Last week, modder TheWorse released the final version of his now infamous Watch Dogs graphical mod (opens in new tab) , and we decided to put it to the test by offering it up to the angry god we call the Large Pixel Collider. Ubisoft has stated that the mod could have a negative impact on performance and gameplay (opens in new tab) , so I jumped on Watch Dogs ummodded with the settings maxed out, and then installed TheWorse Mod 1.0 to document the changes and to settle this once and for all.
Before creating his mod, TheWorse found shaders and graphical settings labeled "E3" in the Watch Dogs code. Switching them back on enabled graphics closer to those shown from Watch Dogs initial announcement at E3 2012 (opens in new tab) . Since then, he's gone in to fine tune those settings and teamed up with modder MaLDo to add textures intended to reduce stuttering on some machines. (opens in new tab)
I played both the modded and standard versions on the LPC at 2560X1440 resolution with all the graphics settings cranked to the max. TheWorse Mod can be used with or without the MaLDo textures, but I chose to use them. An important note to anyone who does the same: in order to use the MaLDo textures, you must set your texture detail to “High” and not “Ultra.”
It's hard to deny that TheWorse Mod makes Watch Dogs look more cinematic, and when shown in a side-by-side screenshot the standard game seems much flatter, but it's very easy to make a still image look good. What the above image doesn't capture very well is how strong the depth of field is in TheWorse Mod. You can barely see the people across the street from you, as if installing the mod also removes Aiden's contact lenses. The extreme depth of field makes images and videos of TheWorse Mod look phenomenal, but when you are actually playing the game it can be incredibly distracting.
Ubisoft said that this mod could hurt performance compared to the standard game, and right off the bat I noticed stuttering and frame skipping in both versions. Standard Watch Dogs was running at a consistent average of 50 fps, but it would occasionally stutter, especially during fast driving segments. I found that with TheWorse Mod installed, the game was running at around 10 fps slower, averaging around 40 fps. The stuttering was identical during the day, but was also much more common at night and while raining, to the point where it affected my ability to drive well.(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
Bad weather taxes Watch Dogs' performance the most, and one of the largest changes I noticed in TheWorse Mod was increased rain density and intensity of lighting effects. TheWorse Mod makes almost all times of day darker while bumping up the contrast. It gives all the landscapes more depth, but the darker scenery resulted in the TheWorse enabling streetlights and headlights during rain at any time of day. During the daytime, the game's performance was comparable to the unmodded version, but at night and in the rain there is a noticeable drop in stability.
Based on our testing, Watch Dogs averages a lower framerate with TheWorse Mod 1.0 installed. The trade-off for that performance hit is more dramatic lighting and weather effects and stronger depth of field, which looks fantastic in screenshots but can be overbearing during gameplay. We experienced stuttering playing both vanilla and modded Watch Dogs, but the game may perform differently on your system.
If you want to test TheWorse Mod 1.0 for yourself, it's simple to install (opens in new tab) (and uninstall, if it doesn't improve your experience). Watch the video above to see vanilla and modded Watch Dogs side-by-side, and let us know if the mod increases or decreases performance on your PC.