Cyberpunk 2077: Is it playable with a four-year old graphics card?

Let’s get this out in the open from the start: This is not a review of Cyberpunk 2077 or commentary on its current state on last-generation consoles. The internet has plenty of discussion on the console versions for you to digest.

I have, however, started playing it on PlayStation 5 (the PS4 version). I’ve played a handful of hours but have decided to park it until the PS5 upgrade is available. I don’t want to refund the game as it was – as I may have said before – a gift from my children for Father’s Day – last year so I’ll stick with it.

A common theme, however, that seems to crop up is that Cyberpunk 2077 is a much better experience on PC. I reckon it is so I was keen to see how it ran on what it probably considered a mid-range PC these days because, let’s face it, not everyone can afford a high-end Intel or AMD CPU paired with an eye-wateringly expensive RTX3090 graphics card. I know I certainly can’t [I’d love to have a better GPU but can’t afford it right now. If there are any GPU manufacturers keen to hit me up you can email me at gamejunkienz@gmail.com…]

So I approached the Australian PR team for NamcoBandai to see if they would provide a PC code so I could testing the PC version on my rig: And kudos to the team, they sent me a code, redeemable through GOG.com.

For Cyberpunk 2077, developer CD Projekt Red recommends a minimum i5 3560K or Ryzen FX8310, 8Gb RAM and a nVidia GTX780 or AMD470. Recommended specifications are an Intel i7 4790 or an AMD Ryzen 3 3200G and a GTX1060 6Gb or a Radeon R9 Fury graphics card.

My PC is pretty mid-range these days, I reckon: An i5 8400, 16Gb PNY RGB RAM & a Sapphire RX580 8Gb, which is something like a four year old graphics card but its no slouch when it comes to performance. I’m playing at a resolution of 1080p on a 27-inch 144Hz LG monitor.

What I wanted to test was was simple enough: I wanted to see if I could I run Cyberpunk 2077, a game that was clearly developed for PC first and console second, on my mid-range (probably low-end to some PC owners) PC rather than a super computer which is what many reviewers seemed to play it on.

Using the optimised settings by Alex Battaglia from Digital Foundry & tweaks by YouTube channel RX580, I set about adjusting settings until I got what seemed to the ideal marriage between performance and visuals.

As you’d expect for a PC game, it has a  plethora of tweakable settings such as being able to adjust the number of pedestrians on screen, contact shadows, improved facial lighting geometry, volumetric clouds and fog and screen space reflections. I also switched on AMD’s Fidelity CAS [Contrast Adaptive Sharpening) which sharpens and optimally scales an image to see what impact that had on frame rate (it seemed to gain me a few frames). I also lowered volumetric fog to medium and Screen Space Reflections to medium. Obviously, I’m not using any ray tracing as it isn’t supported by the RX580.

I played the same story line I did on console – Nomad V – and frankly, the difference visually between PC and console is stark: Cyberpunk is without a doubt a much more visually stunning game on PC than it is on console, even without ray tracing. This is partly the reason I want to keep my console version: I want to see what the PlayStation 5 is capable of when the eventual upgrade lands and that ray tracing is shown off.

Using AMD’s in-built Radeon monitoring software, I found that Cyberpunk 2077 pushes the RX580 to its limits, with GPU utilisation sitting at 100% a lot of the time. Remarkably, the hottest the card seemed to get was around 74 degrees but the fans were definitely working overtime, sounding like a jumbo jet taking off a lot of the time.

My RX580 has a VRAM clock of 4210MHz and a memory clock of 2000MHz. Cyberpunk 2077 seems to be more GPU heavy than CPU heavy [CPU utilisation fluctuated from between 40% to 85%.] A one point I was using 8.2Gb of RAM (the card only has 8Gb on board).

But what about the all important frame rates? In-game it ranged between 36 frames per second right up to 48 frames per seconds. Occasionally, it even crept above 50 frames per second. I had it capped at 60FPS but I never got realistically close to that.

It did drop to 36FPS during the opening garage sequence in the nomad story line, strangely, but then rose back up to early 40s when arriving in Night City. In the van shoot out sequence early in the game, the frame rate dropped below 30 frames per second but that seem to be a common hiccup point for most players.

For the most part, though, the game averaged around 38-40 frames per second, which I’m really, really happy with, given the GPU I have. I noticed the frame rate often dropped to the mid-30s during heavy combat sequences, which is still certainly playable.

I haven’t experienced any crashes but I have had bugs and glitches. I had a weird audio one that made all the voices crackly, forcing a restart to sort it. A couple of times V’s scanner remained on screen even when I had deactivated it. Jackie, V’s friend, walked through an elevator door once and I had a classic bad-guy-caught-in-a-loop-in-an-elevator bug during a firefight. I just lobbed a grenade in: That sorted him out.

I’ve noticed signage (for the most part) and textures are definitely a lot crisper on PC than it is on PS4 version: For example, At the border station in the opening moments of the nomad story line, I couldn’t read the text on the map of the United States due to it being so blurry. On the PC version, it was crystal clear. 

Cyberpunk 2077 also has a pretty amazing photo mode and you can pretty much activate it any time you want during the game then use the in-built editor to tweak things. All the images for this write up were taken with the photo mode and showcase just how damn good the game looks on PC. I’ve also captured some footage of the game play: No spoilers, really, it’s pretty early content.

So there you have it: I’m pleasantly surprised that my RX580, an 8Gb GPU that is hardly cutting edge these days, is able to play Cyberpunk 2077 comfortably and it looks good to boot.

Look, it’s clear to me that Cyberpunk 2077 is a much superior game on PC than it is on console and while I will be playing it on my PlayStation 5 now is not the time: I’ll play through it again with another story line once the next-generation (technically it’s current-generation) upgrade has been released. I have no idea when that will be, though.

For the time being, I’ll keep plugging away with the PC version, dreaming of the day I’ll be able to afford a card capable of ray tracing.

3 thoughts on “Cyberpunk 2077: Is it playable with a four-year old graphics card?

  1. I am waiting until the first large patch drop in Jan before I dive into the game.
    I’ve played maybe 3 hours in total and have been impressed with the world building and visuals. My rig is quite beefy (i7 9700K, 32Gb DDR4, and a shiny new RTX 3080). Ray Tracing @ 4K is impossible, I get low 20’s FPS, but DLSS is amazing. Running the “Balanced” setting I can turn on almost everything to full and maintain a solid 60fps at “4K’ (is actually rendering @1080p but uses machine learning to upscale to 4K). It is amazing tech! But I have plenty of other games I need to complete, so I will park Cyberpunk until the New Year. After all, my Norsemen cant conquer England without my help.

    • Nice one, Chris. I’m hoping I can pick up an RTX card next year, even of it’s a 2000 series card, so I can see RTX in all its glory. I’m probably 12 hours in & the number of missions available is almost overwhelming.

  2. Yeah Definitely had a similar experience as you in regards to bugs. Nothing game breaking just things that take me out of the moment. Night is a pretty beautiful place and I just wish they gave it a bit more time.

    I’ve got a decent rig myself (RTX 2070 super) and can nearly max the settings except for raytracing which I can only set on medium before frames badly drop.

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