Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition PC Review

August 5, 2020

The original 2017 release of Horizon Zero Dawn felt like a little bit of a watershed moment for games. Coming after years of other publishers like Ubisoft speaking about the lack of sales potential or mythical ‘difficulties’ animating women as protagonists in their games, Guerilla Games proved the selling and critical potential of a fantastic video game with a strong female protagonist. Now, more people than ever have the opportunity to jump into Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition with the game’s release on PC. It’s a release that maintains its original fantastic experience, while introducing an additional level of visual flair that helps elevate it.

Just like it’s original release, Horizon Zero Dawn on PC follows the story of Aloy, a young woman and outcast trying to find her way in the world and prove her worth. Throughout her journey to discover herself and as she grows in self-confidence, Aloy becomes a considerable force and a fantastic example of a powerful woman in a video game. She isn’t subservient, she questions those around her and their motivations, she looks for ways to improve herself and uplift others, and simply does everything she can to become the best person she can possibly be. She quickly grew on me during my original playthrough of the game, and my sentiment hasn’t changed at all during my time with Horizon Zero Dawn on PC. That treatment continues with the game’s other main characters, who all have fully realised character arcs filled with their own backstories and personal growth. The game truly is a masterclass on effective and engaging character growth.

This masterclass continues into the game’s world building as well. Set thousands of years after an apocalyptic event has hit the world, civilisation has shifted back to nomadic and tribal societies. Relatively contained, each tribe and race have their own religions, traditions and societal systems. They react differently to your presence, adding more context and life to the world, and there are clear visual distinctions to differentiate them. They all feel unique, as do the varied biomes that come with their regions. Each region has their own distinct feel, with different environmental focuses and machines to encounter. What really helps here is the integration and inclusion of the Frozen Wilds expansion that came after the original PlayStation 4 release. It brings another area to the game, along with more fantastic story content and machines, adding even more variety to the world.

Beyond just wandering around and talking to people, a lot of your time in Horizon Zero Dawn will be spent in combat, and this is a space where the game can be both great and frustrating. Combat with machines is a dynamic and strategic struggle that feels engaging and interesting. Hiding and slowly sneaking up on a Sawtooth and laying traps before engaging it, slowly pulling it back through your carefully planned strategy is incredibly fun and rewarding. Using your bow to shoot the launcher off a Thunderjaw and laying into it with its own weapon is just as fan as well. On the other hand, combat against human opponents is relatively simplistic and formulaic. Human opponents aren’t particularly bright, so it’s pretty easy to just hang back and pick them off one by one, as those around them throw up their hands, exclaim in surprise and quickly go back to their business. Given you spend a good amount of time fighting human opponents, it can definitely drag the experience down at points. It also isn’t helped by controls that can sometimes get a bit wonky during combat or traversal, such as Aloy flinging her body 10 metres to hit an enemy she’s in no way close to (probably a bug) or getting stuck on geometry that she definitely should be able to clear.

Originally a showpiece game for the PlayStation 4 Pro’s visual capabilities, Horizon Zero Dawn was already a fantastic looking game, but its visuals have been taken to another level on PC. Foliage dynamism has been ratcheted up, with it reacting more to your movements and the weather around you. Weather and atmospheric effects have been improved, with the port’s dense fog and snow being the best examples of this. Lighting has been vastly improved, with beams of light bursting through trees and into caves in a way that greatly improves how the game looks. Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition on PC is the definitive visual experience for the game.

As with any PC port or game, technical performance can sometimes be a trade off with visual prowess. As with any open platform with as many variables as the PC market, there’s some fiddling that’s needed to get a game to perform at the peak of what your system can handle. This is something that Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition struggled with in my time with it. While a Day One patch is coming that may fix some of the following issues, at the time of writing these were problems I faced while playing. My PC is far from incapable, equipped with an overclocked 1600X and an MSI 5700 XT, and yet I simply couldn’t get the game to run well reliably. No matter the settings I chose, be that Low or Ultra, the game would run well for a time, before dropping 20-30fps when the lighting or weather effects kicked in. There’s no way to adjust these in the game’s settings and despite averaging around 60fps at High settings, the sudden and frequent drops to 40fps or lower in highly lit areas were frustrating. Setting a framerate cap at 30fps didn’t help either, as this seemed to introduce frame pacing issues. It’s not what I’d hoped for from the PC port, so hopefully the Day One patch does indeed correct these problems.

Overall, Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition is a fantastic re-release and visual elevation of the original 2017 game. With that, however, comes some of the same issues that the original game had, such as relatively simply human combat and controls that can sometimes get a bit wonky. The story and characters are still fantastic and well-realised, while the visual upgrades make the game look amazing. If you’re after a new RPG, Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition is easy to recommend.

Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition on Windows PC in 1440p using a Ryzen 1600x, 16GB of 3000MHZ DDR4 RAM, and an MSI Evoke OC 5700XT graphics card, with a copy provided by the publisher.


- Visual improvements are fantastic
- Aloy is still an amazing protagonist
- World building and writing is great


- Human to human combat isn't great
- Controls can get a bit wonky

Overall Score: