Horizon Zero Dawn PC Performance Review and Optimisation Guide

Conclusion - This release could be a lot better

Horizon Zero Dawn PC Performance Review and Optimisation Guide

Conclusion - This release could be a lot better

Horizon Zero Dawn's PC version is sub-par for a AAA release, but it is not unforgivably bad. In an ideal scenario, Horizon Zero Dawn's PC release would have been delayed, giving Guerilla Games more time to polish the game and to squash more bugs. The fact that Horizon Zero Dawn has released with these issues has now left a stain on the game's PC version, which is a shame given how fun Horizon is to play. 

The quality of Kojima Production's PC version of Death Stranding has left us disappointed in how Horizon: Zero Dawn's PC version performs. With Guerilla Games being the creators of the Decima Engine and one of Sony's premier developers, to say that we expected better is an understatement. Regardless, Horizon Zero Dawn's issues are not dealbreakers, based on our experience. 
If you are concerned about Horizon Zero Dawn's bugs, you should know that Guerilla Games plans to address these issues with upcoming patches. AMD and Nvidia should also be working on new drivers for the game. For starters, Guerilla Games needs to address Horizon's Anisotropic Filtering issues, and it lowers Horizon's graphical fidelity for all players. Beyond that, any work to reduce or eliminate the game's stuttering would also be appreciated, especially for users of quad-core processors. 

Horizon Zero Dawn is a demanding game, and it demands the strongest PC hardware to run at 60+ FPS at high resolutions. PC gamers should know that Horizon Zero Dawn is designed to be played using the game's "Original" settings, which match the game's PlayStation 4 settings. Anything higher requires powerful graphics cards, and the game's highest "Ultimate Quality" settings demand extremely powerful systems to run at 60FPS, event at 1080p. 

On page 5 and 6 of this analysis, we have detailed our "Optimised Settings" for Horizon Zero Dawn. These settings are designed to deliver the best fidelity possible without incurring a huge performance penalty over Horiozon's Original preset. With these settings, PC gamers will achieve higher than PS4 draw distances while not looking significantly worse than the game's "Ultimate Quality" settings. In normal gameplay, you will not notice the performance difference, unless you spend your time exclusively looking at clouds and reflections. 

One of the most interesting aspects of this PC release is how performance differs between AMD's RDNA graphics cards and their GCN-based predecessors. There is almost no comparison. It is clear that RDNA is architected to better handle games like Horizon Zero Dawn, which makes sense given AMD's work with Sony. When building their RDNA architecture, AMD was acting under the influence of Sony and Microsoft's console divisions, so it makes sense for RDNA to excel here. AMD's RDNA graphics cards also appear to our perform their RTX counterparts, though nothing AMD has can compete with Nvidia's RTX 2080 Ti. 

CPU-wise, Horizon Zero Dawn is a demanding title. Horizon Zero Dawn runs best on a system with six or more cores. In our experience, playing the game with a quad-core processor (especially a quad-core without SMT/hyperthreading) will result in significantly more noticeable stutters. That said, your mileage may vary depending on your specific processor and its clock speeds. 

While the game is marred with a lot of issues at launch, none of them are dealbreakers. If your system is powerful enough, and you are willing to make the right settings adjustments, Horizon Zero Dawn can run well on a wide variety of PC hardware configurations. Remember that Horizon Zero Dawn's "Original" settings look great, and leave the game's "Ultimate Quality" preset for those with uber-tier gaming PCs. You should also look at our optimised settings to get a better balance between performance and graphical fidelity. 

If Guerilla Games can settle Horizon Zero Dawn's launch issues, what we have here is a perfectly serviceable PC version. As it stands, this version of Horizon Zero Dawn has a few issues to iron out, but it is far from the worst PC port out there. If you are willing to re-adjust your expectations, you can have a great time playing Horizon Zero Dawn on PC.  

Expectations for Horizon Zero Dawn's PC version were set too high by Kojima Production's Death Stranding. Add in the game's launch-day issues and we have a questionable PC launch. Hopefully, the issues that we have raised in this analysis will be addressed with future game patches. If they are, we will discuss will update this performance review. 

You can join the discussion on Horizon Zero Dawn's PC performance on the OC3D Forums

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