So, the obvious has finally happened. One year after the PS4 release of Final Fantasy 7 Remake we got Intergrade, the PS5 upgrade that also included a bonus chapter. And six months to the day after Intergrade’s release, Sony’s exclusivity grip on this reimagining of a classic was relinquished, the PC version announced. Fast forward a few more days to today, and the PC version of FF7 Remake is now available as an Epic Games Store exclusive. I’ve been playing it early.
What is there to say? Well, for starters, Final Fantasy 7 Remake is one of the very best games of 2020. It’s admirable for a few reasons, chiefly how it handles the legacy of one of the most important games of all time and the fan expectations which come attached as a result. Even more admirable is how, after spending much of the game gingerly carrying those expectations with care, it then roughs them up and throws them out of the window - but also deftly avoids throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Where it leads in sequels could well end up being a real hot mess, but I do think the way FF7 Remake handles itself is something of a masterclass, and far more imaginative than many of the other remakes in the gaming space.
It’s also a great game, though. Its reimagining of FF7’s classic ‘Active Time Battle’ RPG mechanics into a more action-driven, directly-controlled affair is the best Final Fantasy has managed to blend old and new together - and the series has spent much of the past decade flirting with variations on that theme with mixed results. In short, it’s a game well worth playing - and now it’s opened up to a whole new audience on PC.
PC purists will want to know, of course, exactly how good the PC version of the game is. I’m pleased to report that it’s… fine? I’m less pleased to report that it’s also bare-bones - so if you were waiting for this release hoping for real-time ray tracing, higher-resolution assets than even the PS5, or even something as simple as ultra wide support, you will be left wanting.
The PC graphics settings menu lets you choose between two display modes (Borderless Full Screen & Windowed), a variety of standard 16:9 resolutions from 720p up to 4K, plus two settings each (Low or High) for Texture Resolution & Shadow Resolution. There’s HDR support and the associated settings, and finally you can adjust the number of non-vital NPCs on-screen at once from zero (which might be handy for speed runners) up to ten. For frame rate, you can ask the game to target 30, 60, or 120fps. The latter is probably the biggest headline addition for PC, if you have a machine and display that can output at that refresh rate.
Of course, this is the Intergrade release of FF7 Remake. That means it’s not a PS4 game… or isn’t quite a PS4 game. The interesting thing about playing the main campaign now, over a year on, is that one can really sense its status as an end-of-generation game. In some ways its vision is beyond the PS4, with incredibly high-end, glitzy cutscenes and character models that are better than some new-generation exclusive games. In others, you’ll immediately understand from which generation the game really hails, in low-poly, low-res textured trash piles in the game’s undercity slums and so on and so forth. While the PS5 ‘Intergrade’ release worked to iron out some of these wrinkles, many are still present - and you’ll quite often find a nasty-looking texture in plain sight in otherwise gorgeous cutscenes.
The Intergrade-exclusive chapter, which is an all-new story starring FF7 favourite Yuffie, is also included here as standard. It’s a nice little side story that I rate roughly the same as the main game when putting a score on it. It's not huge - it's a four or five hour distraction you should undertake only after completing the main game. Because it was designed for PS5 from the ground-up, it’s slightly better looking than the main game - but it ultimately has many of the same foibles, just as it did on PS5.
It’d be easy to be disappointed with this, and I’m sure some people will be, given this is a full-price, 18-month-late PC release of FF7 Remake. That’s also why I’ve led with it here - I’m not going to scream about how much I love this game and how glad I am to finally have it on PC, because the important headline PC players need to know is that this port does the bare minimum. The game runs, and runs well, at least on the three PC rigs I tried it on. If you want PC-specific bells and whistles, you’ll likely be waiting for modders to step up, however.
With that caveat said, though: man, I really do love this game, and I’m so glad to finally have it on PC. It’s not perfect, but I think this is an important game, just in the sense of what it does with the word ‘Remake’ and what that word comes to mean as the game’s story progresses. I think it should eventually land on Xbox too (and this PC version instantly recognizes Xbox controllers and adjusts the HUD accordingly). It deserves as wide an audience as possible. The particularly value-conscious might ultimately want to wait for a sale, though.
One final note, for those thinking of jumping in: I do think FF7 Remake is a better experience if you’ve played the original Final Fantasy 7. That is of course available on PC, and much more cheaply. It’s an old game, but it holds up well. Together on the same platform, the two make a fascinating pairing - and in how long it might take you to play the original, this PC release will likely have dropped in price.