Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the main PS4 games for 2017, there’s no wonder that Sony is really pulling out all the stops for PS4 Pro support.
Whether that’s 4K or HDR support, Horizon Zero Dawn is really shaping up to be the flagship title for the PS4 Pro.
But if you’ve already got a PS4, should you buy a PS4 Pro for Horizon Zero Dawn? Does the additional extra hardware grunt actually make a difference? Or is it just a way for Sony to get some extra dosh out of you?
Before you spend any cash, we’re here to weigh up the good and bad when weighing up whether to buy a PS4 Pro for Horizon Zero Dawn.
What is a PS4 Pro?
In case you’re wondering what the chatter is all about, the PS4 Pro is Sony’s latest PS4 version. It’s focused on offering 4K and HDR support for gamers wanting the latest visual technologies.
To achieve those visual standards, Sony has upgraded some of the internal hardware of the PS4 Pro to give it a lot more processing grunt than the standard PS4.
The original PS4 comes with a 1.6GHz eight-core processor, 8GB of GDDR5 RAM at 176GB/s, 500GB hard drive and 1.84 teraflop AMD Radeon GPU at 800MHz.
The PS4 Pro, on the other hand, comes with a custom 2.1GHz eight-core AMD Jaguar processor with 8GB GDDR5 at 218GB/s, 1TB hard drive and 4.20 teraflop AMD Radeon GPU.
This means that the PS4 Pro has roughly double the GPU power of the original PS4, a faster processor and speedier RAM, which equals more power to run your games at better framerates for a smoother, better-looking experience.
Overall you’re looking at a PS4 that’s faster, more powerful and capable of supporting 4K and HDR outputs for games and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon.
Why should you buy a PS4 Pro to play Horizon Zero Dawn?
Horizon Zero Dawn is a particularly great title to show off the power available with the PS4 Pro because it’s a massive open world game. It’s all about the scale of the world and the visual splendour you’ll experience as you explore it.
Although the game is a post-post-apocalyptic game set 1000 years after some apocalyptic, world-changing event, this is an environment where nature has taken back the Earth for itself.
Think of huge environments with different ecotopes that range from lush, dense forests to sprawling deserts with sandstorms.
The additional power from the PS4 Pro’s new hardware allows developer Guerilla Games to add extra detail to these natural environments, play with an enhanced colour spectrum thanks to the HDR capabilities and make the robot creatures more detailed.
And of course, you’re going to get a better resolution for your gameplay on PS4 Pro for Horizon Zero Dawn. The game is rendered using a special technology called checkerboarding, which means it isn’t actually running at native 4K resolution across the whole frame.
It’s actually a rather amazing technological technique that allows the developers to push the PS4 Pro’s hardware way beyond what it should do on spec. It’s pretty much as close as you can get to native 4K without the expensive hardware to do so.
Basically, only part of the image is rendered at 4K in each frame, but when you’re viewing the game from a small distance, you won’t notice that only half the image in a small 4×4 section is in 4K.
High Dynamic Range or HDR
Then there’s the HDR support. This tech is all about being able to display a wider colour spectrum in games to mimic the real-world more accurately.
HDR is actually quite a hard thing to explain in words, it’s something you really have to experience for yourself.
“You can’t print it, it’s not in cinemas, your phone’s screen can’t do it. The only thing that you can compare HDR with is reality,” explained Horizon Zero Dawn developer Guerilla Games. “We normally have to do a lot of work in the engine to take an internal high dynamic range image and then make it suitable to be displayed on a normal TV. A lot of colour fidelity gets lost in the process.
“If you own an HDR-enabled TV, we don’t have to lose that data and you’re looking at the image in its full glory, with brighter and deeper colours, more contrast and vibrancy, in its pristine state. The benefits are truly awesome.”
Are the differences really that noticeable?
We’ve played the game on a 4K HDR display and a standard HD TV and can tell you that there is a noticeable different between the two.
Being able to switch between HDR and non-HDR is the main difference on a 4K TV. Colours really pop when you’ve got HDR turned on and the difference in skin tones and shadows between the two settings is rather impressive.
The difference between 4K and 1080p HD to the naked eye isn’t as stark, though. But it’s a crisper image, with better detail on the trees and grass in the environments you can see in the majority of the Horizon Zero Dawn trailers.
We’ll have to wait until we’ve reviewed Horizon Zero Dawn and tested the game on both a standard PS4 and new PS4 Pro, but will deliver back our results.
Do you need a 4K TV for Horizon Zero Dawn on PS4 Pro?
Really you need a shiny new 4K and HDR TV in order to take the most advantage of the PS4 Pro and getting the best Horizon Zero Dawn experience you can get. However, even if you’re rocking an HDTV, you’ll still see some improvements when using a PS4 Pro for Horizon Zero Dawn.
To get super techy, the developer has used supersampling to render or make the game at a much higher resolution – close to 4K in fact. This allows them to squash a lot of extra detail into the game’s graphics before it is reduced to a 1080p HD visual.
That means smoother visuals, no jagged edges and a much more stable picture compared to the standard PS4.
If you want to go into even further detail, there are also better shadow effects and more detailed environmental textures. It all helps to make sure you feel totally immersed in Horizon Zero Dawn’s world.
But, if you are lucky enough to have a 4K HDR TV too, you’re going to get the best possible Horizon Zero Dawn you can get.