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PC Report: XCOM 2 - Optimized Video Settings for Quality and Performance

By RaTcHeT302 on Feb 05 2016 03:12 PM in Port reports
PC Reports are a series of quick first impressions regarding the technical aspects of a PC game. For an up to date account of XCOM 2 fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.

XCOM 2 is the latest game in the XCOM series, developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games, running on the Unreal Engine 3.

The game was released on February 5, 2016 for Windows, OS X and Linux. The main focus of this report is to aid users in finding the most optimal and best looking graphical settings in order to solve and even prevent most framerate issues.

System Requirements


Minimum

  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E4700 @ 2.6 GHz or AMD Phenom 9950 Quad Core @ 2.6 GHz
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • HDD: 45 GB
  • GPU: ATI Radeon HD 5770, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 (1GB, DirectX 11)
  • OS: Windows 7 (x64)

Recommended

  • CPU: Quad Core CPU @ 3 GHz
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • GPU: ATI Radeon HD 7970, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 (2GB, DirectX 11)
While the hardware requirements for this game might not look like much, computers around or below the minimum system requirements are going to have a difficult time playing this game at a comfortable framerate.

Testing was performed on a system with an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 CPU with 4 GBs of RAM and an Asus GeForce GTX 650 Ti, running at a resolution of 2048x1152.

XCOM 2 Video 1

XCOM 2 Video 2


Antialiasing


On lower end systems even the FXAA setting can largely affect the overall performance. This setting alone does a pretty poor job at masking most jagged lines. While the MSAA itself might behave better visually there's very little point in using it, considering how harsh the performance impact can be, newer systems will most likely struggle to play at a comfortable framerate with it at any settings. Antialiasing is one of the main reasons as to why the game might run poorly. If the game is in dire need of more frames disable this feature, even if it's set to the FXAA mode.

Antialiasing Benchmark


Click on the image to see an animated comparison. This image is best viewed in a fullscreen tab.

Animated FXAA Antialiasing


Ambient Occlusion


This setting adds soft shadows to any objects when applied, without it an entity might look like it's floating. It is often used to give a scene or entity a better sense of depth and to evenly light most objects, as they would otherwise look too bright.

Ambient Occlusion SSAO


The first setting applies a lighter ambient occlusion effect over any ground tiles or buildings located near the fog of war. It does not affect areas currently in view by the player



The second setting also applies to objects such as rocks, trees and buildings. Most differences are very difficult to spot during gameplay, daylight areas will however look slightly better because of the darker lighting.



Objects with edges over the fog of war will smoothly blend in with the smoke screen, the transparency values are automatically adjusted and improved by the SSAO setting.



Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Ambient Occlusion Animated


This setting applies differently to every environment, not all entities will behave the same way, the performance impact is also dependant on the level itself.



Characters are also affected by this setting, along with any objects they might be carrying, which will also in turn begin casting their own softwer shadows. These smaller changes are mainly noticeable during combat.



The ambient occlusion setting can have a severe effect on the in-game performance. Even on its own it can still be pretty intensive, disable it if in need of more frames.

Ambient Occlusion Benchmark


Decals


Decals are used to add more detail to an area, static ground decals will be disabled on the lowest setting, other dynamic decals such as bullet holes will also dissapear.


Decals Performance Benchmark


Shadows


There are no visible differences between the two lowest settings, if there even are any in the first place. This setting does not affect the shadows themselves in any way, no setting exists in order to completely disable the shadows either.



On the highest setting characters will begin casting their own shadows, the shadow quality setting can also very slightly influence how they'll look like. To clearly spot the differences, look at the characters on the right side. They will begin casting a silhouette like shadow on the ground.



Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Shadows Animated


If the game is running poorly this setting is best left on Directional Only due to how taxing it can be.
Shadows Benchmark


Shadow Quality


This setting mainly controls how the shadows will look like. On the lowest settings they will have a softer look, while at higher values the game will begin using hard shadows instead, these shadows can never be completely disabled.



What this is set to mainly comes down to user preference. There isn't an in between setting which combines both types of shadows. The differences between the two highest settings are most likely only visible at very specific angles.



Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Animated Shadow Quality


This setting did not affect the game's performance in any way, but if the game does slightly stutter when using the Maximum value, try lowering the Shadow Quality setting to either Medium or High.

Shadow Quality Benchmark


Texture Detail


Another pretty self explanatory setting, notice the car on the far left and the walkway on the bottom right corner to spot some of the more major differences.




Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Animated Texture Detail 1


Even the bullet casings are affected by this setting due to them being actual in-game models.


Models with an emmisive material will also shine brighter at higher settings.



Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Animated Texture Detail 2


This setting can easily be left on High if the game is stuttering or if that one extra frame is really needed.

Texture Detail Benchmark


Depth of Field


This effect is very difficult to spot unless the camera itself is placed at a more specific angle. It is far noticeable on the main menu, but otherwise it does not show up too often during normal gameplay.

