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Is Horizon Forbidden West free? No, but PS Plus members can access it

Let‘s get this cleared up right away – Horizon Forbidden West is not available for free. However, there is a way for PlayStation gamers to download and play this massive open world action-RPG at no additional cost thanks to PlayStation Plus.

Keep reading and I‘ll explain everything about how to access Horizon Forbidden West through your PS Plus subscription. We‘ll look at what makes Guerrilla Games‘ sequel such a must-play PS5 exclusive, how the gameplay and story compare to the first Horizon Zero Dawn, some tips for getting started, and provide a detailed PS4 vs PS5 comparison.

So whether you‘re new to the Horizon series or a seasoned veteran, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about exploring the Forbidden West for free!

An Introduction to Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West continues the story of Aloy, a fierce machine hunter in a far future world overrun by mysterious animal-like automatons. In this sequel, Aloy travels to America‘s western seaboard known as the Forbidden West to find answers and a way to stop a deadly blight that is causing machines to become aggressive towards humans.

The game builds on the praised open world exploration, combat, and storytelling of 2017‘s Horizon Zero Dawn while enhancing nearly every aspect of the experience. It launched in February 2022 as a PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 exclusive developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Guerrilla Games is a first-party Sony studio based in Amsterdam that was founded in 2000. They are best known for working on the Killzone series of first-person shooters before taking on the ambitious Horizon project as their first open world RPG. That gamble paid off with Zero Dawn selling over 20 million copies globally and cementing Guerrilla as one of Sony‘s premier developers.

Forbidden West aims to deliver everything fans loved about Zero Dawn while expanding the world, abilities, threats, and mysteries to unravel. Based on critic reviews averaging around 88% and player enthusiasm, they absolutely succeeded in creating an even bigger and better sequel.

Now let‘s look at how PlayStation Plus members can check out this massive blockbuster at no extra charge.

Accessing Horizon Forbidden West with PlayStation Plus

PlayStation Plus is Sony‘s premium online gaming subscription service, offering members a variety of benefits across PS4 and PS5. These include:

  • Online multiplayer access
  • Monthly free games
  • Exclusive discounts
  • Cloud storage

There are currently three PS Plus membership tiers:

  • Essential – $9.99/month. Required for online play, 2 monthly games, discounts.
  • Extra – $14.99/month. Adds a catalogue of 400+ PS4/PS5 games to download.
  • Premium – $17.99/month. Everything in Extra plus 340+ PS1-PS3 games to stream/download. Timed game trials.

Horizon Forbidden West was added to the Extra and Premium catalogue of downloadable games in February 2023. This means subscribers on these upper tiers can download the full version of Horizon Forbidden West to their PS4 or PS5 at no additional cost.

The selection of games available through Extra/Premium changes month-to-month, but Horizon Forbidden West seems likely to remain available for at least 6-12 months given its popularity and recent release. As long as you maintain an active Extra or Premium membership, you‘ll retain access to the game.

Compare this to Xbox Game Pass which also offers day one access to major releases like Microsoft‘s Halo and Forza franchises. However, Sony still wins in terms of flagship PS5 exclusives. Horizon Forbidden West joining PS Plus gives millions of subscribers a chance to check out Sony‘s biggest open world game without paying full price.

Overview of Horizon Forbidden West Gameplay and Story

Now that you know how to get Horizon Forbidden West for free, let‘s dive deeper into what makes Guerrilla‘s dystopian adventure a must-play. Here is an overview of the key gameplay elements:

Open World Exploration – Traverse a vast frontier spanning Utah and California, from red rock deserts to lush pacific coasts. Find settlements, climb towering ruins, discover lost artifacts, and uncover hidden mysteries.

Fluid Combat – Take on dangerous machines using a variety of upgraded weapons like the hunter bow, sling, spike throwers, and more. New abilities like the grappling hook add mobility and open up strategies. The refined combat feels challenging but fair.

RPG Progression – Earn XP to unlock skills in three branches: Warrior, Trapper, and Infiltrator. Craft better equipment from machine parts. Level up stats like health, stamina, and melee damage. Horizon offers deep build customization.

Side Activities – In addition to main story quests, undertake side missions, bandit camps to clear out, racing challenges, and machine strike (a strategy mini-game). Hunting machines to gather parts for upgrades is rewarding as well.

