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  1. PC Report: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands

    System Requirements


    Minimum

    • CPU: Intel Core i5-2400S @ 2.5GHz or AMD FX-4320 @ 4GHz
    • RAM: 6 GB
    • HDD: 50 GB
    • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 or AMD Radeon R9 270X (2 GB of VRAM)
    • OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-Bit)

    Recommended

    • CPU: Intel Core i7-3770 @ 3.5GHz or AMD FX-8350 @ 4GHz
    • RAM: 8 GB
    • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 390

    Editor's System

    • CPU: Intel Core i5-4690K
    • RAM: 16 GB DDR3 1600MHz (Corsair CML8GX3M2A1600C9)
    • SSD: Samsung 850 EVO 250 GB
    • GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC
    • OS: Windows 10 (Version 1607) (64-Bit)
    The minimum system requirements are really minimum and may not be enough to feed you 60 fps at 1080p. Neither is there many graphics cards that will operate with stable 60 fps in the Very High preset. Some settings will generally not make a difference with the look of the game.

    Wildlands Video

    Wildlands Graphics


    This game is very GPU intensive, Nvidia released game-ready drivers for the game yesterday which should help performance - but doesn't really help with performance. Feels like the game isn't optimized correctly, as it can't handle the medium preset settings without going under 60 FPS constantly. Just having the game minimized in the menu takes ~60% of my CPU power.

    The benchmarks are based on the Low and Medium preset to save as much GPU power as possible.

    Wildlands Texture Quality Analysis


    Preset


    The game has five presets, from Low to Ultra. Ultra uses about 4.5 GB of ram and ~5 GB of VRAM which will require a very high system for stable framerates.




    Click on the Image to Move the Slider



    Wildlands Preset Analysis


    Field of View


    Slider that goes from 0% to 100%, and doesn't seem to affect performance.




    Click on the Image to Move the Slider



    Ambient Occlusion


    The game has support for either SSBC or HBAO . I keep it disabled for that extra bit of performance and don't feel a difference anyways.
    Wildlands Ambient Occlusion Analysis


    Draw Distance


    Allows for detailed textures in longer distances.




    Click on the Image to Move the Slider



    Wildlands Draw Distance Analysis


    Shadow Quality


    The shadows look well in this game but have a heavy cost in performance. Starting with the High setting, the game will use noticeably more RAM.




    Click on the Image to Move the Slider






    Click on the Image to Move the Slider



    Wildlands Shadow Quality Analysis


    Vegetation Quality


    Increases the draw distance for vegetation, and improves details to existing textures.




    Click on the Image to Move the Slider






    Click on the Image to Move the Slider



    Wildlands Vegetation Quality Analysis


    Resolution Scale


    Resolution scaling can be used to refine edges and enhance textures beyond Ultra settings.




    Click on the Image to Move the Slider



    Wildlands Resolution Scale Analysis


    Anti-Aliasing


    Strangly the game only supports FXAA and TAA - but For Honor (which is developed with the same game engine) also has support for SMAA. Possible that the developers forgot to add it, and may come in a future patch.
    Wildlands Anti Aliasing Analysis

    Seen in the image below, FXAA is the best choice but because how it works it will make the game appear more blurry.
    Wildlands AA


    Bloom


    I get distracted by the bloom in this game and it often makes you unable to see outside as bloom acts like a blur.




    Click on the Image to Move the Slider



    Reflections


    Reflections in this game aren't bad at all compared to e.g. Battlefield 3. They are not distracting and can easily be disabled if you wish to, and shouldn't cause a performance hit.




    Click on the Image to Move the Slider



    Anisotropic Filtering


    Disabled in some of the presets as default and should be turned to 16 samples to achive the best texture fidelity for a extremly small performance hit.




    Click on the Image to Move the Slider


    The rocks are in higher detail, the road is in higher quality.
    Wildlands Anisotropic Filtering Analysis

    We're talking a 1 FPS difference in average, seriuosly people turn it to 16 samples!

    God Ray


    Looks good outside, but I find it distracting sometimes as it makes my screen darker so I turn this off.




    Click on the Image to Move the Slider






    Click on the Image to Move the Slider



    Wildlands God Ray Analysis


    Controls


    Wildlands Keyboard Mouse

    There is no way to remap controller binds at the moment but sticks, bumpers and triggers can be swapped.
    Good thing they left acceleration disabled as default, raw input is missing but I don't notice any acceleration issues with the game.
    Wildlands Controller


    Audio


    Something that bogs me is that voice chat is enabled by default and uses a poorly implemented Open Mic Sensitivity Mode which tries to detect whenever you're speaking to sort out noise.
    You should also change Microphone Volume to your preferred mic gain, because the game sets will set it to 100% which is annoying since not everyone wants to use 100% gain as it picks up a lot noise and will ignore what you set in Windows.

    Wildlands Audio







    Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed our article and want to us create more articles, more often, please consider donating to PCGamingWiki's Patreon campaign:


    • 2 weeks ago
    • by Hawaii Beach
  2. PC Report: Far Cry 4

    System requirements


    Minimum

    • CPU: Intel Core i5-750 2.5 GHz or AMD Phenom II X4 955 3.2 GHz
    • RAM: 4 GB
    • HDD: 30GB (31GB installed, 26GB without localization files)
    • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 or ATI Radeon HD 5850; 1 GB of VRAM, DirectX 11 compatible

    Recommended

    • CPU: Intel Core i5-2400S 2.5 GHz or AMD FX-8350 4.0 GHz
    • RAM: 8GB
    • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 or AMD Radeon R9 290X; 2 GB of VRAM
    The minimum system requirements are rather modest with five years old hardware, quad-core CPUs and mainstream GPUs from that time is needed. Recommended hardware is different story though and developer suggests using current generation quad-core CPUs and high end GPUs with at least 2 gigs of VRAM.

    All the tests have been done on system with Core i7-2700k clocked to 4.5GHz, 32 GB RAM and HD 6870 with 1GB of VRAM. The testing was done in 720p resolution to eliminate stuttering caused by the lack of video memory and streaming problems. Benchmark consisted of one minute running at the top of the bell towers in the game during sunny weather, again to eliminate stuttering during streaming additional data from HDD test run stayed only at one location.

    Graphics settings and overall performance


    options graphics

    Graphics and video options in Far Cry 4 are rich and allows to set many different levels for each effect. Display modes are also nicely done and the game supports many resolutions, common aspect ratios and even borderless windowed mode. Unfortunately the game is forcing 16:9 aspect ratio by using letterboxing (black bars) on different aspect ratios. Far Cry 3 didn't have letterboxing and it is shame to use it in this title.

    The game unfortunately doesn't support multi-monitor setups very well. There are problems like field of view slider not working, stretching 16:9 aspect ratio, letterboxing and other similar issues. More information about it can be found at Widescreen Gaming Forum.

    Additional setting contains field of view slider and few modes of vertical synchronization with option to turn on 30 FPS frame limiter to smooth out performance.

    Overall performance and image quality


    The game offers five quality presets - Low, Medium, High, Very High and Ultra. Ultra preset does not set maximum anti-aliasing but leaves it at post process SMAA instead of MSAA 8x. Although MSAA 8x has massive performance impact so I can understand this reasoning.

    graph preset performance


    At low details the game runs very well even on older GPU. Medium preset cost about 10% of performance but it looks much better with added ambient occlusion effect. High preset is rather costly and prepare for losing about 30% of framerate. In this preset ambient occlusion is much stronger, textures are sharper and mountains are much more detailed. Anti-aliasing is also turned on. Very High preset is not very different from High preset. Shadows are in little bit higher resolution and billboards of distant trees are more detailed. Performance drop is about 5% from High preset. Ultra preset is turning on several advanced volumetric and post process effect that has very strong performance impact of 20% from Very High preset and almost 50% from Low preset. Performance scaling in different resolution is rather linear.

    graph resolution performance


    Here we can see drastic difference between Low and Ultra presets. At Low details the image is very flat without any ambient occlusion effect, textures are blurry due to lack of anisotropic filtering. At Ultra the game comes to life and show beautiful scenery with detailed environment.


    The game unfortunately suffers from heavy stuttering during faster movement in game's environment. Developer suggest to install it on SSD but I've went further and created virtual hard drive in system memory and copied all the game's files directly into RAM. But even that didn't leave a dent and game kept stuttering.


    After few tries I've managed to completely eliminate stuttering after all. The key was lowering VRAM heavy effects and resolution. Anti-aliasing, ambient occlusion turned off, textures kept at medium helped a lot so I suspect the game is not very economic with its graphics memory utilization. I suspect this is due to bad optimization from console code as the current generation of console have unified pool of system and graphics memory that is much larger (4-5GB) then graphics cards today normally have.

    After getting rid of stuttering the game performed flawlessly on my system with framerate around 60FPS with few effects turned to moderate settings.

