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- Horizon Zero Dawn
One of Sony’s biggest and most divisive games, The Last of Us 2, finally (and suddenly) got its highly anticipated PS5 update. While the game already ran at 4K on PS4 Pro, the PS5 update doubles the frame rate while also keeping that same high resolution and visual fidelity. This is just the latest popular Sony game to get such an update, which further points the finger at other studios that haven’t unleashed similar patches. Guerrilla Games is one of those studios as there has still been no word of a Horizon Zero Dawn PS5 upgrade.
Free for all
Few games are more positioned for a PS5 upgrade than Horizon Zero Dawn given how many own the game. Sony gave the 2017 RPG away in its latest Play at Home initiative, allowing anyone during the promotional period, PlayStation Plus subscriber or not, to add the complete version to their library for no extra charge. This means that just about every PS5 owner should have the game and be able to play the best version of it. Sony also handed out the 2016 Ratchet and Clank reboot the month prior just before it released a PS5 update for that game, showing that there is a precedent for updating a previously released free game.
It was a smart play since Ratchet and Clank’s follow-up is almost out, something it also has in common with Horizon. While there is no concrete release date, Horizon Forbidden West is still slated for this year, meaning some will probably want to replay Zero Dawn for a quick refresh. The series places a lot of emphasis on its narrative so catching up Aloy’s exploits would be handy for the sequel that will undoubtedly have more than a few callbacks. Some probably even skipped out on Frozen Wilds, which is a fantastic expansion and a frame rate boost would be a good incentive for people to check it out.
Horizon Zero Dawn is also still a remarkable game that is worth replaying because of its gameplay. Its Far Cry-esque inspirations don’t make it feel like a generic sandbox checklist as its unique (and highly implausible) biomes house some of the best combat in an open-world game. Modularly picking apart robotic animals and dinosaurs is a visual treat that also tests the player’s strategic thinking and marksmanship. It’s a combination that most others in the genre don’t come close to matching, despite how many of them flood the market.
The odd one out
Some of the upgrade work has already been done, too, but on other platforms. Horizon Zero Dawn came to PC in August 2020 and while it was riddled with issues, players could run the game at a higher frame rates and resolutions over the PS4 version. The process of porting over some of those improvements over to PS5 isn’t as simple as flipping a switch, but it shows that the game is not alien to higher specs.
It’s not even the first Guerrilla game to run better on the PS5. Despite launching alongside the PS4 way back in 2013, Killzone Shadowfall runs at an unlocked frame rate and is therefore able to run at a full 60 frames per second on the PS5. It didn’t even require a new update. While it is still locked at 1080p, the unintentional PS5 boost is worth pointing out.
PlayStation’s peculiar PS5 patch plan
Guerrilla has not spoken about or hinted at the possibility of a Horizon Zero Dawn PS5 upgrade of any kind. This does not mean the game will not get such a patch — Sony Santa Monica only gave a one-day notice and Naughty Dog didn’t give one at all — but it makes it feel like it is less likely to happen. Horizon Zero Dawn would also be one of the oldest games to get a PS5 update so time might play some sort of factor here. Many of the games that got post-launch improvements were only from the last couple of years, especially on the first-party side.
Unless there is actually nothing planned, Sony could be considering putting out a more full-throated remaster of the game. Spider-Man Remastered was not just a simple frame rate boost to a backwards compatible game. The native port got ray tracing, dramatically faster load times, a performance mode that ran at 60 frames per second, a hybrid performance mode with ray tracing, three additional costumes, and a new face for Peter Parker. The trio of suits eventually made their way to the PS4 original, but the other more beefy improvements were features couldn’t be added to the PS4 version in a downloadable update. They needed to be on PS5.
This remaster was packaged with Miles Morales (it’s still not on the PlayStation Store as a standalone purchase) so it is possible that Sony could be waiting to do something similar with Horizon Zero Dawn. A patch that juices the frame rate would be welcome, but perhaps Guerrilla has something bigger in store or wants to make its move closer to Forbidden West’s launch for the sake of a Spider-Man-like bundle.
There are many other games that are worth a PS5 upgrade. The last two Uncharted games, Bloodborne, The Last Guardian, Death Stranding, and Shadow of the Colossus are just a few of the first-party titles that should join the likes of God of War, Spider-Man, Blood and Truth, Nioh 2, Days Gone, and Ghost of Tsushima that all saw PS5-specific enhancements of some kind. Horizon Zero Dawn is as deserving, if not more, than some of those titles and should be the next game on the horizon to get such an update.