Nier: Automata's PC port is playable, but disappointing

It's locked to 60 fps, for one thing.

Nier: Automata is out on Steam today, and we've only just started playing, so we won't have a review up until next week. In the meantime, I've taken a quick tour of the settings and performance, and the news is sadly mixed. It's passable enough to play, but Nier has a few obvious issues.

My most trivial complaint is that navigating the menus is awkward with a mouse and keyboard, as you weirdly have to hit escape to exit submenus, even with the list of other options in plain view. It also reverts to windowed mode every time I alt-tab, which might only be an annoyance for someone like me, a constant alt-tabber.

There are several controller configurations, and keybindings are customizable, which is appreciated. The twin-stick shooting sections of the opening sequence are awkward with a mouse, though. Rather than controlling the direction of your guns in a smooth circle, mouse movements stutter between set straight and diagonal directions. Frustrating as it is, I was able to complete the intro despite the issue, and had no problems with the mouse control in ground combat.

Moving onto more important things, I have one bit of good news. At first, I thought that Nier didn't support ultrawide displays. It didn't matter whether I selected 1920x1080 or 2560x1080, the image was clearly being stretched. After investigating further, I discovered that Nier actually does render at 21:9, it's just that the menus and UI overlay don't. So while your health bar, for instance, will appear stretched out, the actual game world takes to the extra width just fine. The UI issues may be fixable in the future with a mod.

Some players are reporting on Steam that Nier won't even run at 1920x1080 in fullscreen mode, instead upscaling from a lower resolution. I haven't experienced that problem, and also got it to run at higher resolutions, so 1440p and 4K are options. If such a fullscreen resolution bug does exist, though, one solution may be to run it in borderless windowed mode. Nier doesn't have the option built in, but Borderless Gaming did the trick for me. 

Arbitrary resolution support is a mark in the pros column, but things go downhill when it comes to performance. Nier is locked to 60 fps, and cutscenes play at 30 fps. With all the graphics settings turned up, I mostly hit just under 60 fps on my PC—Intel Core i5-3570, 8 GB RAM, Nvidia GTX Titan—but occasionally dropped to around 45 fps. Turning anti-aliasing down a couple notches kept it above 50 without too much of a visual hit, but to maintain 60 fps at 1920x1080 I had to turn anti-aliasing and ambient occlusion completely off.

Nier: Automata on the 'low' graphics preset.

Nier: Automata on the 'high' graphics preset.

We also tested Nier at the 'high' preset on a GTX 1060, and had about the same result: 45-55 fps on the ground, and 55-60 during the opening SHMUP section. 

The official minimum specs call for a GeForce GTX 770, and that should run it. But regardless of GPU, holding a steady 60 fps at high settings is apparently an issue, as players on Steam are reporting sub-60 framerates even with better cards. Our own test with a GTX 1080 earned us a stable 60 fps even at 1440p, so it's unclear what the bottleneck is.

Other Steam users have also reported frequent crashes, but I've only had two, and both occurred directly after grabbing a screenshot. I haven't had any crashes when I leave ShadowPlay, FRAPs, and MSI Afterburner out of it. Those who are experiencing regular crashing, however, may find the issue especially frustrating in Nier, because it does not use autosaving—I foresee great sadness in someone's future.

All combined, these issues make for a playable but somewhat disappointing port—at least until a hypothetical patch comes out. I'm willing to play Nier: Automata under these conditions (only because I really want to play it) but performance sticklers beware. At least with Steam's refund policy, you can test it and then put your $60/£40 toward another game if it doesn't run to your liking.

Bo Moore contributed testing to this article.