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PC Report: Alekhine's Gun
Alekhine's Gun is a spiritual successor to the Death to Spies series - a series heavily inspired by Hitman. Originally developed by Haggard Games as Death to Spies 3, the studio planned for the game to be partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign. After the failed campaign and trouble securing rights to the title, a deal was struck with a new publisher Maximum Games and the game was renamed to Alekhine's Gun. Soon after the development of the game was taken over by Maximum Games' in-house studio and the title is now released as the first game developed by them.
- CPU: Intel or AMD processor @ 2.0 GHz
- RAM: 2 GB
- HDD: 6 GB
- GPU: Ati Radeon HD 2600 / Nvidia GeForce 8600 with 512MB of VRAM
- OS: Vista, 7, 8
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher.
All of the graphical options in Alekhine's Gun are configured directly inside of the game and none of the option at the player's disposal require a full game restart. It's important to note that some of the options are not available when the game is in progress (resolution, vsync and anti-aliasing). It's a very minor inconvenience, as the player is allowed to save the game at any time (regardless of the chosen difficulty) and loading a level that was loaded at least once during the session takes less than 2 seconds.
It's fair to say the game definitely lacks some options PC players have come to expect from titles nowadays. I always hated how developers took away the ability to change the level of anisotropic filtering or were tying them under something generic like "Texture quality". Alekhov's Gun has no anisotropic filtering, however. It also has no option for running a game in windowed mode. And while it's nice to see the option, which allows you to choose which screen the game is going to use, I still see no reason for why "anisotropic filtering" and "windowed" settings are absent. One could argue, that it may be because of the game using the good old Direct3D 9 as a renderer, that windowed mode is not available (with D3D9 by default it's impossible to change gamma/brightness of application running in windowed mode), but it's very unlikely this is the case. People who like to modify their Field of View, also won't find an FOV slider here. Personally, I haven't found the FOV to be an issue while playing the game and I do not agree that FOV slider is a must for third person games, but seeing the game's limited graphical options, FOV slider would be a nice addition nevertheless. On a positive side - the game changes the horizontal FOV appropriately the wider the screen gets and reports seem to indicate that the game has no issues running on ultra-widescreen resolutions.
The game features 3 anti-aliasing settings - Off, Simple and Normal, where Simple seems to correspond to MSAA x2 and Normal is most likely MSAA x4 (based partially on byte values in config file).
Oddly enough, the game seems to have some issues with rendering foliage, if anti-aliasing is disabled - it looks like it's some sort of weird LOD issue:
For benchmark tests, I've decided to use cutscenes, as they often use additional effects and do not vary much in CPU/GPU usage from actual gameplay.
I was genuinely surprised that Simple AA and Normal AA didn't result in huge performance difference, seeing how noticeable the difference between them is.
What this option seems to affect is the distance of cascade shadows, as the shadows closest to player seem identical and only from a certain distance the differences start to occur. Enough to say, general shadow resolution is pretty low, especially for the game released on PS4 and Xbox One. A fact that is getting worse and worse as you play and notice shadows change to higher quality as you approach objects. It's not an uncommon issue in video games, but especially noticeable in Alekhine's Gun, due to it happening very close to the player:
(dynamic shadows set to high)
The setting itself doesn't seem to affect framerate much. I tested it on 3 different levels and the framerate was at worst 8fps lower on high than on low (130fps on high, 138fps on low) and the difference was getting smaller and smaller when trying to benchmark it in more complex scenes (76fps on High and 77fps on Low on the map Omerta).
Unsurprisingly Ambient Occlusion is one of the effects which seem to have the biggest impact on performance. AO method used is most likely basic SSAO (AmbientOcclusion.psh even has a comment "Ambient Occlusion Screen Space filter", so it's probably it). AO is present here with all of its pros and cons - it also doesn't seem to blend very well with a fog.
Enabling Ambient Occlusion seem to cause ~15% hit on framerate.
HDR is always bit of a weird one, as it's often a subtle effect, noticeable especially when moving a camera between a bright and dark areas. It's also helpful when rendering super bright and super dark areas and elements like sky. Problem is, during all my experimentation, I haven't found any area where I could really show it off. That is not to say the game doesn't render it. Once enabled, it's very easy to notice its impact on framerate, but results-wise it pretty much ends up being just a small glare around some of the light sources.
It's also hard to notice HDR rendering at work when going from building's interior to exterior, as a common practice used by the level designers here is switching from one post-processing preset to the other (and we're talking pretty drastic changes to color correction in this case).
Having read some of the reviews for Xbox One and Playstation 4 version, I was a bit worried, that despite advertised low requirements the game is going to perform badly on PC. And while the performance may very wildly, depending on section in the level, during over 10 hours I got to test the game, performance was never an issue, as the framerate at worst dropped to 55fps (in the level A mole among us in the lobby) and for the most part stayed between 80 and 150fps.