Compelling Story – Without spoiling anything, Aloy‘s journey takes some surprising turns as she uncovers secrets behind the strange blight devastating the land. Memorable characters and themes of finding belonging keep you invested.

Forbidden West expands on Zero Dawn‘s foundation in nearly every way. The world is larger and more diverse with more intricate tribes and settlements. Traversal options like the grappling hook, Shieldwing glider, and Pullcaster add fun new mobility in combat and exploration. The RPG systems are deeper with more customization and new Valor Surge abilities to activate. Melee in particular feels vastly improved thanks to new combos and the ability to override machines to fight for you.

While the core loop of exploring, fighting machines, looting parts, and gradually growing stronger remains the same, Forbidden West doubles down on what made Zero Dawn so compelling while also adding plenty of new content and quality of life improvements. It‘s everything great about Guerrilla‘s first open world outing enhanced in every way.

Getting Started in Horizon Forbidden West

If you are new to Horizon, here are some tips to get going in Forbidden West:

  • Take on side activities – Don‘t just focus on the critical path. Explore the world, clear bandit camps, complete side quests. This nets you valuable XP and loot.

  • Experiment with weapons – Try out all the different ammo and weapon types in combat. Look for synergies between ammo effects like freeze and high damage attacks.

  • Upgrade gear regularly – Don‘t hoard machine parts! Use them to upgrade your outfits and weapons often for perks and more mod slots.

  • Unlock skills – Work your way through the Warrior, Trapper, and Infiltrator trees early on. The Trapper skills especially will make taking down bigger machines easier.

  • Change difficulty if needed – No shame in lowering it to Story or Easy if you are struggling. You can increase it again later once you have better gear.

  • Manual save often – Don‘t rely just on autosaves. Manually save at campfires before and after major story beats in case you want to revisit them.

Take your time to soak in the world and gradually improve Aloy‘s abilities and gear. Before you know it, you‘ll be laying waste to even the deadliest machines you encounter.

Detailed PS5 vs PS4 Comparison

Let‘s dig into how the Forbidden West experience differs on PlayStation 5 compared to PlayStation 4:


  • PS5 – Dynamic 4K resolution with framing targeting 1800-2160p
  • PS4 – 1080p resolution


  • PS5 – Targets 60 FPS with drops in busy scenes. Consistent 60 FPS in Performance mode.
  • PS4 – Targets 30 FPS but can dip below, especially in detailed areas.

Load Times

  • PS5 – Around 10 seconds fast traveling or respawning thanks to SSD
  • PS4 – 25-35 seconds for fast travel and respawning on HDD

Visual Quality

  • PS5 – Higher resolution textures. Further draw distance. Improved lighting, shadows, and effects. Much sharper image quality.
  • PS4 – Lower resolution textures/assets. Shorter draw distance. Simplified lighting and effects. Can appear softer and muddier overall.

Haptics & Adaptive Triggers

  • PS5 – Enjoy immersive DualSense controller haptics and resistance on triggers during gameplay
  • PS4 – Standard rumble and triggers on DualShock 4 controller

On PlayStation 5, Forbidden West is a visual stunner. The increased resolution and buttery smooth 60 FPS make exploration incredibly fluid and detailed. Faster loading keeps the action moving without interruptions. The DualSense‘s advanced haptics and adaptive triggers create deeper immersion while playing as Aloy. This is clearly the definitive way to experience the game.

That said, the PS4 version still looks great in its own right. The world and gameplay are identical, just scaled down visually. Load times are the biggest drawback, but everything you love about the game remains intact. So while PS5 is preferable, you can still enjoy the full Forbidden West adventure with a standard PS4.

Wrapping Up

Horizon Forbidden West expands on Guerrilla‘s acclaimed open world RPG formula in nearly every way for an even bigger and better adventure. While not free, the ability to access this brand new PS5 exclusive through your PlayStation Plus membership is a huge bonus.

I hope this guide has helped explain exactly how to download Horizon Forbidden West at no extra cost if you have an active PS Plus Extra or Premium subscription. Take your time exploring the vast frontier, gearing up Aloy, and unraveling the mysteries around the blight. An epic journey awaits! Let me know if you have any other questions – enjoy your time in the Forbidden West!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.