    Full resolution screenshots: Scene 1 Low, Medium, High, Very High, Ultra; Scene 2 Low, Medium, High, Very High, Ultra.

    Field of view


    We are very happy to see Far Cry 4 featuring field of view slider. Unfortunately the implementations is not consistent and on few instances it can completely break the game. First of all the slider is not working at all in windowed borderless mode and on multi-monitor systems. There are reports, that field of view slider completely disappeared with 1.4.0 patch for some users, but personally I have not encountered that.



    Then there are annoying issues with this slider. The slider is working nicely when character is running in the game, but any other activity is on default and very low field of view. Activities like riding in a vehicles, using grappling hook and in a cutscenes.

    And then there are game breaking bugs: Conquering bell tower starts cutscene where camera fly though few locations but after that field of view reverts to ridiculously low value about 50 degrees. Messing up with slider does not help, only remedy is getting back to main menu and reload save.

    mortar Fov Bug


    Completely opposite story is flying with wing-suit where field of view jumps to ridiculously high value above 150 degrees. With this jump game obviously stutters for a moment as it has to render much more of the scene often resulting in players death. Same thing with mortar aiming where field of view is much, much higher.

    graph field Of view performance


    There is also no indication of what field of view values slider represents but its maximum value seems to me to be just about right for a single large screen. Performance impact is noticeable with about 20% of framerate loss from lowest setting. Full resolution screenshots: FOV on min, FOV on max.

    Controls


    The game offers nice controls customization even for gamepads although no full button bindings. Keyboard keys are fully customizable though with the exception of Tabulator key which can be fixed. There are few multiple actions on one key scenarios, but I haven't found them problematic. Very nice addition is plenty of toggles for GUI elements.

    options controls gamepad

    options controls


    What is problematic though is mouse acceleration. There is a switch and a slider that can turn off mouse acceleration, then there are additional entries in the configuration file but none of these can turn mouse acceleration completely off, only reduce its strength. But at least there is no negative acceleration as it was in Far Cry 3. Additionally the mouse movement felt jumpy and not smooth at all although I got used to if fairly quickly.

    Audio


    The audio options menu is very disappointing. There is only one slider for master volume and toggle for turning off music. Surround sound is supported but only up to 5.1, additional channels are ignored. Positional audio is nicely done though and the game otherwise sounds very good, I'm particularly impressed with weapon's sounds as each gun has very distinct and rich sound with slight echo.

    options general And audio


    Performance analysis


    In this section we are going to look at how each effect impacts framerate and how does each setting looks on screenshots. Be sure to check full resolution uncompressed PNGs linked in each section. Also visit gallery for additional benchmark and screenshots.

    Textures


    This setting is little bit complicated as it contains several different effects. I haven't found increase in resolution with higher levels of this options, however there is increase of anisotropic filtering that results in much sharper textures. Another effect bundled in "textures" is parallax mapping that adds very strong 3D relief to the textures. I don't know, why these effects cannot be separated as both have very different performance and memory impact.



    Performance impact is around 8% up to High level, Very High and Ultra cost 12% and 15%. This setting is very dependent on graphics memory and even if your framerate is high and stable in static scenes, not enough VRAM will cause the game to stutter when camera is turned quickly or character moves fast. Full resolution screenshots: Scene 1 Low, Medium, High, Very High, Ultra; Scene 2 Low, Medium, High, Very High, Ultra; Scene 3 Low, Medium, High, Very High, Ultra.

    graph textures performance


    Shadows


    This option sets up shadow resolution and distance of shadows level of detail. There is special level of Soft Shadows that blurs edges of shadows to appear more natural.


    graph shadows performance


    Performance impact is surprisingly not very high and Soft Shadows are causing only 10% FPS drop. But as with Texture option, this is very memory demanding effect that can cause stuttering. Full resolution screenshots: Low, Medium, High, Very High, Ultra, Soft Shadows.

    Terrain


    This sets terrain details. Low and Medium options are almost identical, very strong difference is on High level and Ultra offers very little improvement. Performance impact is very little, up to 3%. Full resolution screenshots Low, Medium, High, Ultra.


    graph terrain performance


    Anti-Aliasing


    The game offers few anti-aliasing methods, three levels od MSAA (up to 8x), SMAA and Nvidia specific TXAA which I was unable to test.

