Sadly, Nier: Automata and The Evil Within on Game Pass aren't actually better PC ports

When Nier: Automata and The Evil Within were added to Xbox Game Pass PC on March 17th, fans suddenly got excited. Nier: Automata, in particular, had a problematic PC port, which was mostly fine but disappointingly didn't get updates from Square Enix to resolve its obvious issues. Modders fixed it, instead. This Game Pass release, made by port studio QLOC, promised some added features like borderless windowed mode and HDR. Four years later, Nier: Automata finally got the port it deserved… or so it seemed at first glance.

The verdict from the eagle-eyed testers at Digital Foundry and modder Kaldaien, who patched up Nier: Automata back in 2017, is unfortunately the opposite. The new Game Pass versions of Nier: Automata and The Evil Within still have many of the old problems, and in some ways are actually worse than their original PC ports.

In the video above, Digital Foundry first looks at The Evil Within, which strangely ran at about 57-59 frames per second even though it was supposedly locked to 60. It's a common issue with the game engine id Tech 5, and was easily fixable in the initial port. But Digital Foundry ran into a significantly stranger performance issue in the Game Pass port, which reported it was running at 60 fps despite actually running at a ragged, bouncy 40-something fps. Reinstalling the game, and even reinstalling Windows, didn't solve the problem—and somehow its busted performance carried over to the Steam version of the game, too, if it was installed. Utterly bizarre.

At least the old version of The Evil Within runs just fine with a simple settings tweak (assuming you don't infect it with the Game Pass version, anyway). With Nier: Automata, fans hoped this port would be a significant improvement. Modder Kaldaien did significantly improve Nier: Automata with mod FAR, but a new PC port would have served as acknowledgement that Nier should have been patched rather than left as it was.

"The news isn't great," Kaldaien posted in a thread on ResetEra. "Most of what needed to be fixed in the Steam version still needs to be fixed in the Microsoft Store version. Some of it's gotten more difficult to fix. You'd think a bump from 900p hardcoded post-processing resolution to 1080p would be a marginal improvement, but they managed to increase resolution while simultaneously decreasing quality (ugh)."

The new port of Nier: Automata does have a built-in borderless mode now, which is a positive. But almost all of the graphical issues in Automata fixed by the FAR mod are still present in the Game Pass version. Digital Foundry shows off a few of them. Kaldaien also calls out "an even worse implementation of AO," or ambient occlusion, in the Game Pass version.

The original Steam versions of Nier and The Evil Within are ultimately the better way to play. Those versions can be modded, something that's still not possible with Game Pass. It may be four years old now, but I think Square Enix should still patch the Steam version, correcting the issues that Kaldaien fixed with FAR. It may not sell new copies, but it would show they actually care about what their PC players have to say.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).