Watch Dogs is coming to town, and it’s time to explorer the tech-filled city of Chicago in whatever ride you can find.
One of the most anticipated part of Watch Dogs were the mesmerizing visuals on display in the first set of gameplay footage and various trailers that followed.
However, as time has progressed, sadly the content reveal has seemed to have decreased in graphical quality compared to the first time we saw the game.
Watch Dogs Tweaks
PC gamers however, with all the powers in their hands, will feel more optimistic and a larger ray of hope.
After all, we’ve got things in our control, because we can tweak things to our needs in a plethora of settings that can be found in deeply hidden away configuration files, in addition to the already ever-present graphical options in the in-game settings.
Let’s have a look at the in-game settings first, then we’ll go into the in-depth stuff associated with the configuration files.
Ambient Occlusion adds contact shadows when two surfaces meet together, and can make for some pretty sweet lighting effects, especially ones associated with the sun.
Nvidia boasts its own exclusive HBAO model for this effect, whereas AMD tends to use the HDAO. HBAO+ however also works on AMD cards if you’re using one.
If you wish to override the setting, you can attempt to do so from your Catalyst Control Center by adding a custom game.
The overall visual difference between HBAO and HDAO won’t be too noticeable, so it’s best to just leave this at HBAO on High settings for the best visual.
Every PC gamer knows what Antialiasing is, and Watch Dogs contains an additional Nvidia exclusive setting called “TXAA”. If you’re using a powerful Nvidia card, it might be a good idea to use the TXAA module.
Those with AMD cards should override the system altogether through the Catalyst Center, and utilize the Adaptive Antialiasing instead. This will optimize the game for the AMD-based card.
If your AMD card is powerful enough, and you want to get a slightly smoothened out effect, you might want to try out the Morphological Filtering setting as well.
Folks with the enthusiast range of graphic cards should utilize MSAA. This is multi-sampling antialiasing and demands hefty hardware usage, so only if you are run the game with everything else maxed out smoothly should you try this.
Depth of Field
DoF adds a focusing effect to the game, with objects in the distance blurring out compared to the ones close by. This is especially noticeable during the cutscenes of the game.
This option really sets the PC version of Watch Dogs apart from the consoles, and doesn’t have too much of an impact on performance.
Level of Detail
The sound of this setting is fairly generic, but it can have the biggest impact on both performance and visual, depending on where you’re going. Level of Detail tends to add additional objects and subtle visuals that add to the complexity of the scenery.
Reducing this option will greatly improve performance as the polygon count (and hence the effects rendered for them) will decrease, but the visuals will seem empty and bland.
For most high-end cards, this should be set to High, with enthusiast cards going up to Ultra. Results show that a difference of around 9 FPS can be experienced between High and Ultra, whereas the visual difference is much less evident.
This is a self-explanatory effect, and should be changed according to your needs. Reflections are more evident at night time and during rainy environments, with Ultra setting providing the most realistic kind.
The performance drop isn’t too huge compared to some of the others, so if you have a good card you should consider keeping this at Ultra.
Shaders can be enhanced and lowered, and have a massive impact on the visuals. There are several important hardware specifications that aid in performance with high quality shaders, namely Video RAM, Shader Processors, and Bandwidth.
Cards with lower bandwidths should avoid high quality shaders on higher resolutions, whereas those with around 3GB VRAM and 256-bit or above bandwidth could utilize the High settings.
Another self-explanatory setting. Surprisingly, shadows in Watch Dogs had a much lesser impact on performance than they do in other games, as far as our tests are concerned.
Recommended shadows are High or Ultra. If you’re having performance issues on High, chances are you won’t benefit too much by reducing Shadows to Medium – look to other settings to gain improvement in performance
This is where many Watch Dogs players will sigh in disappointment. Textures in Watch Dogs are binary: you can run them fine on Ultra, or you can’t. Ultra settings for Textures will require a card with 3GB VRAM.
If you have any less you’ll run out of video memory, and will have to make-do with High or Medium.
There is a massive difference in even the structural details of various artifacts in the game when Textures settings are changed, with noticeable less polygon count on lower settings.
If you have 3GB or higher VRAM, there is no reason to go below Ultra, since texture details doesn’t have much impact on performance. If you have less than 3GB, stick to High.
Self-explanatory – water will rarely be an issue during the day time in Watch Dogs, but the city light reflections during night can have an impact on performance.
If you’re seeing performance drops when sailing a boat, try lowering the settings a bit to see if it helps.
Watch Dogs GamerProfile Tweaks
First off, you want to locate your GamerProfile.xml file, which holds all the graphics and performance related settings in the form of variables with values – something PC gamers should be quite aware of.
This is located in C:\Users\USERNAME\Documents\My Games\Watch_Dogs and will reveal a plethora of options that can be tweaked.
Before moving forward, make sure to make a backup copy of the configuration file – any change the renders the game unplayable is not our fault.
Now, don’t get confused when you open this file up (by default it will most likely open up in Internet Explorer – right click and open it with Notepad instead).
There’s a lot of seemingly senseless gibberish in there, but with a bit of guidance, you can make your game look much better than it does.
Note that we are only including the settings that should be fondled with.
This setting should be set to 1 instead of the default 0 if you want to gain multi-sampling for alpha textures. This will improve image quality greatly, though it will have an impact on performance.
A lot of users who have changed the default value from “console” to “pc” have stated that the images look better. A lot of others have said that it is just a placebo effect.
Change it to “pc” nevertheless and decide for yourselves, as it seems to have no apparent impact on performance.
Like the previous one, change this to “pc” from “console”. The change from this is slightly more evident as it improves the quality and fidelity of the Depth of Field effect during cutscenes and in certain parts of the gameplay.
This variable is related to the effects rendered by Depth of Field focus. Change this to “pc” to gain slight improvement in performance.
This is one of several settings that is tied to the in-game Level of Detail setting. If you wish to manually adjust the different variables tied to LoD, you can do so from the GamerProfile config. Change this setting to your preference.
This is once again another setting that is tied to Level of Detail, and can be changed individually to give users advanced control of the LoD settings.
This is the third variable tied to Level of Detail. It controls the physics associated with water, cloth, and wind-based movement.
If you have an Nvidia card capable of handling powerful physics and have Level of Detail set to less than Ultra, chance this to get more realistic movement of fluid systems.
This setting can help in improving quality by changing it to “medium” or “low”. However, the reduction in image quality will be sizeable.
This setting will disable the splashes from rain and walking. Reducing this setting will help you utilize higher shader and reflection settings better with the shine and lighting effects.
This will massively improve the image quality of your game by overriding and going beyond MSAA 4x. However, the drop in performance will be very noticeable.
It also tends to corrupt reflections caused by Water effects. Use this setting if you wish to experiment or are not satisfied with your current antialiasing settings.
This variable is the fourth one tied to the in-game Level of Detail setting. Changing this will remove objects in the terrain and improve performance.
This setting controls foliage and is the fifth to be tied with the in-game Level of Detail setting. Lowering this barely improves performance.
If you come across any other tweaks that nVidia Maestros may have missed, you can comment and we will add them up!