One of the most highly anticipated games of the last couple of years has been Fallout 4, ever since the famous Kotaku leak of 2013. Now, the game has finally arrived, bringing us back to the wasteland, but how does the PC version hold up? I managed to get access to the game yesterday afternoon, so I’ve spent quite a few hours with the game to bring you my performance impressions.
Fallout 4 is running on a tweaked version of the Creation Engine, which was used in Skyrim back in 2011. As a result, most of the graphical features remain familiar, though an updated lighting system has been implemented, along with some better forms of anti-aliasing. Another important thing to note is that while Skyrim was capped at 60 frames per second, Bethesda has done away with that this time around, which is great for those running high refresh rate monitors.
Unfortunately it seems that the initial launcher doesn’t support the 21:9 aspect ratio, which is important for those running ultra-wide monitors. There is some fiddling you can do in the INI file to force an ultra-wide resolution, though some in-game aspects like the HUD don’t scale properly. This may be fixed later down the line so keep an eye out.
If you have read any of my PC port pieces in the past, like the one for Arkham Knight, Mad Max or Metal Gear Solid V, you will know that I am running an Intel Core i7 5820K, 16GB of RAM and a GTX 980Ti in my personal rig. I’m not on the hardware review team, so I don’t have access to the GPUs you will find in some of our other reviews. However, if a system as high-spec as mine struggles to run a game, then we will know something has gone quite wrong with optimization.
Now we may as well get this out of the way early, despite upgrades to the engine, Fallout 4 is not breaking any graphical boundaries. I ran the game with everything turned up as high as it would go at 2560×1440 and while the bright, colourful opening scenes were eye pleasing, that quickly goes away once we hit the wasteland.
A lot of textures are quite muddy and lack the higher levels of detail we have grown accustomed to thanks to games like The Witcher 3. This is particularly noticeable when we come across plant life in the world, or when you take a look at character eyes or clothing.
However, while textures aren’t great, Bethesda has made some excellent changes to the environment. Areas with lots of fog look great and the new lighting system is gorgeous during the day, so there is some give and take. Modders will be quick to sort out any graphical disappointments soon anyway.
Now let’s talk a bit about performance. In preparation for this piece today, I installed Nvidia’s Game Ready driver for Fallout 4 to ensure I was getting the best ‘day one’ experience I could get. Unfortunately if there was one word I could use to describe Fallout 4’s frame rate it would be ‘varied’. In the opening scenes of the game, you start off in your character’s house pre-war. In this small area, I was mostly seeing my frame rate sit at around the 105 frames per second mark, though at times it would spike up to 130 or dip as low as 80 frames per second.
Eventually, you get out in to the wasteland, which doesn’t help matters much, with the frame rate sitting at around 90 frames per second for the most part but once again varying from the high 130’s to as low as the mid 50’s on rare occasions. I found this to be most noticeable during the day, so it appears to be something to do with the new lighting system.
Things settle down considerably during the night, with my frame rate sitting steady at around the 88 to 90 frames per second mark, with very few sudden dips or rises. Hopefully Bethesda can make a few optimization adjustments over the next few weeks to stabilize the frame rate a bit more.
Just to be clear, it’s not like the game runs poorly, my frame rates are high. Unfortunately, the consistency isn’t quite up to standard just yet, sudden massive frame rate gains and dips will have a noticeable effect on smoothness throughout the game and can hurt the overall experience.
Another thing to keep in mind is that this test is only being ran on one graphics card, so it doesn’t really paint the full picture. Your system may perform very differently. However, if you are having issues, there is a handy forum post available with a ton of tweaks and potential fixes for the game ahead of the first patch.
There are a couple of bugs to watch out for, I haven’t encountered any graphical glitches so far but I have come across two major issues with the game. Firstly, there seems to be a problem with the terminal system, as I have found my character completely stuck multiple times after using them. I became so frustrated with this bug that I stopped using terminals throughout the world to gather additional lore and backstory.
I have also encountered a bug where the Power Armour animation gets stuck. You can see both bug instances in the two images above. I consider both of these issues to be game breaking, as I couldn’t move or save the game, forcing me to quit and reload. This has happened to me around five or six times so far and I have lost significant progress each time.
Now that all sounded a bit negative but I must say, I am really enjoying my time with Fallout 4. I’m about six hours in and I already feel invested in the story. On top of that, the new shooting mechanics are excellent, so much so that I rarely resort to the VATS system at all. Crafting is a major addition to the game, which helps you collect resources, the system is deep, so it is well worth exploring and making the most of.
If you are a fan of Bethesda-style open world RPGs, then Fallout 4 is worth playing and I am confident you will enjoy it. Just keep in mind that there are some issues right now that can hurt the overall experience.
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KitGuru Says: Fallout 4 is a fun game that has made quite a few improvements on the tried and true Bethesda formula. Performance could use some stabilizing and graphics aren’t mind-blowing, but the gameplay and story are both engaging and the world is big enough to supply you with hours upon hours of exploration.