation 5 to compare it to so I can’t say if the game works better (fat chance!) or worse on the PlayStation 4. What I will do is give my own perspective on the good things and bad things I’ve noticed while playing the PlayStation 4 version of the game on my system.
I will say I am impressed that Horizon: Forbidden West runs as well as it does on the PlayStation 4. However, there are definitely some problems I’ve run across while playing. They’re not exactly game-breaking issues but there are definitely a lot of moments where I am taken out of the entire gaming experience because of these problems.
First, I will say the game does look gorgeous most of the time. There is an exorbitant amount of detail on the character models. Even when close up, Aloy and the rest of the humans look really good and Guerrilla Games fixed one of the previous game’s biggest immersion breakers: the eyes. People’s faces are much more expressive and their eyes actually seem like they’re finally looking at each other instead of going off in the distance. I do have to emphasize, however, I usually play games on my PlayStation 4 on the 720p, which might not be as high fidelity as I would want but I do prioritize performance more than graphical detail in general. Even with that, I can still see some washed out assets way in the distance as well as some jagged edges on buildings and mountains. It’s not terrible, though.
I have seen a good amount of buggyness while playing, though. Some relatively minor while others are game-breaking. The smaller bugs I’ve encountered were things like forageable items getting stuck in walls and mountains and textures popping in. I’m also rather annoyed by some of the pathfinding issues I’ve encountered. Sometimes, Aloy or my machine mount would get stuck on something like a tiny hump on the road, the kind she should be able to step over with no problem. Climbing mountains doesn’t feel intuitive as Aloy would bounce around ledge to ledge despite me pushing the controller to go the opposite direction. These may be issues with the PlayStation 5 version but I can’t say. I will say it does seem prevalent while I was playing on my PlayStation 4.
When it comes to more annoying and major bugs, I’ve had the game crash on me several times already, booting me back to the Home screen. That happened rarely before the latest patch but I haven’t had that happen afterwards. There were also more than a couple of times when Aloy fell through the ground while I was gliding, necessitating the need to load my previous save point. The most annoying glitch are the loading times. Normally, I wouldn’t call this a glitch but, when it happens while simply walking slowly on the road, well, it just gets annoying. I’m pretty sure this isn’t an issue for the PlayStation 5’s SSD load times. But, for my classic PlayStation 4, that loading screen does pop up for no reason fairly often. It does get incredibly annoying because of how frequently it happens.
I’m also getting rather worried about my PlayStation 4 because of how loud the fan gets while I’m playing the game! I wasn’t getting jet-like decibels out of it yet but it’s definitely much more audible than it usually gets while I’m running Horizon: Forbidden West. Now, I know my system is still in good working order. I actually know how to clean my PlayStation 4 and I have recently did some routine maintenance cleaning on it a few months ago. So I know it’s the game that’s forcing my jalopy of a PlayStation 4 to run that fan as hard as it can to cool down the CPU as much as possible. Just know that, because of this, I generally only play the game for a couple of hours before taking a break. Not because I need to rest my eyes but because I don’t want my PlayStation 4 to catch fire or something like that. I know it won’t actually happen but I just want to make sure my stuff works well for years to come.
Despite these issues, I will say Horizon: Forbidden West is still highly playable on the PlayStation 4. I didn’t talk much of the actual gameplay because I mostly want to talk about how it plays on the PlayStation 4. Besides, everything is still really good. Combat is still exhilarating. It’s tough so you can get overwhelmed if there are a ton of machines. The AI doesn’t seem smart as you can basically have Aloy snipe machines and other enemies from bushes, wait for them to stop getting suspicious and then rinse and repeat. The side quests and optional activities are fun but do feel repetitive as you’ll be attacking the same bandit camps, searching for viewpoints and gathering materials again and again.
I will say most of the skills in the skill trees feel rather weak. None of the skills you get really feel useful in the long run. In fact, I kind of forget to use up my skill points because a lot of them don’t come off as necessary. I will say the Valor system is a boon in combat as it does buff out one of Aloy’s abilities and, since you can only get them by picking specific skills on the skill tree, you do need to use up your skill points.
I also do have to talk about the story as I did not like the general flow of the story. The writers of Guerrilla Games just couldn’t get the pacing well enough to be engaging. I actually didn’t feel the need to follow on the main quest since, despite the supposed deadline before the end of the world, I never felt any pressure to actually complete the main questline promptly. There are also too many twists and turns this time around. Even by the end of the game, they just had to throw one more curveball to the story when the direction it was going was already okay. It seems like they just had to add that additional surprise to set up the future sequel when they were already telling a more interesting story.
Overall, Horizon: Forbidden West on the PlayStation 4 is a passable experience. There are a noticeable number of glitches and bugs that’ll pop up and it can get frustrating or take you out of the experience. Even with that, the refined gameplay did hold my interest long enough to complete the rather bland story. I say, if you have a PlayStation 5, definitely get it there. But, if you’re stuck with just a PlayStation 4, it’s good enough to buy but be warned of all the niggling problems you’ll encounter.
Have you tried playing Horizon: Forbidden West on the PlayStation 4? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments section below!