Main Menu Depth of Field Bokeh.png


Both the simple and bokeh depth of field effects look pretty similar. This effect is mainly active while a character is taking aim or while shooting during the combat phases.

Depth Of Field Bokeh


This effect can still affect the overall in-game performance even while it's inactive, there's very little point in keeping it enabled on lower end systems if the game is doing poorly.

Depth Of Field Benchmark


Draw Distance


This setting mainly controls the density of ground details and whenever some of the farther buildings will appear.

3 Depth Of Field Bokeh Draw Distance High Main Menu


The effect of this setting is clearly visible during combat and while sitting on the main menu, highly noticeable on the level with the two radar dishes, it is also complemented by the depth of field setting.

Woosh Its Cool Man


At higher values rocks and other ground decals will be displayed throughout the level, along with even more foliage. This setting can have a very large impact on the look of the game.



The differences between Medium and High are not as harsh however. The differences between these two settings can only be seen at really weird angles.





Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Animated Draw Distance




This setting can be optimally left on Medium in order to gain some performance. On lower end systems it should be set to Low if the game is running poorly. The game might behave differently depending on which area is currently being played on. The performance in a desert might be worse due to the extra ground details.

Draw Distance Benchmark


High Res Translucency


There were no clear visible changes, but there is no performance impact so it can be left on.

High Res Translucency Benchmark


Bloom


This setting adds a glow like effect to any active light sources or to any emmisive materials. If no antialiasing modes are turned on this effect will not always be visible.



This effect will only be partially enabled if the FXAA mode is disabled.



The bloom setting should not impact the framerate in any way, it's a very lightweight effect.

Bloom Performance Benchmark


Dirty Lens


A very subtle effect which mimics a lens flare like light.

34 Dirty Lens Example


Textures with any emissive materials are affected by this setting.



Most if not all light sources should be able to generate their our lens flare like look.



This setting should have next to no real performance impact.

Dirty Lens Benchmark


Subsurface Scattering


A lighting effect mainly applied on skin like materials when a light is directly cast upon them. It attempts to mimick light passing through skin.

He Looks Pretty Cool


This effect is barely noticeable during normal gameplay, but it's a small gimmicky effect which makes things look a tiny bit nicer.



Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Subsurface Scattering Animated


Subsurface Scattering Benchmark


Screen Space Reflections


The name of the setting itself is slightly misleading, seeing as it also adds a darker shadowy outline to most objects and characters, while partially affecting the environment itself. Notice the outline on the sniper rifle.



Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Screen Space Reflections Animated 1


The reflections themselves are actually really difficult to notice and they only appear under very specific circumstances.



Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Screen Space Reflections Animated 2


When the effect is seen in action it actually looks really subtle, it's barely noticeable and it's very easy to miss. Desks and other decorative entities only very slightly benefit from the effect.



Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Animated Screen Space Reflections 3


It takes a very specific angle for the effect to be visibly more obvious, but even then it's extremely subtle and most players will never notice if they are quickly moving the camera around.



Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Animated Screen Space Reflections 4


As far as actual reflections go, only objects such as these billboards actually seem to have proper reflections. The bullet shells also have a shadowy outline attached to them.



Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Animated Screen Space Reflections 5


Even when applied to a scene which should have plenty of reflective objects, the effect of the setting over the environment is incredibly minor. No real settings exist to actually disable or enable any other reflections.



Click on the image to see an animated comparison with all the pictures.

Animated Screen Space Reflections 6


This setting should be disabled if a better framerate is needed, even when turned on it doesn't do much in order to actually change the look of the game. This should only be enable for the extra eye candy.

Screen Space Reflections Benchmark


Performance analysis


These are the settings which have been used to setup these benchmarks in the report. Among the most performance intensive settings are Antialiasing (FXAA), Ambient Occlusion, Shadows, Depth of Field, Draw Distance and Screen Space Reflections, disable or lower any of these settings in order to get a significant performance gain if the game is behaving extremely poorly.

Optimized Settings For This System


Oddly enough the level which perfomed the worst overall has been the base of operations itself, otherwise even at 30 FPS the game did behave pretty decently, while the framerate might not have been optimal there were no major input lag issues and the game was still playable, anything below 30 FPS was otherwise pretty rough to play with, during usual gameplay however even the camera distance itself affected the framerate, while this might not be a great solution, if the game is performing too badly try zooming in a little bit in order to gain a few extra frames in order to make the game slightly more bearable to play with.

Certain settings have a placebo like effect, mainly the Texture Detail and the Shadow Quality settings, it doesn't really matter what these two are set to, they won't improve or ruin the framerate in any way. In the worst case the Texture Detail setting has to be set to High, but even then there's such a minor loss in performance, to the point where it actually doesn't really matter too much, unless the average framerate is really low.

Level Benchmark


After reading the report most changes should now be pretty obvious.



