How does Horizon Zero Dawn for PC play on a decked out PC?

A New Horizon

It was 3 years ago when I first laid my eyes on Horizon Zero Dawn. 3 years later, after playing through a huge portion of the game, I have to admit that I haven’t gotten the chance to finish it. It is neither I am stuck in a difficult mission nor I’m fed up with the immense open world scenario that I’m put into. I got so focused on playing with its photo mode because the game is just too beautiful to look at. Yes, you can imagine me mashing the PS4 share button, and transfer some of my photos to my external drive so I can view it on my PC.

Horizon Zero Dawn is one of those games that will definitely age beautifully. It pushed the boundaries of how capable the PlayStation 4 Pro is, and it became a benchmark of open-world games; all thanks to Guerilla Games’ Decima Engine.

The said engine, which was later used by Kojima Productions for Death Stranding, showcases technological innovation in-game physics, rendering, and artificial intelligence. Digital Foundry published an in-depth tech analysis of Horizon Zero Dawn, which gives an extensive explanation of how it works. The TL;DR of the matter is that everything about it has something to do with rendering the high definition elements of the game at the right time and at the right place, provided that the system supports it.

For many years, Guerilla Games optimized the engine for the PlayStation 4. Titles like Killzone Shadow Fall, Until Dawn, and Death Stranding are some of the games that run on Decima. These games look gorgeous up to 4K resolution with HDR imaging compatibility.

Launch, Hype and Port?

The debut of Decima engine on the PC thru Death Stranding came to everyone’s surprise because it is not PlayStation’s usual practice to fully port a PS4-title to the PC. Eventually, the announcement of Horizon Zero Dawn to the PC gave the impression that this is going to be the new norm for PlayStation – launch, hype and port.

However, in a statement by Helmen Hulst, Head of PlayStation’s Worldwide Studios, he clarified that this is not the case, moving forward. “And to maybe put a few minds at ease, releasing one first-party AAA title to PC doesn’t necessarily mean that every game now will come to PC. In my mind, Horizon Zero Dawn was just a great fit in this particular instance. We don’t have plans for day and date [PC releases], and we remain 100% committed to dedicated hardware,” Hulst said.

Regardless of this being the new norm or not, I take this as a “love letter” of PlayStation to all gamers. The availability of titles like Death Stranding and Horizon Zero Dawn broke the wall that separates consoles and PC gamers.

Can it push the limit of a decked-out PC?

Horizon Zero Dawn’s recommended system requirements on PC is relatively high. Technically, if you’ve been “nursing” a decked-out system that you built about 3 years ago, it will definitely still be able to play this game in its original quality.

OS: Windows 10
CPU: Intel Core i5-2500k or AMD FX 6300
GPU: Geforce GTX 780 3GB or AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
DirectX: Version 12
HDD: 100GB free space

OS: Windows 10
CPU: Intel Core i7-4770k or Ryzen 5 1500X
GPU: Geforce GTX 1060 6GB or AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB
Direct X: Version 12
HDD: 100GB free space

I played this game on my PC with the following specifications:

CPU: Ryzen 3900X
GPU: Geforce RTX 2080 Super
SSD: 512GB Seagate BarraCuda 510
Cooler: ASUS ROG Ryujin 240
Motherboard: TUF Gaming X570-Wifi
Monitor (HDR) : TUF Gaming VG27AQL1A

The game’s graphics setting presets is pretty wide that range from “Favors Quality” to “Ultimate”. It’s interesting for Guerilla Games to provide options that break away from the usual “Low”, “Medium” and “High” performance tiers.

It’s refreshing to see this game to also have options for FOV, FPS Limit, Render Scale and V-Sync. I immediately scaled up my FOV and render scale to 100 because I was confident that my PC can handle it. I am using a monitor that can go beyond 170Hz so I naturally turned off adaptive performance FPS and switched the FPS limit to Unlimited for the rest of my benchmark. (The game can support up to 120FPS.)

Before I show you the benchmark data that I compiled, here’s a quick rundown of the methodology that I used. I will first present artificial benchmark data, based on the in-game benchmarking tool.

  1. Average FPS
  2. Min FPS
  3. Max FPS
  4. Score

I will then present more comprehensive data using CapFrameX with summary values of the following:

  1. FPS
  2. FPS Comparison chart per preset
  3. Frametime

After presenting these data, I will give you my summary and verdict on how this game played on my PC. This should be able to help you estimate how it might perform on your own system. If you wish to have a more thorough explanation of the details, we’ll have another run of benchmarks and publish it on our sister-website, Gadget Pilipinas.

In-Game Benchmark

Game Performance – CapFrameX

The data is based on a 60-second walk along the crowded pathways on the way to Matriarch’s Lodge. Data is captured using CapFrameX in various graphics presets at 100% render scale. The default render scale at boot is 70%, but I wanted to achieve better visual fidelity and quality so I cranked it up to maximum. All apps are ignored except for HZD during the benchmark.

FPS Performance Comparison per Graphics Preset  – 1440p and 1080p

FPS with Stuttering Data per Graphics Preset  – 1440p

FPS with Stuttering Data per Graphics Preset  – 1080p

Frametime – 1440p

Frametime – 1080p


At Ultimate Quality (1440p), the game is definitely playable with an average of 44.3 frames per second. Gameplay was smooth at 99.67% of the time. At 1080p with the same graphics preset, the game’s average FPS is 54.9%, which is almost double the locked FPS on the PlayStation 4. The story is going to be different if I play this game in 4K at Ultimate Quality.

Frametime stutters are minimal on my system and this shows how the game (and its engine) is highly optimized for the PC.

The game is GPU intensive. At ultimate setting (1440p), GPU load reached 99% while CPU load only capped at 63%. This is attributed to the Render Scale that is set at 100% during benchmark. If you’re planning to stream this game on a single PC, you may want to switch to x264 as your processor might still have breathing space for encoding your game for streaming purposes. You can also experiment in bringing down the render scale to 50-70%.

Should you buy it?!


Horizon Zero Dawn for PC is a breath of fresh air for those who played this game on PS4. With new graphics options available on this version, it offers new gameplay experience to anyone who played this game via console.

If you have a PC with a set of hardware that falls within the recommended specs, now is your time to experience this game that helped define the power of PS4. I highly recommend that you buy and keep this game regardless if you got the chance to play this on the console or not.

Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition is now available via Steam or Epic Games for PhP995.95 and $22.99 respectively.

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