    Anti-Aliasing comparison


    MSAA is very performance heavy and surprisingly does not offer very good image quality. MSAA is for some reason creating slight bright outline around some edges that can be noticeable. SMAA on the other hand soften edges very nicely and does not blur textures at all. Additionally SMAA also blurs edges on foliage as these are in a form of transparent texture that is ignored by MSAA. Performance impact is not very strong with SMAA, as it is form of post process filter. Full resolution screenshots: No AA, MSAA2, MSAA4, MSAA8, SMAA.

    graph anti aliasing performance


    Ambient Occlusion


    Far Cry 4 also offers three methods of ambient occlusion - SSAO, HDAO and Ubisoft brand new SSBC. Ambient occlusion adds subtle shadows around objects and in corners that creates much richer scene. Performance impact is moderate from 5% of SSAO and SSBC to 11% of HDAO . Full resolution screenshots AO Off, SSAO, SSBC, HBAO.

    graph ambient occlusion performance



    Godrays


    This option creates light shafts in a fog and dust. Additionally it tweaks contrast of sky and clouds resulting in very nice dramatic sky. Performance is between 13 to 14%. Personally I prefer option Volumetric Fog instead of Enhanced.

    graph godrays performance



    Rest of the effects


    Rest of the effects only quickly as they didn't seem to improve image quality dramatically. Post FX and Water quality performance drop is around 5%, but without noticeable visual impact, same with Vegetation and its 2% FPS drop. Geometry affects level of details of further objects and has 11% FPS drop from Low to High and 16% from Low to Ultra. Fur is switching advanced fur on animals with 16% FPS drop, but the effect is noticeable only when animal is very close. Trees Relief should turn on tessellation on trees, but I haven't found any changes. Performance impact is 11%.

    Conclusion


    Far Cry 4 is a step in right direction, there are many toggles and sliders for tweaking, the game runs rather well and looks very nice. Unfortunately as with the previous Ubisoft games, Far Cry 4 suffers from premature release and severely lacks polish. There are unnecessary problems with field of view implementation, mouse acceleration, multi-monitor support (or lack of), limited audio option and stuttering. Sad thing is, these problems could have been easilly avoided if the game was in development little bit longer.

    • Nov 30 2014 12:37 AM
    • by LDK
  3. PC Report: Watch Dogs

    System requirements



    Minimum


    OS: Windows Vista (SP2), Windows 7 (SP1) or Windows 8 (Please note that we only support 64 bit OSs.)
    Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400 @ 2.66Ghz or AMD Phenom II X4 940 @ 3.0Ghz
    Memory: 6 GB RAM
    Graphics: DirectX 11 graphics card with 1 GB Video RAM - Nvidia Geforce GTX 460 or AMD Radeon HD 5770
    DirectX: Version 11
    Hard Drive: 25 GB available space
    Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c Compatible Sound Card with Latest Drivers

    Recommended


    OS: Windows Vista (SP2), Windows 7 (SP1) or Windows 8 (Please note that we only support 64 bit OSs.)
    Processor: Eight core - Intel Core i7-3770 @3.5 GHz or AMD FX-8350 X8 @ 4 GHz
    Memory: 8 GB RAM
    Graphics: DirectX 11 graphics card with 2 GB Video RAM - Nvidia Geforce GTX 560 ti or AMD Radeon HD 7850
    DirectX: Version 11
    Hard Drive: 25 GB available space
    Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c Compatible Sound Card with Latest Drivers

    Video settings


    Video Menu 1


    Watch Dogs' v-sync options give you more choice than in most games. You can choose between off, 1 frame and 2 frames. 1 frame is standard double buffered v-sync (so, you're either running at 60, 30, 15 frames per second) and 2 frames caps the frame rate at 30 - good for those who don't want to download a tool like Dxtory or MSI Afterburner just to limit frame rate. Alongside v-sync is a pre-rendered frame option. This determines how many frames the graphics card renders ahead of what's shown on screen. The gist of it is this: lower means you get less input lag, higher means motion looks smoother (as the graphics card is able to put out the frames in a time fashion, instead of as soon as they're ready). I personally always have it set at 1 as my pet peeve is input lag. It's great that Ubisoft have given us a choice.

    Video Menu 2


    Watch Dogs has, by far, the best anti-aliasing support I've ever seen in a game. FXAA, SMAA (with a temporal option), MSAA (up to 8x) and TXAA (up to 4x). As a massive fan of SMAA, it really is nice to see this supported in-game as it's arguably the best post-process AA. For Titan, 290x and SLI machines, you could take on MSAA or TXAA depending on what you prefer. However, for everyone else, I'll recommend temporal SMAA, regular if you're really scraping for frames. Unfortunately, anisotropic filtering isn't present in any of the options but shouldn't be too much of an issue as it's so easy to force through the graphics driver.

