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Horizon Forbidden West PC

Ever since I bought a Valve Steam Deck last year (an original LED model, not the newer OLED one), I have tried to do much of my PC gaming these days on it.

An interesting game I like to play with my Steam library is “Will my Steam Deck play that?”

So when my editor asked if I was keen to review Guerilla’s PlayStation 5 game Horizon Forbidden West, which has been ported to the PC, I immediately asked … “Will my Steam Deck play that? – and it can but with a few caveats.

While I played both Horizon games on PlayStation, I can’t say I was a real fan of the series, especially the narrative, and, if I’m being honest, I find main character Aloy’s incessant chatter and hand-holding as you explore the game world extremely annoying after a while, but I was suitably impressed with the graphical wizardry on display. There’s no doubt that they’re some of the best looking PlayStation games out there.

This isn’t a review, technically speaking

This isn’t a review of the game – you can read that here – and I want to point out that while my usual gaming PC which sports an ageing but still surprisingly good AMD Radeon 580 GPU can play the game OK (the frame rates do swing quite wildly, to be fair at medium settings) I wanted to see whether it would play well on the Steam Deck and whether it offered a more stable experience.

Thanks to the Steam Deck’s 7-inch 1280 x 800p 60hz IPS screen, the game looks pretty damn good to my eyes but you do need to make some compromises to ensure solid performance.

Tinkering around with the graphics settings, I set the graphics preset to low then pushed the texture resolution to medium. I set FSR 2.2 to balanced, Screen Space Reflections to low, motion blur off and sharpening set to 2. I also set the Steam Deck’s inbuilt frame rate limiter via the performance tab to 30 FPS just to ensure a pretty steady frame rate.

Frame rates seem to stay fairly constant around the 30FPS but definitely dipped into the low to mid 20s at times, depending on how much action was happening on screen. The Steam Deck’s CPU was sitting between 36% to 70% utilisation most of the time while the GPU was sitting around 95% to 99% much of the time.

To my untrained eye, it was playable at those settings, despite the frame rate drops, and the smaller screen real estate means the lower resolution and graphical quality doesn’t look as bad as if you were playing on a much larger screen.

The game is, however, an extreme battery hog, draining 20% of my Steam Deck’s battery within 30minutes of play time – and during one play session, my Steam Deck’s battery started with 82% charge and after around 40 mins play, it was sitting at around 43%. this isn’t a game for a long flight or journey as you’ll need to keep a power outlet handy if you want to get much more than an hour or so worth of game time.

Any stable port in a storm

It also runs the Steam Deck hot: Clearly the internal fans are working overtime to keep the temperatures down. According to the Steam Deck’s inbuilt analytics, both CPU and GPU were hovering around the 75deg celsius mark – so no wonder it felt hot when I rested it on my legs.

Horizon Forbidden West seems to be a stable port, too – they generally are from Nixxes, though, which is a master at porting PlayStation games to PC – and I didn’t experience any crashes while playing the game, although I did have a weird sound bug about 4.5 hours in where the sound just stopped both in-game and during cutscenes, forcing me to restart the game to rectify it. I also experienced an error message after quitting out of the game.

So, is playing Horizon Forbidden West on the Steam Deck the best way to play the PC version? Definitely not. Those of the PC Master Race will cringe at the lower resolution and low graphical settings needed to get it running at decent frame rates and run it does but it’s not going to impress PC gamers who want high frame rates and ray tracing.

For someone like me, though, who likes to be able play my PC games while my significant other binges on her reality TV shows in the evening, it’s a win-win.