Horizon Forbidden West now offers variable refresh rate (VRR) and high refresh rate support as well as a new 40Hz “Balanced” graphics mode on PS5, developer Guerrilla Games announced Wednesday. They’re available as part of patch 1.17, which you can download right now.
Variable refresh rates can dynamically adjust the refresh rate of your display while you’re playing a game. In practice, it means that games will generally feel smoother to play, though you’ll need a display that supports the feature.
After messing around with the update for a few minutes while writing this article, I can say that Horizon Forbidden West does feel smoother on the “Favor Performance” graphics mode. (I have my PS5 hooked up to a TCL 6-Series Google TV, which supports 120Hz gaming and VRR.) That mode, which has been in the game since launch, trades higher framerate for lower graphical fidelity, and if you prefer to play games at higher refresh rates, it feels even better now than it did before. Higher refresh rates let games display more than 60 frames per second, which also contributes to smoother feeling games. While it’s unclear exactly how it works in practice in Horizon Forbidden West, Guerrilla’s patch notes say that “VRR & HFR targets a refresh rate between 60Hz and 120Hz,” which seems like it will apply in the Favor Performance mode.
The more interesting addition to me is the new 40Hz Balanced graphics mode, which lets you play the game at 40fps with improved graphics over the Favor Performance mode. Horizon Forbidden West has offered a “Favor Resolution” option that offers better visuals but a locked 30fps framerate, and to me, that just felt slow. Like what we’ve seen with Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and the Steam Deck’s 40Hz / 40fps modes, though, Horizon Forbidden West’s Balanced mode feels quite a bit smoother than 30fps despite being just 10fps faster. Digital Foundry has a good explanation for why 40fps is such an improvement:
The reason why comes down to frame persistence: a 60fps game updates every 16.7ms, a 30fps game increases that persistence drastically to 33.3m. Do the maths and you’ll find that 40 screen refreshes per second resolves to 25ms persistence per frame - it’s at the exact midway point between 30fps and 60fps. And because the game is updating more quickly, input lag improves considerably too.
However, Guerrilla notes that Balanced mode only works with “supported” displays, which could mean you need a 120Hz display to be able to use it, similar to what’s required for Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart.
You can read the full notes for the update, patch 1.17, right here — there are a handful of bug fixes as well. Guerrilla has continued to update Horizon Forbidden West since its release in February, including adding a new game plus mode.