    Performance


    On foot Benchmark Bars


    On foot Benchmark Waves


    Driving Benchmark Bars


    Driving Benchmark Waves


    Let's dig in straight away with performance. And err, not great. It's not just low performance that gets you, it's also frequent, fixable stuttering. With my computer (Phenom II X4 965@3.8GHz, GTX 660 2GB and 8GB of RAM running at 1080p), I get 30-35 FPS outside with all settings on ultra with temporal SMAA. Not particularly great, seeing as I'm using a very lightweight form of anti-aliasing. Drop that to high and I get an extra 5 FPS, taking me to 35-40. Medium gives me another 10, bumping it up to roughly 45-50. Low takes me to a stable 60. Clearly, far from ideal, considering I didn't even touch higher AA settings. Rigs with vary with power so it's a serious case of YMMV but the general message is, it performs poorly even though you can squeeze a few extra drops of frames.

    Comparisons



    The difference between low and ultra are quite drastic here. People running on low will miss out on dynamic lighting, the car reflections and little details like the leafs on the floor. However, the general scene stays the same and that's good. The reflections are arguably the biggest distinction between the two presets, turning the paint job from glossy to matte. You can alter this setting individually though, and I'd recommend you do so as it looks great.

    Textures



    The texture settings in Watch Dogs scale linearly with video memory required. So, medium needs 1GB, high needs 2 and ultra needs 3. When I say needs 3GB, I mean needs 3. For me, the game outright crashed when I tried to start it at Ultra.

    Water



    The same message applies for the water: you'll be missing on the eye candy at lower settings but you still look at that and see water. It doesn't affect game play at all and still creates a believable environment.

    Depth of field



    We had some trouble finding a good example of depth of field as it only really shows in cut scenes and in the interior of your car. Here you can clearly see the interior of the car blurring. There isn't much reason to turn this on unless you specifically want it, otherwise it's probably safer to try and save a few frames per second.

    Ambient occlusion



    Ambient occlusion adds soft shadows in corners and edges which adds depth to geometry. It's a bit difficult to explain but you can clearly see it in the contours of the building, on the brick wall in the back ground and surrounding the edges of the car. This helps contrast in a scene by making parts darker without effecting the lighter areas. In the comparison, you see the off setting versus HBAO plus high but if you can't run the game comfortable with high, I'd recommend some of the lower settings because they really do make scenes look that extra bit prettier.

    Level of Detail


    The level of detail setting controls how detailed objects are from a distance. So it determines how far a higher resolution texture gets loaded in or perhaps a higher poly model for a car. As you put the setting higher, it loads more detail further away. Unfortunately, lower settings seems to omit entire buildings at a distance, showing ugly nothingness that you really aren't meant to see. It kills any sense of scale if you're running on an older machine at lower settings and you look into Chicago from the outskirts and see 5-10 buildings.


    There's nothing stopping Ubisoft from just putting boxes there with a low resolution texture instead of just removing them, as if they don't exist when the Almighty Aiden is too far. It's generally just poor, level of detail (along with AA) is the biggest FPS hit you'll take and most people will take it because it just looks awful without it.

    Anti aliasing


    Watch Dogs offers several AA methods. Players can choose from post-process filters FXAA, SMAA, Temporal SMAA and Nvidia specific TXAA. The game also offers true anti-aliasing in a form of MSAA 2x, 4x and 8x.

    Antialiasing Comparision


    As usual FXAA has the worst image quality with texture blurring and strange artifacts around aliased edges. SMAA and Temporal SMAA looks almost identical. With this method there is little texture blurring and polygon edges are nicely softer. MSAA is the most accurate method as it works with much higher local resolution. Because of this it has the biggest performance impact from all used methods.

    Controls


    Keyboard Controls 2


    What Ubisoft has done with the keybindings is very clever. You see, there's three tabs (general, on foot and in vehicle, see above) and they smartly organise which keys can and can't clash. This is a bit difficult to explain so I'll take it slow. General keys can be pressed at any time so conflict with both on foot and in vehicle. On foot keys can only be pressed while on foot (shocker) so don't conflict with in vehicle (and vice versa). This means you can overlap keys freely between on foot and in vehicle but not between them and general. This avoids the problem of having one key automatically bound to multiple contextual base functions with no power to change them and avoids the other problem of having a ridiculous amount of keys for each individual action (think GTA4 and ARMA). If this kind of intuitive thinking can catch on throughout the industry then we'd have much cleaner, more uniform and increased customisability regarding keybinds. Maybe I'm over thinking it. Regardless, it's great.