It was performing so well in fact, I've decided to try and run it on my brother's PC. And while, my brother still uses an old 1280x1024 monitor, which makes the comparison slightly uneven, the game had no problems running way above 60fps for the vast majority of my 2 levels long test - using over 95% of GPU at all time and very little CPU (even on my brother's PC, the game never reached 50% CPU usage). I can easily say, that based on my tests, framerate issues reported on consoles are not present in PC version.
This doesn't mean this is a good PC version though... but on that a bit later.
Note: The rest of screenshots for Keyboard settings are available in a gallery.
Given at player's disposal is a long list of keys, all of which can be rebound. Some of the buttons are contextual and often, when there is more than one object to interact with, the game is using Hitman-like menu, where holding a key allows you to choose a specific option. It's a system which takes some time to get used to, but for me, as a Hitman veteran, this felt very natural and I'm glad it was implemented in Alekhine's Gun.
What I don't like that much however are the mouse options or the lack there of. No mouse acceleration, no mouse smoothing, no separate option to configure sensitivity when aiming with a weapon (that is actually an issue, as the camera zooms in, but sensitivity stays the same as if it was zoomed out, which results in mouse movement that feels overly sensitive when aiming). Thankfully, during my tests, I have not noticed any mouse acceleration. I have however noticed a bit of an inconsistent mouse movement during first level of a game, when I tried slowly moving the mouse from right to left - the camera seemed to speed up at places and slow down at others - it happened only in the first level, but it's a worth the note, nevertheless.
Alekhine's Gun supports the Xbox 360 (and possibly Xbox One) controller. Controller can be plugged in at any time and the game should properly recognize it, unlocking the option in menu. Disappointingly, to be able to use it, the gamepad has to be enabled under Xbox Controller settings and this can't be done using controller itself. Furthermore, having controller input enabled, disables keyboard and mouse input. The game will automatically return to mouse and keyboard setting if the controller gets unplugged, but having to choose one or the other is a definite flaw, while many other games just listen in to both inputs and change displayed prompts on the fly. Important to note is that even though the options menu for a controller may look like a player can configure bindings - this is not a case. The game also lacks option to configure stick sensitivity or to invert the Y axis for controller.
Issues listed above are however the least of PC version's problems. I mentioned that the game has absolutely no Anisotropic filtering.This is not an exaggeration. I managed to however force it using my graphics card configuration panel, which instantly improved the rendered graphics.
Sadly, soon after, when trying to exit to main menu, the game just crashed. Whatever the crash was caused by forced settings, I can't really say. I've tried playing the game a bit later, with forced Anisotropic filtering and this time, I haven't had any crashes. Imagine my surprise, when I realized that forcing anisotropic filtering, not only made the textures look better at a distance, but also drastically improved the shadow detail.
As mentioned earlier game lacks windowed mode. An issue that can be dealt with by using Durante's GeDoSaToTool, which seems to work without any issues with this game (as far as forcing borderless fullscreen windowed goes). And don't hope for anisotropic filtering or windowed mode to be hidden somewhere in config file, as the config is not saved as a plain text file.
Other things of note are bugs. Many times during my gameplay experience I had to save and load the game, because of a bug that caused sound to skip. I also managed to bug out screen blur, by opening and closing a inventory menu, when trying to pick a lock. I manged to stuck in falling animation by trying to jump off the stairs and I also got stuck inside of a toilet's door!
But these are all minor issues compared to one big one... Crashes! I crashed the game for the first time when trying to skip cutscene in the second level. And pretty much since that point on, the game has been crashing randomly for me. It is possible these crashes are somewhat related to cache, as since the moment I cleared it the game seems to be crashing less, but the fact remains - in my 10 hours of playing the game, the game crashed 13 times (possibly more, but I counted only those). At one point, I even thought it may be MSI Afterburner, which I had running for the first few hours, but disabling it hadn't changed anything. Even if I was just unlucky and somehow managed to corrupt my game's cache, such issue is still unacceptable in 2016.
Alekhine's Gun is a game with dated visuals, which should perform well even on really old hardware. It requires little CPU and GPU power to stay within the limits of playable framerate. The options offered by the game are very basic, with features like FOV customization, Anisotropic filtering and Windowed mode missing. People playing their games with controllers should note that the game lacks options for sensitivity and Y-axis inversion. The biggest issue of PC version are bugs and overall instability. This and generally uneven game quality, makes it a game that is most likely going to be enjoyed only by hardcore Death to Spies fans... that is, if the bugs get fixed.
PC Reports are a series of quick first impressions regarding the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor Suicide Machine. For an up to date account of Alekhine's Gun fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.
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