The Watch Dogs 2 PC port is great

It's a reminder that an extra two weeks in the oven can be good for PC games.

Marcus taking a selfie on my work PC.

The two-week delay to play Watch Dogs 2 on the PC has been worth it. As I suspected in my hands-on impressions of the PC version earlier this month, it runs well, has a ton of graphical options, and comes with a complete set of quality-of-life adjustments for mouse and keyboard players. 

I played the game for a total 15 hours on three different PCs to get a feel for how it runs on different hardware, and overall it’s a pretty picture.

Overlooking San Francisco on the LPC

Home
GPU: AMD R9 Nano
CPU: Intel Core i5-4690k
RAM: 16GB DDR4

My home PC can’t push Watch Dogs 2 to the max, with the anti-aliasing as the primary framerate culprit. Even so, it still looks nice, and I can run it on a custom arrangement of high to ultra settings at a constant 60 fps in 1920x1080.

Work
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti
CPU: Intel Core i7-5960X
RAM: 32GB DDR4

My work PC does a fine job as well, though my monitor’s higher 2560x1440 resolution means every graphical setting requires a bit more juice. On a mix of high to ultra settings, I’m able to run the game at around 60 fps (plus or minus 10 or so frames depending on weather effects and draw distance). Again, anti-aliasing is the biggest resource hog. Anything above 2x FXAA knocks takes me down to 45 fps or so, and I’m not happy using mouselook with anything less than 60 fps.

Sailing on the LPC

LPC
GPU: Nvidia Titan X (2)
CPU: Intel Core i7-6950X
RAM: 128GB DDR4
 

At 4K (3840x2178) with the LPC, our absurdly powerful computer, I could turn up everything and get a solid 40 fps. I know that 40 fps isn’t ideal for PC gaming, but at 4K and with as many bells and whistles as Watch Dogs 2 has, it’s pretty impressive. For a third time, anti-aliasing proved the biggest frame hog, and turning it down helps a ton—the 4K resolution makes it less important, anyway.

Graphics settings 

If you’re curious, here’s a look at all the graphics settings. Good news, there’s an FOV slider even though it’s a third-person action game. It’s not really necessary, but there anyway. Shadow and reflection options are broken down into several sections each, a few with some fairly advanced tech. One option makes shadows blur the further they are from their casting source—a small flourish that won’t make or break the illusion one way or the other, but a welcome one anyway. There’s even an option to turn San Francisco’s signature fog on and off. Since I live in a section of the city that’s always in a cloud, I was tempted to keep it off, but that wouldn’t be faithful. 

It won’t run like butter with everything turned up, even on the best PCs out there, especially if you’re pushing resolutions above 1920x1080. But that isn't an indication of poor optimization.  It's an indication of how scalable Watch Dogs 2's PC options are. If you want to run it on a PC with a few years under its belt, chances are you can without sacrificing too much fidelity. If you want a PC game to push your $10,000 custom build to its limits, Watch Dogs 2 has enough high-end graphical options to give it a run for its money. 

Control options

Having spent about 15 hours playing Watch Dogs 2 with a mouse and keyboard, it's easily a superior option to using a gamepad, at least in terms of accuracy and convenience. Controlling Marcus is as natural and quick as an FPS with mouselook since his animations have been sped up to accommodate jerky movements. Vehicles feel nice too, despite the typically awkward on-off analog control of key presses. You can tweak everything from steering sensitivity to how quickly the car camera auto-centers to face forward when you're making a turn. Every key for every control method—Marcus, vehicles, drones—can be reassigned. There's a lot to play with, more than we're used to with the majority of PC ports these days. 

Look for our Watch Dogs 2 review later this week. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

At only 11 years old, James took apart his parents’ computer and couldn’t figure out how to put it back together again. As an Associate Editor, he’s embarked on a dangerous quest to solve Video Games. Wish him luck.
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