    Keyboard Controls 1


    By default, the mouse has an acceleration/smoothing effect that can't be disabled in game. It can supposedly be changed via an .xml file but I personally didn't see a difference, although others have reported otherwise. Mouse sensitivity is on a numbered 1-100 scale which is pretty good but any brownie points are lost with the smoothing. It makes the mouse sort of uncomfortable to use, with aiming taking far too long. Quick left and right snaps with the mouse either overshoot or undershoot, meaning you spend far too long compensating. It detracts from the experience greatly with back alley sprinting turning into a clunky bump-into-everything-fest and precision headshots from shadows make you feel less like Sam Fisher and more like a bumbling plonker. The worst thing is, decent mouse control can really recover from poor performance. For example, DayZ was updated recently to have 1:1 mouse control (rid of the built in smoothing from the ARMA engine) and the game feels so much better even though it still runs at 30FPS.

    Controller settings


    Controller 2


    Controller 1


    The controller settings are pretty standard but in a good way. A variety of different schemes, separate X and Y inversion and a numbered sensitivity scale. I personally played it for 20 minutes using my 360 controller (for science) and the layouts really intuitive. All the button presses just make sense and seem familiar if you've played other Ubisoft games. Overall, people who wanna play with a controller aren't going to be disappointed.

    Audio


    Audio Menu


    Watch Dogs gives you quite a few sliders to play around with. I found that the audio is quite well balanced and speech was always audible over gunfire or explosions but it's always nice to have the option. Rather pleasantly, you have the choice of written language for the non-English fluent playing which will be appreciated by some. On a side note the volume is a little low but otherwise, it's all above board.

    Conclusion


    Just like virtually every other Ubisoft release lately, execution just falls flat. On paper, we have a massive range of settings and controls and bells & whistles but performance just doesn't live up to expectation. They did it with Assassin's Creed 4, Far Cry 3 and Splinter Cell: Blacklist. All 3 of these had extensive and exclusive features but were plagued by technical faults. I had to cap AC4 at 30FPS to run smoothly, and with Blacklist I had to run using DirectX9 for it to not stutter. I couldn't fix Far Cry 3's performance issues, no matter how many tweaks I tried.

    I can't say with any confidence that Ubisoft will fix this with a patch because, looking at their track record, they just don't bother post release. The game looks really great (ignoring the E3 demo) and is functional but I fear the issues the game won't get ironed out. If you have a top of the line PC, i7 and GTX 770 , the whole shebang, then you won't have a problem as long as you're aiming for 60FPS and no more. If you've got a lesser PC like myself, tread carefully. I'll be capping the FPS to 30 but I know some won't settle for that. And rightly so, Ubisoft.

    PC Reports are a series of quick first impressions regarding the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor Dillon and edited by Andytizer. Valuable assistance was provided by RaTcHeT302 and LDK and the PCGamingWiki community. For an up to date account of Watch Dogs fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.

    • May 28 2014 09:00 PM
    • by Dillonator
  4. PC Report: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

    System requirements

    Minimum
    • CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400 @ 2.6 GHz or AMD Athlon II X4 620 @ 2.6 GHz
    • RAM: 2 GB
    • HDD: 30 GB
    • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 260, AMD Radeon HD 4870; 512 MB of VRAM, Shader model 4.0 support
    Recommended
    • CPU: Intel Core i5 2400S @ 2.5 GHz or AMD Phenom II x4 940 @ 3.0 GHz
    • RAM: 4 GB
    • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 470, AMD Radeon HD 5850; 1 GB of VRAM, Shader model 5.0 support
    Minimum system requirements are very modest, it is probably due to the fact the game is also being released on current gen consoles. There are even reports, that the game is playable on older cards like GeForce 9600GT (source). Even the recommended requirements are nothing to be afraid of. The recommended GPUs are more than three generations old and the required CPU clock is in laptop range.

    Testing was done on a system with Core i7 clocked to 4.5 GHz, 32 GB RAM and AMD Radeon HD 6870 in 1920x1200 resolution. Unfortunately there is no build-in benchmark so I had to test directly in-game. My benchmark consists of running from one viewpoint in Nassau to another during daytime. The game locks framerate to 63 FPS and there is no way to unlock it. Because of it many values would be higher without the lock because in a few cases, I've hit the 63 FPS limit.

