Horizon Zero Dawn header screenshot

Despite reports, the PC version of Horizon Zero Dawn is not a debug build

Horizon Zero Dawn has just been released on the PC and there has been a big controversy surrounding its PC version. Yesterday, a report surfaced on Reddit, suggesting that the PC version is actually a debug build of the game. However, it appears that this report was inaccurate.

Frans Bouma, a programmer that has created “Photomode” camera mods for a lot of games, has shared his thoughts on the PC build. According to Bouma, the game does indeed feature some debug code, however it’s not based on the debug build.

As Bouma said:

“I had the debug build for a while, and this is not a debug build (debug build is > 100MB exe, this is < 50MB exe, offsets in structs/classes are different at times, debug menus don’t work anymore etc. (ok, code is still there, which is normal; every UE4 game ships with a lot of debug code still present too))

Some code might have error messages referenced. I reverse engineer a lot of game engines and most of them have these. It’s not enough to conclude it’s a ‘debug build’.”

Bouma also added that while the game has issues, it’s far from a mess (when it comes to its code).

“I’ve disassembled it a lot in the past weeks, I don’t think it’s a mess at all. String literals with error messages, they’re in every game exe out there. Debug code/menus? In a lot of them. Disabled, codepaths to them removed, but if you find the menus, you might be able to add some code to reactivate them. that’s also how I re-enable the console in over 230 UE4 games.

I agree with /u/NotAnotherPygmy, it’s a pointer problem, and likely they missed a guard preamble somewhere. If you look at the code, a lot of the functions have preambles to make sure multithreading issues don’t occur (typical ‘security cookie’ + critical section entry/exit stuff), pointers are always checked for null, fallback paths are there. It’s not an ‘absolute mess’, on the contrary.

BUT things happen, and some pointer might have been overlooked. To make the code run on windows they’ve added a lot which as it looks now, does have some issues.”

So yeah, the PC version is not a debug build (and that’s coming from someone that knows more than us). Additionally, I’m pretty sure that Durante would have easily discovered this during his analysis.

For what it’s worth, I’ve never experienced any crashes on our PC gaming system. Still, and if you experience crashes or a lot of stutters, you can at least give Special K a go.

Lastly, Guerrilla Games is currently looking into some of the game’s issues. Be also sure to read our PC Performance Analysis article!

John Papadopoulos

John is the founder and Editor in Chief at DSOGaming. He is a PC gaming fan and highly supports the modding and indie communities.Before creating DSOGaming, John worked on numerous gaming websites. While he is a die-hard PC gamer, his gaming roots can be found on consoles. John loved - and still does - the 16-bit consoles, and considers SNES to be one of the best consoles. Still, the PC platform won him over consoles. That was mainly due to 3DFX and its iconic dedicated 3D accelerator graphics card, Voodoo 2. John has also written a higher degree thesis on the "The Evolution of PC graphics cards." Contact: Email