Watch Dogs Graphics And Game Play: PC vs. Xbox One - HotHardware

Watch Dogs Graphics And Game Play: PC vs. Xbox One

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Normally, the question of whether a game runs better on the PC or a console is a no-brainer -- at least, for PC users.  Watch Dogs, however, with its problematic PC play, challenges that concept. And since the gap between consoles and PCs is typically smallest at the beginning of the console generation, we decided to take the Xbox One out for a head-to-head comparison against the PC with this long-awaited title.

What we've found may surprise you. Based on our results, and depending on just how much horsepower your PC has, the Xbox One (and possibly the PS4 option, though we didn't compare against it) might be the better option. Here, we'll step through the game's pre-rendered movies as well as some actual gameplay and perform some video comparisons for you all.
 

Watch Dogs: VRAM uber alles

One thing to keep in mind is that Watch Dogs is ridiculously hard on frame buffer memory. If you've got 1.5GB or less on your graphics card, you're going to be compromising on visuals to keep the frame rate steady. Comments in that thread bore out the idea that frame buffer memory is the principle performance culprit; multiple readers claimed that they saw excellent performance from lower-end GTX 760s with 4GB of RAM, while others with smaller frame buffers ran into more erratic performance, even with more powerful GPUs.

If you don't have at least 2GB of VRAM, you're going to be cranking the details lower to compensate in Watch Dogs -- and that may effectively cut visual quality below what the Xbox One or PS4 can offer. Let's take a look.

Image Quality Comparison: Xbox One vs. PC

Which detail settings you can choose has a significant impact on how good Watch Dogs looks on the PC compared to its console cousin. We're going to show you three detail settings -- in every case, the Xbox One is on the far left, followed by the PC on Medium Texture / Medium Detail, followed by the PC on High Texture / High Detail. We'll start with a scene from the opening of the game, in which the protagonist has a calm discussion of principles with a fixer, Maurice.

   
Click to enlarge: Xbox One (left), PC Medium (middle), PC High (right).

Compare the three images above, and you'll notice that while the Xbox One doesn't have the same level of shadow detail, its textures are clearer than the PC on Medium. A distinctly polygonal baseball in the lower left hand corner of the screen on Medium is round in the console version.

Between the Xbox One and PC with High Quality settings, the PC is clearly better. Adrian's coat is cut differently and the texture detail on clothing and other items is noticeably higher.

For our next set of comparisons we're going to look at the same three images -- but for one set I've applied an Auto-Leveling filter in Photoshop. Doing so highlights certain background details and makes it easier to see how the Xbox One and PC compare in the shot. First, here's the image the way it actually looks in game.

   
Click to enlarge: Xbox One (left), PC Medium (middle), PC High (right).

There's some really interesting differences here. First, the PC Medium settings clearly aren't using tessellation as much as the High settings, if they're using it at all. The collar of Aidan's shirt loses its ribbing, his jacket loses some of the deformation over the right shoulder, and its texturing takes a step downwards. Facial details are blurred, as is his facial hair. Oddly enough, the boxes in the rear of the shot are actually noticeably sharper in the Medium setting compared to High. It looks like the engine uses a Depth of Field filter to keep your eyes focused on Aidan's face when set in High mode, whereas Medium uses no such filter.

Compare the two PC shots against the Xbox One shot, and we've got a different set of tradeoffs in play. The lighting model looks simpler, but Aidan's detail levels are closer to the PC High settings than PC Medium. Texturing on the coat and undershirt is generally better, and the Xbox One uses a similar depth-of-field effect as the PC with High Quality settings, though not to the same extent. Overall, however, we'd say that the Xbox One is putting more detail on the screen -- but with a simpler lighting model. 

Now, here's the same shot but with the lighting corrected.
 

   
Click to enlarge: Xbox One (left), PC Medium (middle), PC High (right).

The dramatic difference in the blur effect is easier to see here, as are the differences in Aidan's facial features and texture details. The PC High settings are better than the Xbox One, but the Xbone is unambiguously better than the PC on Medium.
 

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"the Xbox One might be the better option..." One of the few times I've seen a console recommended over a pc.

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Nobody's ever said that a console looks better than a PC since about 2005, when consoles were using high end PC (or even workstation grade graphics) cards with zero OS/driver overhead (which even Mantel has). Making a game look like garbage in medium quality is unacceptable.

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Devs make a shitty port and that makes the console look better lol. Next gen for pc user means downgraded pile of crap games. Lazy devs want more money but giving less in return.

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Simon,

While I'm sympathetic to your viewpoint, we waited for the first patch to make absolutely sure there were no game-breaking launch day issues that would tilt the comparison.

If I had an Xbox One or PS4 alongside a PC with either an older top-end GPU like the GTX 580 or Radeon HD 5870 *or* I had a midrange card like a GTX 750 Ti, R7 260X, or even an R9 270, I'd seriously consider buying the console version. It may be 100% the case that this lopsided result is because Ubisoft did a poor job with the port, but we have to review based on where you'll experience the game best.

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Lol so if you have a shitty PC go with XBOX. More like if you have a shitty PC spend the 500$ plus subscription fees and upgrade your PC. What kind of article is this?!

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Certain consoles are picked above another because they port it over. Them stating that the xbox one is preferred is because they geared the game toward it and that the PC version was not focused on. A lot of games that release on consoles first or are prioritized on console (look at Capcom's games), they end up so awful on PC.

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Does it work on PC in the first place !

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Yes, but you need pretty darn good hardware to have it run at optimal.

 

If you want high settings PLUS the hidden graphical settings that Ubisoft turned off, you'll need even better hardware.

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Like most are saying it was and is a bad port over to pc! But such is the life of pc gaming now to me. In less it's a game developed for the pc we are just going to start getting more bad ports because they want to save money with out doing much. All this is my opinion of course.

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What makes me laugh is that the article has been put down... If I could I would post proof of it, but it doesn't allow me in here...

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