    For detailed comparisons of all graphical effects there are many full resolution screenshots linked in this article. These screenshots are in lossless PNG format and each is around 4MB. Click with caution.

    CPU utilization


    In the section above you'll find the game requires a quad core CPU, however it turned out that the game is capable of running on a dual core system without any significant performance impact.

    CPU threads

    Here is a list of active threads in the main process. The most CPU time is taken by one main thread, around 12%, which is one core of an eight core system. The second most demanding thread is the GPU driver, around 5%. The rest of the interesting threads are a few 1% threads that presumably take care of AI, sound, physics etc. Cumulative CPU time of these is around 7%, which when combined with the GPU driver thread is also 12% and is the second core.
    CPU eight core

    This is how performance is spread over all cores. One main thread on the first core and rest on the other cores. CPU utilization is around 33%.

    CPU quad core

    The game is behaving a little bit differently on quad core systems. Load is spread over all cores evenly with no change of CPU utilization.

    CPU dual core

    When affinity is lowered to only two cores, the load is also balanced evenly between them. There is a 10% loss of CPU utilization.

    CPU single core

    And finally the game running on a single core system will utilize one whole core which is no surprise.

    graph CPU performance

    From the graph above it is clear that Assassin's Creed IV can be run on dual core systems without any performance hit. On single core systems there is a rather large drop so the game really needs at least a dual core CPU.

    Video settings


    The graphics option menu in Assassin's Creed IV features few items that can be tweaked. The shadow setting is very rich in that it features seven different levels of shadow quality. Anti-aliasing is similar due to how it contains five AA methods for AMD cards and eleven methods for Nvidia cards.

    graphics

    Some of these effects and their impact are explained in this video. Bear in mind that it is promotional material so the final look of the game can be very different.



    There are unfortunately a few rather important settings missing. There is no aspect ratio option resulting in letterboxing on every aspect ratio other than16:9. Black bars are even present on AMD Eyefinity or Nvidia Surround systems which is surprising as this wasn't a problem in Assassin's Creed III.

    There is also no native option for triple buffering resulting in unnecessary framerate loss when vertical synchronization is turned on.

    There is no field of view setting. This wasn't a problem in the previous games in the series as the default field of view isn't set very narrow. However, Assassin's Creed IV contains first person sections where field of view is awfully narrow and makes the game practically unplayable for many players. Although the majority of the game is in third person with a reasonable field of view, this is still a problem.

    Performance


    Assassin's Creed IV runs on a DirectX 11 renderer. Its engine, AnvilNext, has been used in the last game in the series so it should be a little bit more optimized as the developers are more experienced with this technology. Porting was done again by the Ubisoft Kiev studio that has done the not-very-good ports of Ghost Recon and Assassin's Creed III.


    There are no presets so testing was done with everything on lowest and then everything on highest without anti-aliasing. On the lowest settings the average framerate was 52.5 FPS with 45 minimum. On the highest settings the framerate was more than halved, 22.2 FPS with 16 minimum.


    As you can see from the screenshots, maximum details looks significantly better. The sea has real time reflections, building LOD is not that aggressive and there are generally many more details in the scene. Original screenshots: scene 1 low, scene 1 max, scene 2 low, scene 2 max.

    Environment quality


    This setting controls foliage and LOD of buildings. On the lowest setting there is no grass and the leaves on the trees disappear pretty close to the protagonist. On normal and high settings grass appears and the buildings are significantly more detailed. Original screenshots: very low, normal, very high.


    The performance impact is not very noticeable, only around 8% from low to normal and from normal to high, so there is practically no difference.

    graph enronment quality performance


    Texture quality


    Texture quality should control texture resolution, but I was unable to find any visual difference. Another strange thing with this option is its performance. There is no difference in performance between low and high settings but there is a 5% FPS drop on the normal setting. I have repeated the test several times with the same results and I can't figure out why it is behaving this way. The fact that there is no visual impact could mean that this setting is either improperly implemented or is simply bugged. Original screenshots: low, normal, high.

    graph texture quality performance




    Anti-aliasing


    Assassin's Creed IV features a very rich amount of anti-aliasing options, some of which are unfortunately available only on Nvidia cards and I was not able to test those as my rig has an AMD card in it.

    graph AA performance


    As usual, anti-aliasing is a very power hungry effect. The two post-process filters, FXAA and SMAA, offer a very small performance drop of 8%. The true anti-aliasing option, MSAA, has a much larger FPS drop with almost 60% on MSAA 8x.

