When we first heard that Sony was going to be dipping their toe into the world of PC gaming, we were thrilled. They publish a wide range of interesting and polished games on their PlayStation consoles, but previously there’s never been any option to play them on other platforms. The promise of Horizon Zero Dawn on PC suggested to us that PC gamers with a top-end PC would be able to play the definitive version of this well-regarded game, cranking up the visuals and enjoying high resolutions and high frames, beyond what was possible on PS4 consoles. There’s support for Ultrawide monitors, and high framerate monitors, but these are somewhat useless if the underlying game doesn’t work properly.
On paper, this should have been a fantastic game on PC, but in reality, it’s not quite played out like that. Sadly players of the PC version of Horizon Zero Dawn have been reporting widespread technical problems, none of which make the game entirely unplayable, but do have the potential to seriously hamper your enjoyment of this title.
Bugs include things like frequent crashes, animations not playing back correctly when above 30 fps, cutscenes stuttering, and other assorted visual glitches. This isn’t really acceptable at all, and this is being reflected in the Steam User reviews. At time of writing, it’s firmly in the “Mixed” category, with thousands of negative reviews having been posted by paying customers in just the three days since release. Digital Foundry took an in-depth look at some of the problems, and it really is a shame to see such an otherwise brilliant game marred by these kinds of problems.
This is not a strong first impression, where this was supposed to be Sony’s chance to impress players on PC, and set the tone for future releases of first-party PlayStation games on PC. Clearly this port needed more time in the oven, but for whatever reason, Sony saw fit to release it in this state. The release date was a self-imposed deadline, and I don’t think anyone would have been too disappointed if they delayed the release to ensure it would live up to people’s expectations.
It’s perhaps particularly frustrating because this comes off the back of the extremely well-received PC port of another former PlayStation exclusive last month, as Death Stranding came to PC in a fantastic conversion from the PS4 version. These games are both running on Sony’s Decima engine, so I think a lot of players had hoped Horizon Zero Dawn would fair just as well. Despite the similarities between the two scenarios, there are quite a few differences.
Death Stranding was always planned for PC release, with the PC version having been announced before the game even had a name, so throughout the development of the PlayStation version the team working on it will have also been planning out the PC version. Horizon Zero Dawn was originally only intended to release on PlayStation, with the decision to release on PC coming much later.
Another difference is that Death Stranding was ported to PC by Kojima Productions themselves, whereas signs indicate that the PC port of Horizon Zero Dawn was outsourced. In collaboration with publisher 505 Games, Kojima Productions worked on the PC release, and as a small studio with just one game under their belt so far, the importance of nailing the PC release would have been evident to them. 505 Games, too, are not the biggest games publisher around, and Death Stranding for PC is one of the most notable projects they’ve ever been involved in, so they would have known the pressure was on to get it right. Perhaps this was why they delayed the PC release of Death Stranding from the initial release date of June 2nd, to July 14th. For Sony, on the other hand, releasing Horizon Zero Dawn is kind of a small experiment, where the success or failure of this release will not have a huge bearing on the future of their business, the stakes are much lower, which could have contributed to the decision to cut a few corners. Development of the port was outsourced to Virtuos, a porting house who on the whole are fairly inconsistent, having done some solid ports and some questionable ones. Perhaps the effort to port this large scale game simply needed a larger budget and more time.
For what it’s worth, Sony has pledged to continue to work on the game, and their intent is to resolve the technical shortcomings, but there’s no concrete timeline in place, and a statement of intent is not a guarantee.
“We have been monitoring all of our channels and are aware that some players have been experiencing crashes and other technical issues. Please know that we are investigating your reports as our highest priority.
We appreciate those who have already taken the time to report their issues on Steam, Reddit, or via our website. If you are still encountering crashes or bugs, please continue to use those spaces, or refer to our FAQ if you are unsure of how to proceed. Your reports are, and have already been, incredibly helpful for our teams.
Thank you for your patience as we continue to investigate issues; we will update you all as soon as we have more news.”
In the meantime, the window for receiving automated refunds is closing, and unlike the example of the similarly troubled PC release of Batman: Arkham Knight, Sony has not mentioned anything about waiving the time limit on refunds for anyone who is still experiencing issues but has played for more than two hours. If you are still able to get a refund, my recommendation would be to do so, in the hope that the game gets fixed, so you can buy it again later. If the game doesn’t get adequately fixed, then you won’t be stuck with a lemon.
Going forward, sadly I think Sony has lost the benefit of the doubt that their games will be high-quality polished releases on PC, and any future Sony first-party games that make their way to PC will have to overcome the hurdle of doubts over how well the port has been handled. Perhaps for future releases, they could opt for an Early Access model, where customers are told upfront before parting way with their money that what they are buying is a work in progress, and to expect technical issues. Perhaps they could work with any of the PC porting houses that are known for releasing high-quality conversions (Nixxes or QLOC come to mind) or even set up their own internal team for this kind of task.
We’ve already heard hints that Dreams might be getting a PC version eventually, and there are so many other great games from Sony’s first-party lineup that would be wonderful to get to play on PC too, especially the likes of God of War, Uncharted, The Last Of Us and Ghost of Tsushima. We just hope that if Sony continues to put out games on PC, they can take the time to get the technical aspects right. If you are going to give this PC release a shot, you’ll definitely want to make sure you check your rig against the game’s system requirements, since being under the required spec is only going to exacerbate these problems.