Controls


All keys can be remapped on both the mouse and keyboard, buttons such as Mouse 4 and Mouse 5 will also work for example. There's also a feature which is never explained anywhere throughout the game, hold the Ctrl key, then push the movement button in order to create a waypoint for your soldier to go at.

XCOM 2 Input


Audio


There's nothing really special to talk about here, however there's a very strange issue where no sounds can be completely muted, even when the slider is fully to the left. In order to trigger this, set the master volume to the maximum value, then completely disable the in-game music, then raise the volume of your computer, the background music should still be playing.

XCOM 2 Audio


Conclusion


This game is far more graphically intensive than its predecessor, and as such it might have difficulties properly scaling over different hardware configurations. Lower end systems will end up having some pretty large performance issues but this is most likely not be the game's fault, and it's most likely a hardware issue. After testing every setting maximizing them to their highest values is not very optimal, due to some of them not changing much in the end. Most settings are also incredibly subtle and any differences are very difficult to spot while playing, but otherwise the expensive settings should be turned off if the game is behaving poorly.

As far as the actual performance goes getting an idea as to how the game is truly supposed to run on this system proves a bit more difficult, due to the way strategy games are generally setup, and simply because the system itself is not strong enough, there's no easy way to properly judge as to why the game is running the way it currently is.

Otherwise higher end systems should be able to comfortably run the game at higher framerates, as long as the more intensive settings which have been listed throughout the report are lowered or turned off completely.


Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please consider donating to PCGamingWiki's Patreon campaign.




10 Comments

I see no animations. Am I missing something? It just opens the images in gallery view.

EDIT: Oooh it doesn't work on forums. Only the blog. Nvm :D

I see no animations. Am I missing something? It just opens the images in gallery view.
EDIT: Oooh it doesn't work on forums. Only the blog. Nvm :D


Now if only I could spread it around, I tried to put a few more hours into this compared to other reports (I also improved my workflow too so there's that), I think I've gotten close to 40 - 50 hours maybe, no idea I didn't keep track. I'm so sleepy right now.
    • Blackbird likes this

This must be the longest and most detailed report yet. You did great job!

This must be the longest and most detailed report yet. You did great job!


I always wanted to make most of my reports like this but it really depends on the game, it's just so time consuming though, I mean there are a few things I could've probably done better but meh whatever. Could anyone put this up on Reddit or something? Also I can't see the report on the main page, does it show up for you?

These things barely seem to be getting any visibility though, I still need to put way more effort into them. I kinda messed up the important ones so it's kinda my fault in the end. Meh. The Metal Gear Solid V and the GTA V ones weren't too great, taking screenshots in those games was a pain though. I wish I had put more effort into them, but I'm not sure if delaying them for a day or two would've helped, it probably would have though, falling behind those first three days sucks though.

What really helped here was the save game feature though, being able to save and load anywhere is a god send.

It doesn't show up on main page. Either it must be done manually or refreshed. IDK. Also I remember seeing Soeb posting his Linux reports on reddit somewhere, but don't remember where exactly.

EDIT: I posted it on r/pcgaming. I suppose that one is closest to PCGW's userbase ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (r/pcmasterrace is cancerous)

    • Soeb likes this
I update the title to be clearer.

One option is missing in your study::

 

"Texture Filtering" = Bilinear, Trilinear, Aniso 2x, Aniso 4x, Aniso 8x, Aniso 16x

 

Note that it is a different setting from the already here investigated "Texture Detail". Please, complete this excellent and extremely useful work by adding a Benchmark Framerate comparison and "slider comparison screenshots" also for this one.

 

Thanks for this information, it is helpful and amazing! Good Job!

p.s.

I was surprised when I realized that my Macbook Pro 13" Retina i5 2.8GHZ (Mid 2014) runs Xcom2 so badly... :(   not fair... I hope that in 2016 they start putting 4 cores (instead of 2) also in the 13" Retina  just like in the current 15" Retinas...

One option is missing in your study::
 
"Texture Filtering" = Bilinear, Trilinear, Aniso 2x, Aniso 4x, Aniso 8x, Aniso 16x
 
Note that it is a different setting from the already here investigated "Texture Detail". Please, complete this excellent and extremely useful work by adding a Benchmark Framerate comparison and "slider comparison screenshots" also for this one.
 
Thanks for this information, it is helpful and amazing! Good Job!


I'm not really sure how to take screenshots for it, and anyway it's an option available in most PC games, you can always set that to 16 on any game and rig, it really sholdn't change anything unless the system you are playing on is really that slow, but generally just set it to the max. I'm not sure if I'll manage to add it though, I wanted to enjoy XCOM 2 for a while and then I wanted to get back on my own project.

AF is the kind of thing you'd lower if you had a 128 MB card, but even on that it shouldn't matter at all. You can see what it does on google images, or just look up the wikipedia page for it.

Great Report, i really love your work and it help me obtain the best xcom2 performance. Keep doing those excellent report!

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