Elden Ring is finally out, the latest masterpiece from famed Dark Souls developer FromSoftware. We're enjoying the super-hard game, but it's very much known for its gameplay rather than its sonic and visual presentation.
So what if, like us, you want something that also shows-off your system? We have the answer, in another new game that slipped slightly under the radar but that is built from the ground up to be a feast for the eyes and ears: Horizon Forbidden West.
If you're looking for a new game to play that will also test out your 4K HDR TV, speaker system or headphones, or simply justify the cost of the PS5 with a huge graphical upgrade over the PlayStation 4 version, Horizon Forbidden West is an excellent choice.
The Decima engine delivers
Elden Ring has a ton of graphical upgrades over FromSoftware's last game, Sekiro, and as a result, materials look better than ever and the game's world is much larger and more richly detailed than previous offerings. But still, FromSoftware games tend to look like nice last-generation games, and Elden Ring isn't an exception.
Generally, environments in Elden Ring aren't as detailed as those in games like Cyberpunk 2077 or other AAA releases, and high-end graphical features like ray-tracing are simply absent in Elden Ring. This doesn't make Elden Ring a bad game, in fact it's one of the highest-rated games of all time on Metacritic, but it does mean that you aren't likely to be wowed by its graphics all that often.
Horizon Forbidden West is a different story. Guerilla's Decima engine made waves when it debuted with Horizon Zero Dawn, quickly becoming one of the best-looking games on PS4 and a technical marvel at that, and the engine has been massively upgraded for Horizon Forbidden West.
The Decima engine's few weak spots, like facial animation, have been tightened up, and the game looks stunning on PS5 as a result. Draw distances span far into the distance with nearly no pop in; shadows are crisp and high-resolution; and rich ambient occlusion gives the world depth and texture.
And then there are the effects. Particles explode, metal parts get ripped off machines, and there's constantly some kind of bloom or weather effect onscreen. The game is endlessly bright and colorful, even in darker areas, and even when you wouldn't expect there to be much to look at.
A moody underground cave isn't just dimly lit. No, there are bright patches of sunlight littered everywhere, streaming down into the cave from above, routinely creating the perfect environment for an HDR display to truly shine. Lighting is a major feature of the Decima engine, and that's always on display when playing Forbidden West.
With all its highly-detailed environments and high-resolution textures, Horizon Forbidden West is a great game to play at 4K, too. So much more detail comes through at a higher resolution, allowing you to make out and appreciate the nuances of nearly everything in the game. If you're looking for something to boot up to show off the power of your PS5, Horizon is a great choice.
Serious surround sound
Elden Ring is no slouch when it comes to audio. FromSoftware is known for great positional audio in each of its releases, allowing gamers to hear when enemies creep up behind them, and Elden Ring is much the same.
Plus, FromSoftware is also known for haunting ambient music that accompanies players through most of their adventuring alongside much more theatrical, bombastic pieces that soundtrack epic boss battles. Elden Ring doesn't disappoint here, either.
However, while Elden Ring sounds great, it's generally pretty minimalistic. At any given moment, there might be a little music in the background as well as the sound of the steady exchange of blows between you and your enemy, but that's usually about it. Combat in Elden Ring is a bit more methodical than it is action-packed like in Horizon Forbidden West.
In Horizon, you're constantly fighting advanced futuristic robot machines that can fly, move at inhuman speeds, and have all kinds of offensive and defensive capabilities. You'll get swarmed constantly, and the terrifying screech of one enemy may compete with the furious wailing of another terrible, awe-inspiring foe at any time.
Great sound systems will really be put to the test, especially surround sound systems, with Horizon Forbidden West. A good set of speakers will let you make out that much more texture and detail in the sounds of Horizon, when every enemy in the game is itself a complicated piece of technology complete with many different moving parts.
And considering how easy it is to get overwhelmed by enemies that can fly or otherwise move a lot faster than you can, having a surround sound setup can save you from getting killed over and over again beyond simply immersing you in the world of the game.
Regardless of how you play or your particular audio system, Horizon Forbidden West is an absolute delight to listen to, from its music to its voice acting, to just the general sounds of combat and the world.
Go West for AV thrills
All told, while Elden Ring is a fantastic video game, it's not much of a visual showcase beyond its impressive art design.
Horizon Forbidden West is an audiovisual delight perfect to show off your TV or surround sound system.
With so much of the modern gaming experience about total immersion thanks to superlative sound and vision, if you've got a PlayStation, we really suggest you pick up Horizon Forbidden West. And it will give you a break from dying in Elden Ring...