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PC Report: GRID Autosport on Linux
GRID Autosport is the latest release from Codemasters in the GRID series. First released on June 27, 2014, it has made it's way over to Linux on December 10, 2015 with the help of Feral Interactive. This is the second racing game from Codemasters to receive a Linux release, with the first being DiRT Showdown earlier this year, for which you can find our report here.
You can find our previous PC Report focusing on this game's Windows release here.
- CPU: 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, AMD Athlon X2 5400
- RAM: 2 GB
- GPU: Intel HD3000, AMD HD2000, NVIDIA Geforce 8000
- OS: Vista, 7, 8
- CPU: 2.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
- RAM: 4 GB
- GPU: NVIDIA 640, 1 GB of VRAM
- OS: Ubuntu 14.04.2 64-bit, Steam OS 2.0
Given the game's and series long support of Intel iGPUs, even going as far as boasting Intel-exclusive graphical features, a minimum of a high-end and seldom available Iris Pro 5200 is a bit of a disappointment.
The following report is based on experience of playing the game on a machine with an Intel Xeon E3-1241v3, 12 GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GTX 770 with 2 GB of VRAM, on Window 7 SP1 64-bit (driver version 359.06) and Ubuntu 15.10 64-bit (driver version 358.16).
The additional Intel results were gathered on a laptop with an Intel i5-4258U with an Intel Iris 5100 and 8 GB of RAM, on Windows 8.1 64-bit and Ubuntu 15.10 64-bit (using Mesa 11.2 built on 2015-12-14).
A copy of the game was purchased using personal funds.
The game can boast almost full graphical parity with the Windows version. Lightning, reflections, and shadows, as well as every other effect are featured in the Linux version. However, Intel users on Windows get an exclusive feature called advanced blending, an implementation of order-independent transparency. This is the second port to lose this feature in the process, the first being Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.
With Nvidia cards on Windows, the game also provides the Nvidia-specific implementation of multisample anti-aliasing known as coverage sampling anti-aliasing. Nvidia claims this allows for the same level of quality at a lower hit to performance. Of course, this feature is being phased out in newer GPUs, starting with Maxwell-based cards.
A quite interesting feature that is not present in the Linux version is native second-screen support. This isn't normal multi-monitor support, which is usually just assured by making the system appear as a single desktop, but rather a secondary view into the game, showing the current standings in the race as well as a cinematic view - a nice addition if you're planning any local tournaments.
It is always interesting to see how does a port stack up against the original Windows version in terms of performance. It has become somewhat of a given that we will see a drop to a certain degree, given previous experiences, but there's always the hope the next port may provide a degree of improvement in this area. The results are based on the default benchmark provided. Error bars represent the minimum frame rate.
As expected, we can see a fairly steady loss of about 40% regardless of settings. This of course isn't ideal, as a system the could still easily hit a stable 60 on Windows on higher settings may struggle in the same circumstances on Linux.
We can see a similar story when using the various anti-aliasing settings. The drop remains consistent throughout the available settings. Additionally, it is possible to use higher quality settings on Windows.
Benchmarks for additional settings like advanced lightning and global illumination were omitted, as the results produced on Linux were mediocre at best, occasionally rendering the game wholly unplayable due to extremely low performance - at best, they only resulted to a drop to around 30fps, but also introduced stuttering and inconsistent frame rates. By comparison, the game remained playable on Windows, still leaving the game at 60fps.
Frame rate is not the only measure important in rating performance. Thankfully, when using a setting which keeps you above 60 at all times, the game's frame times do not often exceed 16.7ms often. The situation is not as perfect as on Windows - where none of all frames rendered went above 16.7ms, as opposed to a few slower frames always happening on Linux, resulting in an ever so occasional stutter.
What is a pleasant surprise, is the fact the game is currently fully playable on Intel chipsets, in contrast to many other titles released recently.
The performance drop in this case remains at only around 20% on all settings. The game remains playable on Windows slightly higher settings than on Linux, but more importantly, the game is playable on Linux at all. If you'd prefer a higher frame rate at the cost to the image quality you can drop the resolution, though unfortunately, no graphical settings remain to reduce for further gains at that point.
While playing, the game remained equally stable on the Intel and Nvidia systems, which is after all the most important part. This is also the first of the AAA ports we've seen release so far (with the exception of Civilization V) that was at all playable on my laptop.
The area of user experience is where the port really shines. Feral have put in extra effort to make sure you don't have to spend time to get to enjoy the game.
Controller support works exactly as expected, thanks to the use of SDL2. But in case you're having any trouble getting the game to recognise your controller, make sure to bind it in Steam Big Picture. More importantly, when it comes to wheel support, the game is quite the opposite of what DiRT Showdown brought. With built-in support for most of the popular wheels available, including force feedback and 900 degrees range, the game leaves very little to complain about.
Of course, it'd be nice if the in-game icons matched the prompts present on these wheels - and those are usually the same as DualShock's. Interestingly, the game does provide such overrides when on OS X, so hopefully this feature may still come in a future patch, or in the least in upcoming ports.
On the other hand, the game loses some features as well. With the rise of hybrid laptops and touchscreens, the Windows version also features a touch based UI and input, but these are not present on Linux. Of course, given the fact that there are practically no readily available Linux laptops, and with SteamOS being the bigger concern, this is not a major loss.
For those inclined to mod their game, you'll be happy to find out mods work great and without issues - among the first things I did after downloading the game was finding a mod that removed the unnecessary blur from the cabin and added working reflections to the mirrors.
And most importantly, if you use more than one OS, the save files are fully cross-platform and will synchronize across systems as they should. Unfortunately, in a rather random fashion the save file I was using occasionally became unreadable for the Windows version of the game, though this was sometimes resolved by just playing another race and letting the game create a new file. And as one might expect, with this also comes cross-platform multiplayer, so you do not have to worry about playing the game with your OS X or Windows using friends.
With this port, we also get a nice addition that OS X users had the chance to enjoy for some time now - a launcher. Right now only providing support information and a resolution choice, Feral have confirmed to me that future ports will see the featureset come closer to the OS X version, with additional options being available directly in the launcher.
While the performance of the port is a bit of a let-down, especially taking in light the fact the other game on the same engine (albeit older version) is even able to run at a higher frame rate than on Windows, the port is really good over all. With emphasis put on the user experience, you don't have to spend a lot of time fiddling with settings to enjoy the game.
Hopefully in future releases Feral Interactive will not only be able to provide a superb user experience, but also matching performance. Considering they have quite a few more ports announced as coming, we'll see soon enough.
PC Reports are a series of quick first impressions regarding the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor Soeb. For an up to date account of GRID Autosport fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.
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