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PS4 Pro Performance Analysis: Horizon Zero Dawn

Digital Foundry looks at work-in-progress frame-rates - plus the innovative 4K upscaler.

It's early days on this one, but with PlayStation 4K Pro media on the thin side right now, we want to make the most of what we have. Horizon Zero Dawn is easily one of the most impressive titles we saw at the PlayStation Meeting, and it's a fascinating example of the how well the upscaling algorithms work in creating a substantial upgrade for 4K display owners compared to the native 1080p resolution edition found on the base level PlayStation 4.

Some time after the PlayStation Meeting ended, Sony's press site updated with a 4K, 60fps version of the initial asset. While Horizon is a 30fps title, the additional temporal resolution makes frame-rate analysis with accurate frame-time graphing possible, giving us our first work-in-progress look at how Guerrilla's beautiful title is shaping up on the new PlayStation 4 hardware.

It's a 30fps game with some occasional frame-rate dips, to be expected on a title with some months remaining in development. Horizon is also interesting in that it's one of the best examples of Sony's hardware-based 2160p checkerboard upscaling. Unfortunately, the supplied media is nowhere near good enough to get a good handle on how well this works, but alongside the video asset, Sony has released some 3840x2160 screenshots that you can see here.

Cover image for YouTube videoHorizon Zero Dawn: PS4 Pro (Early Build) Frame-Rate Analysis
An initial look at Horizon Zero Dawn performance, derived from a 4K, 60fps video asset provided by Sony. Note that there's still several months before this title goes gold and we should expect improved performance in the final build - consider this a snapshot of the game as it stands now.

For those curious to see how Sony's approach to 4K actually looks, it's a good start, and the shots do appear to be actual framebuffer dumps as opposed to offline-rendered bullshots - there's minor artefacting around alpha elements for example, such as the main character's hair. For those with 4K TVs or monitors, we highly recommend checking them out full-screen on your displays to get an idea of how the game actually looks on proper target hardware. HDR is lacking, but the richness of detail is definitely all there.

We can also confirm that PlayStation 4 Pro upgrades for those running on 1080p displays is limited to super-sampling (the 4K image downscaled to full HD, resulting in excellent anti-aliasing), though Guerrilla's managing director Hermen Hulst mentioned that more consistent performance is also a possibility.

Of all the titles we saw at the PlayStation Meeting, Horizon wasn't just one of the most impressive - it was also the game we spent the most time with. We only have time right now to present the most basic of observations - we'll be back soon with a more robust, detailed report.