Those who played Horizon Forbidden West on a PS5 console will have noticed that the visually stunning game was clearly designed with the intention of showing off what Sony’s next-gen console can really do. But not everyone has been so lucky.
Despite being released more than 15 months ago, the PS5 still feels like a rare commodity. One of the few saving graces has been the fact that most PlayStation exclusives had side-by-side releases for both the PS5 and the PS4.
While there were some obvious exceptions, namely Returnal, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, and Demon’s Souls, the lack of genuine PS5 exclusives has allowed those of us who haven’t yet been able to buy a PS5 to still enjoy next-gen gaming.
You can still make do with a PS4
Similar to Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Horizon Forbidden West proves once again that the PS4 does a decent job handling next-gen titles. And it seems that gamers still have confidence in the older console too. According to GamesIndustry.biz, a third of Horizon Forbidden West sales were for the PS4 version of the game.
Before Forbidden West was released, a significant chunk of Guerilla Games’ marketing was used to reassure the public that the sequel would still be visually impressive to users using older hardware. Judging by the number of PS4 sales, this certainly seemed to do the trick in easing concerns of whether the older console would be able to run the visual aspects of the game without issues, and helped assuage fears of another Cyberpunk 2077-like disaster.
Naturally, I remained skeptical until I had a chance to play the game on both my original PS4 and the slightly newer PS4 Slim, given the PS4's significantly more dated graphical capabilities. And yet, having played through Horizon Forbidden West, I didn't find myself longing for the PS5 version.
Obviously, experiencing the game on PS5 would have been an entirely different beast (and one I hope I can get to sometime soon). But personally, even despite having to stare at a loading screen for slightly longer than normal and only being able to run the game at 30fps, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the older hardware handled Forbidden West. It's not like the PS5 version doesn't have its issues, either.
But the PS4 is on borrowed time
While you can thoroughly enjoy Horizon Forbidden West on a PS4, as well as upcoming titles like Gran Turismo 7, we shouldn’t expect this to be the case with all future AAA titles. While many developers will likely continue supporting the PS4 for the time being, we’re already starting to see that some of Sony's biggest releases won’t be making their way onto the aging console.
Insomniac Games recently confirmed that the highly-anticipated Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Marvel’s Wolverine will be exclusive to the PS5. Both games aren’t due to release until sometime in 2023, so hopefully, that will at least give Sony more time to ensure people can actually buy a PS5 when those games are eventually released.
After all, the PS5 is a dramatic improvement over the PS4 in several key ways. Compared to the PS4 Pro, the PS5 offers a substantial upgrade in terms of load times, visual fidelity, audio quality and you also get to enjoy the DualSense controller's unique features, which continue to be supported by developers. There's also excitement surrounding PSVR 2, which could launch towards the end of this year.
Even the PS5’s ability to read Ultra HD Blu-ray means that the physical copy of Horizon Forbidden West for PlayStation 5 requires only one disc compared to the two discs needed for the PS4 version.
The chip shortage has helped the PS4 stay relevant
As much as I love my trusty PS4, though, I can confidently say that it would be collecting dust at the bottom of a cupboard had I been able to get my hands on a PS5.
Some time after a new generation of consoles comes out, there comes a time when continuing to persist with previous-gen hardware becomes almost impossible. This moment can arrive in two ways: either the upgraded hardware becomes too tempting for consumers to ignore or because game developers eventually stop releasing games for the aging console.
Unfortunately, due to the global chip shortage, the PS5 has still yet to reach this point. Even now, in 2022, it appears that Sony is reportedly looking to produce up to a million new PS4 units in order to make up for its lack of PS5 consoles. Guerrilla Games seems to be in the same boat, offering gamers who bought Horizon Forbidden West for PS4 the chance to upgrade their copy to the PS5 version for free, something that it might have done if Sony were able to shift more units of its new console.
Still, considering how difficult it is to buy a PS4, it’s hard to gauge how much this would help newcomers buy a console and, in turn, help Sony maintain its market share. It’s gotten so bad that opting for a Horizon Zero Dawn board game instead doesn’t even seem like such a crazy idea.
It’s fairly obvious that if it wasn’t for the pandemic, Sony’s latest console would have spread like wildfire. All things considered, the PS5 still managed to sell more than 10 million units in just over a year – more impressively, it reached that milestone faster than the PS4. But at the end of the day, milestones like that aren’t much comfort to those of us who are still waiting for the opportunity to get our hands on the new console.
The PS4 will do for now, then, but Sony will be making sure it changes that rhetoric sooner rather than later.
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Ilyas is a freelance writer and technology communications specialist based in London, United Kingdom. On the rare occasion that he’s not working, you can find him either binge-watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe or doom-scrolling on Twitter. You can reach him anytime at email@example.com.