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.

Christmas came a little early: Blade Runner now available on GOG.com

Well, looks like Christmas came a little early for PC gamers and fans of Westwood Studio’s superbly wonderful Blade Runner as the game – long been a nightmare to get running on modern computers due to it being released during the late 1990s – has suddenly available on GOG.com for a entirely reasonable $13 or so.

It was an instabuy for me, if I’m being honest: I read about it this morning and picked it up a few minutes later.

I have long been a fan of the original game, playing it as a teenager after winning a copy of the dis-based version of the game and a nice coffee mug emblazoned with the red Blade Runner logo: It has long disappeared). Sadly, time has not been kind to the original Blade Runner: It was released in an age when CPU clock speeds were much, much slower than they are now and the graphics were created using voxels, not powered by high-end graphics cards.

The game is set around the same time as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner movie but instead of playing as Rick Deckard, you play as Ray McCoy, a Blade Runner roaming the streets of Los Angeles 20198 in pursuit of androids that have gone rogue.

Trying to get Blade Runner working on a modern PC is a complete nightmare, to be honest, and the only way in recent times that you’ve been able to play it using files copied from your install discs is using the Scumm program which lets you run select point-and-click adventure games provided you have the data files.

Up until now, I’ve been using the Scumm to play Blade Runner but it’s so nice to see that GOG.com have picked up the rights for this (firing it up tonight it also looks as if it’s using work from the team behind Scumm as the program’s logo pops up just before the game’s opening).

I am so happy that Blade Runner is now accessible to PC players who may not have had the chance to experience the original and seeing those unmistakably visuals just brings tears to my eyes. So, so good.

I’ll still keep my OG discs, of course, but at least now I know I can play the game on my modern PC without running through hoops to do it.

Thanks for the early Christmas present, GOG.com.

 

Red Dead Redemption 2: In pictures

Red Dead Redemption 2 (PC) A story in pictures

 

It might have arrived on PC a year after the console release, but Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC is a beautiful thing. It really is.

Sure, you have to tweak a multitude of settings to get things just right (I’m currently averaging around 55 frames per second with a mix of ultra/high/medium settings) but boy, oh boy, it just looks gorgeous.

RDR2 on PC wasn’t without its problems, though: Rockstar screwed the launch royally with launcher issues, frequent crashes, and new patches that reset all the graphical settings to the default, meaning painless tweaks of each graphics preset had to be done all over again to find the optimal frame rate settings – but things seemed to have settled down now and RDR2 it’s still one of my most favourite games of recent times.

Actually, RDR2 seems to be comparable to Hideo Kojima’s recently released Death Stranding: Both are quite polarising among gamers, both criticised by some for its slow pace while adored by others. I haven’t played Death Stranding so I can’t comment on its game play but I have played RDR2 on both PS4 Pro and PC and I love it. It’s one of my favourite games of recent times.

It’s also got an amazing photo mode and there are so many great moments that I find myself pausing the game, framing a nice shot (especially if it’s night or the sun is just right) then clicking! It’s one of those games that you can document your life thanks to the photo mode.

So, enough words: Here’s is my journey so far through Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC through the lens of the game’s photo mode.

Enjoy.

 

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So … I’m sticking with my GTX660Ti and here’s why

gigabye-3gb-geforce-gtx-660-ti_boxA while back, I wrote about contemplating upgrading my current GTX660Ti graphics card with either the GTX950, which I’d won in a YouTube competition (yeah, I know right?) or something like  GTX1060 or a Radeon RX480. I’m getting back into my PC gaming and, rightly or wrongly, I didn’t think my current GPU was up to the task.

Sounds like a simple thing, right? Well, not really, as things worked out.

I’ve swapped out graphics cards before – it’s one of the easiest things you can upgrade on a PC: You simply remove the old card from the PCI-E slot on your PC’s motherboard, slot in the new one,connect the power then boot up your computer. Easy.

Well, not as far as installing the GTX950 went. Long story short, I didn’t get a signal to my monitor with the new card installed (the fans on the 950 didn’t even power up, either) but put my 660Ti back and things were sweet. It seems that the original GTX950 was faulty so after months of emails with MSi support I eventually got a replacement card and installed it, crossing my fingers in the process.

This new GTX950 didn’t work either. I visited the nVidia ANZ forums with my problem. It’s a great community and I got a lot of good suggestions but none of them worked. Someone suggested looking for a new motherboard, which was an option but I was hoping this was a simple fix. So, I swallowed my pride and did what many PC enthusiasts wouldn’t want to do: Took it to  my local computer repair guy.

