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ℹ️ - Horizon Forbidden West


With the Forbidden West now looming large on the Horizon (I know, sorry), you may be wondering how much difference there is between the PS4 and PS5 versions of the game. As a virtual photographer, are you missing out if you play on PS4, or is the last-gen hardware still able to deliver impressive results?


There is no doubt that Horizon Forbidden West is at its best and most beautiful on Sony's latest machine, with outright resolution ranging from dynamic 1080p on the base PS4 to native 4K in Resolution Mode on PS5. This is about more than just pixel count and fast loading times though, and Guerrilla cite things such as more detailed textures and cinema-quality character models, individual sprigs of moss on rocks, and a more advanced in-game lighting system to set the two apart.

To find out exactly what that looks like, here are a few shots taken on both the base PS4 and on PS5 in Resolution Mode to show both ends of the quality spectrum. Every effort has been made to capture both shots in the same location, conditions, time of day, and with the same photo mode settings.


Character Detail:

- ALOY PS4 // ALOY PS5 -

It is worth saying right from the start that Horizon Forbidden West deploys exceptionally high quality character models no matter which hardware it is running on. Right down to individual wrinkles, skin blemishes, and single hair placements, it is clear that the PS4 benefits from the same model and delivers admirably good results.

The PS5 is however, noticeably better thanks to those extra details like "peach fuzz" hair on Aloy's face and more definition around the eyes. Probably the most important difference though is in the lighting, where the PS5 adds a whole other level of realism.

With additional lighting rigs used on the characters and far superior handling of shadows, the PS5 enables highlights to pick out texture detail and achieves much greater contrast that leaves the PS4 looking "gamey" and flat in comparison.

PS4 benefits from the same model and delivers admirably good results...


As with the original game, the open world environments are undoubtedly another of Horizon's strong points. The varied landscapes hold many stunning locations to explore and will offer many moments where you simply stop and look to take it all in on either console.

- HFW PS4 // HFW PS5 -

While the differences may be less apparent during gameplay, a closer look at still images reveals the extent to which the PS4 simplifies things. This is most obviously seen in the level of detail found in vegetation where PS5 renders much finer grass and more natural foliage on trees, while water also looks like it is more physically part of the world with greater detail beneath the surface and higher quality screen-space reflections (SSR) on top.

The superior shadows and lighting again add a sense of realism to the next-gen version, and you can also expect to see more detail at distance. Partly this is because the PS5 renders higher levels of detail on distant objects, but also because the PS4 seems to have more mist and fog to mask the difference.


At first glance, Horizon's various mechanical beasts appear to be very closely matched on both PS4 and PS5, with less difference between the two and PS4 again offering a good amount of detail. Much like with human characters, both systems sharing the same detailed and intricate models with the same parts, materials and even patina present in each. The PS4 does not simplify the machines at all and the difference largely comes down to resolution, where the native 4K on PS5 obviously provides an image with much greater clarity and sharpness.


Look a little closer though and a key difference emerges, once again in relation to light and shadow. On PS4 there is no occlusion to create localised shadows within the parts of the machines, leaving light to spill into places it shouldn't. Notice the way that the upper trunk sections of this Tremortusk are illuminated from behind by the orange light from its eyes in a very unnatural way.

With no such problems on PS5, light is occluded here and the trunk immediately appears more solid and believably lit as a result. The same goes for the shadow cast behind the eye cluster on the right of the image, another detail that really helps to separate the machine parts and create depth to its structure.


As would always be expected, the PS5 delivers an appreciable jump in quality, resolution and realism over last-gen hardware, particularly in terms of lighting, but it is fair to say that even the base PS4 does a good job with Horizon Forbidden West. Despite working within its limits at a much lower pixel count, and also suffering a type of radial blur that sees sharpness drop away towards the corner of the frame, the PS4 still gives access to Guerrilla's outstanding character models. PS5 is undoubtedly the place to be to capture the Forbidden West at its dazzling best, but virtual photographers on either platform have a lot to look forward to.

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