    Anti aliasing comparison


    The results are very disappointing as every tested method completely blurs whole image and causes a large loss of details on the textures. FXAA is the worst as usual, some jaggies are softer but fine details on the textures are gone and disconnected lines stays disconnected. MSAA offers the best anti-aliasing and there are no disconnected lines as this method works with subpixels and locally enlarges resolution thus adding geometry details. Unfortunately MSAA also blurs textures which should not happen.

    Results with SMAA really surprised me. This method blurs sharp edges and gets rid of disconnected lines and although there is apparent texture blurring, it is not as bad as the other methods. As usual original screenshots: no aa, fxaa, smaa, msaa 2x, msaa 4x, msaa 8x.

    I'm be interested in the Nvidia specific anti-aliasing methods, so if someone could take screens in .PNG format and upload it to any file locker, I will create a similar comparison.

    Shadows


    Another very rich option menu is shadows with seven different settings of shadows all in two categories, normal shadows and soft shadows. Soft shadows have their edges a little bit blurred to add a more realistic effect, while with higher settings the shadow resolution is increased. Original screenshots: low, normal, high, very high, soft low, soft normal, soft high.



    The performance impact is not very large at first. From normal shadows up to high quality there is only about a 3% FPS drop but the very high setting will cost you 15% of performance. Soft shadows are much more demanding. Setting soft shadows on low will result in an 18% FPS drop with the highest settings a 29% FPS drop.

    graph shadows performance


    Reflection quality


    This effect can dramatically change how the game looks as it introduces real-time reflections on water surfaces. It can be turned off or set to normal or high. The high setting just increases the draw distance of the reflections and does not affect their quality. Original screenshots: rain off, rain normal, rain high, sunny off, sunny normal, sunny high.



    Surprisingly, I have not observed a significant framerate drop. I have even changed my benchmarking route to include much more ocean than my standard route but I had the same results.

    graph reflections performance


    Ambient occlusions


    Assassin's Creed IV has three ambient occlusion settings, SSAO and two levels of HBAO. Both of these techniques add very subtle shadows around corners and even SSAO looks very nice. HBAO on low is only visible in direct comparison and I wasn't able to notice it in the game. On the other hand, HBAO on high is much more visible and looks better than SSAO. Original screenshots: AO off, SSAO, HBAO low, HBAO high.



    Performance-wise, this is usually a very expensive effect, but the implementation in the game results in only a 13% FPS loss on SSAO and 18% on HBAO on high.

    graph ambient occlusion performance


    God rays and volumetric fog


    The god rays effect enables sun shafts in the game. On the low settings, it isn't very visible, but on the high setting, it is a very different story. The performance drop is quite large on the highest setting, around 18%.

    I haven't noticed any dramatic changes when enabling volumetric fog. According to the technical showcase video linked above, it should add much better smoke and fog during sea battles, but it seemed very similar to me. The FPS drop is around 9%.

    graph God rays performance


    Controls


    Assassin's Creed IV supports controllers and mouse and keyboard. Default controls for keyboard and mouse are changed from the last title as usual so returning keyboard and mouse players will be little bit confused. Keyboard can be remapped with exception of Caps Lock, Num Lock and Scroll Lock keys. Only one key can be bound to the action. Weapons select wheel has been removed completely and weapons and tools can be selected by numeric keys, while mouse wheel controls tool selection, and one key can be assigned to cycle thru weapons.

    Mouse settings features X and Y axis sensitivities, both axis can be also reverted. Unfortunately there is slight positive mouse acceleration in the third person mode and slight negative acceleration when character is aiming with a gun. Both accelerations are present even if acceleration is disabled in operating system.

    controls


    Xbox 360 controller works fairly well but its mapping cannot be changed.

    xbox mapping


    Audio


    Sound option menu does not offer much setting for tweaking. There are three volume slider, toggle for crew singing. Language setting is interesting though: you can choose different languages for menu, subtitles and spoken language.

    Surround sound support is also present but only with 5.1 system limitation. Sound quality is on par with current titles but sometime audio get out of sync in cutscenes.

    sound


    Conclusion


    I would consider Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag an average PC port. CPU optimization could be better, GPU optimization is done fairly well and I have not encounter any major problems, there are reports about bad performance on some systems though. Lack of field of view setting and letterboxing isn't something to be really proud of, same with mouse acceleration, blurry anti-aliasing and framerate lock. On the other hand the game looks very good even on the lowest settings and performs very well.

    • Jan 10 2014 02:35 AM
    • by LDK