Should Horizon Forbidden West Players on PS4 Worry About Missing Out on Haptic Feedback?

Horizon Forbidden West can’t use haptic feedback in both versions of the game, which could have an impact on the player’s experience.

Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn already looks like its blossoming into a franchise. Horizon Forbidden West is on the way, to the delight of many. The game isn’t out yet, but it could very well be one of the most important games that the PS5 gets. Interestingly, Horizon is growing as an IP at the same time that the PlayStation, its home platform, is growing too. The PS5 isn’t even a year old yet, but it’s made its mark in the game industry. In a way, it seems appropriate that a sci-fi title about uncharted frontiers is going to bridge the gap between the current PS4 and the next-gen PS5.

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Horizon Forbidden West coming to both PS4 and PS5 does raise some questions, though. As with any game that releases for both old and new platforms, the game has to be adjusted and optimized in different ways to account for each platform. One thing that the PS4 will totally miss out on that the PS5 provides is haptic feedback. The PS5’s DualSense controller has been lauded as a masterful application of haptic feedback that helps fans dive deeper into the games they play and gives game developers exciting new design opportunities. Seeing how interesting and influential haptic feedback is, though, how much are fans of Horizon Forbidden West going to miss out on if they play on PS4?

RELATED: The Case for Adding Horizon Zero Dawn’s Aloy to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Horizon Forbidden West and Haptic Feedback

horizon forbidden west ally screenshot

Although the details on how it’s been implemented are scarce, a director from Guerrilla Games recently suggested that Horizon: Forbidden West does go to some lengths to make use of haptic feedback. That’s certainly good to hear. The DualSense’s haptic feedback system, a sophisticated system for pinpoint vibrations within the controller intended to imitate what the player character experiences in-game, is worth putting to use. Studio Director Angie Smets suggests that players will really be able to feel the grass around Aloy when she runs through brush, which is an impressive feat.

There’s probably a ton of other sensations that Guerrilla Games wants to imitate via haptic technology. For instance, it wouldn’t be surprising if haptic tech kicks in anytime players draw Aloy’s bow taut, or when they feel the impact of Aloy’s spear against an enemy. Outside of combat, the DualSense will surely mimic the sensations of Aloy’s daring rock climbing and the rough tumble of dodge rolls. Although there’s tons of interesting ways that Horizon: Forbidden West can apply haptic feedback, there’s one problem with implementing it that Guerrilla can’t work around. No matter what it does, it can’t use haptic feedback in the PS4 version of the game.

The PS4’s DualShock just isn’t equipped with any of the tech necessary to imitate Aloy’s surroundings that way. Since Horizon: Forbidden West is coming to both consoles, the implementation or lack of haptic feedback will be one huge difference between the two. Playing the PS5 version might turn out to be a vastly different experience than the PS4 version, and for now, it’s hard to say whether that’s good or bad. It’s interesting how the disparity in technology could have a major impact on how people respond to the game.

Haptic Feedback and Future Console Development

PS5 DualSense Controller Colors

The dilemma of haptic feedback use in Horizon Forbidden West is actually a good example of a wider issue that the game industry might have to address someday. Obviously there nowhere for new consoles to go but up. As technology of all kinds grows and improves, so must video game tech. As technology accelerates, it could be that a next-gen console is completely incomparable to the console that came before it. Even considering how impressive the PS5 is now, whatever comes after in several years will very likely still manage to blow it out of the water.

RELATED: Do You Need to Play Horizon Zero Dawn’s DLC Before Forbidden West?

How, then, will future game developers handle games like Horizon Forbidden West that are supposed release on both an old console and a new one? Traditionally, multi-generational games like Horizon Forbidden West are a great way to show the beginning of a transition to a new console generation. It encourages players to ease from one console to the next, giving them time to get some more use out of their current device until they can update to the new one. If game developers have to make games for two vastly different consoles, they’ll practically be developing two different games at the same time. That amount of effort for what’s supposed to be one and the same game might discourage developers from making games for different generations of the same console brand someday.

Maybe the problem will ultimately solve itself. Multi-generational games like Horizon Forbidden West, Halo Infinite, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and countless other famous examples are too important to the game industry’s success to leave behind. Ultimately, game developers already have a lot of experience in how to design one game for many different platforms, and so the question is mostly how to use that experience with new technology.

Horizon Forbidden West Embracing Cutting-Edge Technology

guerrilla games release 2021

Guerrilla Games is surely already thinking about this, and odds are it’s found a way to adapt. Since haptic feedback is only available in the PS5 version of Horizon Forbidden West, then there’s a fairly reasonable way that it can strike a balance between PS5 and PS4. The PS5 version probably won’t use haptic feedback for any major new game mechanics, or at the very least, it’ll offer an alternative way to use those mechanics without pinpoint haptic rumbles. Instead, it’ll probably focus on using haptic feedback for set dressing like what Angie Smets describes, helping players get more immersed in Aloy’s world. Players shouldn’t worry too much about a big sensory discrepancy between the two verisions.

News about Horizon Forbidden West has been pretty scarce lately, so it’s nice to at least hear about this small detail that’s in the game. It’d be a shame if Horizon Forbidden West has to be delayed out of 2021, but if Guerrilla Games doesn’t have anything to say about a delay, then hopefully no news is good news. For now, fans will have to be appeased with this update about haptic feedback. It’s definitely always good to hear how developers like Guerrilla Games are jumping on the capabilities of new consoles and making Sony’s innovations worth it.

Horizon Forbidden West releases for PS4 and PS5 in late 2021.

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