Long story short, again, after being with the technician for a couple of days it seems that my Intel DZ77ga 70K motherboard – a four-year-old motherboard that is now no longer supported by Intel: Thanks for that – just won’t accept the newer GTX950.

The GTX 660Ti is based on nVidia’s Kepler Maxwell architecture, as is the GTX950, but it seems that my Intel board can’t be updated to accommodate the newer card. Frankly, that sucks on Intel’s part. How hard would it be for them to issue a BIOS update that accepts the newer card (I’m not a programmer or computer scientist so I’ve no idea how hard it would be or not)?

It’s frustrating but I don’t have the funds to upgrade my motherboard – which would also mean new RAM, a new CPU (because the current CPU won’t work on the new board) – as well as buy a new GPU. So, at this point in time, so I’m sticking with the GTX660Ti. I think I’m happy with that, too.

It’s a great card: It’s got 3Gb of VRAM and is four years old but it’s just not considered cutting edge anymore.

titanfall2-sngplyr-c_pdp_screenhi_3840x2160_en_wwThat said, I picked up Titanfall 2 the other for PC (I took a punt) and, you know what? I can run it on my GTX660Ti on medium to high settings (most on high) and am getting consistently frame rates (I haven’t run FRAPs or anything to determine what FPS I’m getting but it’s running as smooth as butter.

The minimum recommended nVidia GPU is a GTX660 while the recommended nVidia GPU is the 1060, so I’m not far off the minimum but it’s all running mighty smooth to me. Sure, I’ve had a couple of crashes to the desktop but that’s part and parcel with PC gaming, right?

I also completed Gears of War 4 last month with a mixture of mostly high settings and it was sitting around the 45FPS mark (the PC version of GOW4 is amazingly customisable, which helps). It seems my four-year-old card might still have a little bit of life in it yet.

I’m now contemplating whether my PC would actually be up to Dishonored 2 but I’ll think about that one. It might be one for the consoles, perhaps, and one that pushes the GTX660Ti one step too far.

 

 

Gears of War review: Time to rev up that lancer!

Please note, dear readers, this is a review of Gears of War 4’s campaign and not any of its MP modes. If I get time to play any of them, I’ll post my thoughts, but that said, I like single player campaigns more than MP so that might be a while …

I’ve always been a fan of the Gears of War video games.

Son of a gun: JD Fenix

Son of a gun: JD Fenix

In fact, I’ve always liked the series much more than Halo, to be honest. Maybe it’s  the over-the-top characters with larger than life calves and that it has a gun that has a freaking chainsaw attached to it, but I always liked the dude bro chemistry between original Gears characters Marcus Fenix, Dom Santiago, Damon Baird and Augustus “Cole Train”Cole as they battled the Locust.

Set 25 years after Gears of War 3, you fill the combat boots of James Dominic (JD) Fenix, the son of Gears legend Marcus Fenix, and this time around the COG (Coalition of Governments) that Marcus and his pals Dom, Cole and Baird fought for so long ago are now the enemy, with JD and colleagues Kait and Del sort of revolutionaries fighting against the machine that is now the COG.

This is a much more vibrant Gears of War game, at least compared to the dark, gritty colour tones of previous games in the series, and while it’s not unicorns and rainbows it’s nice to see colour that isn’t various shades of brown and grey.

Gears of War 4 Drone BattleGOW4 takes a while to warm up and much of that is down to the fact that for the first couple of hours all you battle are COG robots called DeeBees. Don’t give up, though, as once you start fighting the Swarm – the new enemies – things pick up for the better.

Despite a new developer, Gears of War 4 feels like a Gears game and by that I mean it’s a tightly scripted affair where rooms are combat arenas full of knee-high walls and barricades that you can hunker down behind and pick out the horde of enemies, one by one. JD smacks into walls with a satisfying thump (you can almost feel the masonry crumble as a shoulder slams into it) – and there’s always plenty of cover to move to as you advance. There are new weapons too, to mix things up a little so you don’t have to reply on the faithful lancer all the time: One that fires saw blades, while another fires projectiles that drill into the ground then explode.

Gears of War has always been about arenas where you enter a room, clear out the enemies then move towards the objective. It’s never been about open-world exploration where you can wander off the beaten track.

Narrative has never been  a strength of the Gears games and it’s pretty average here but JD Fenix is a likeable character that grew on me the more I played the game and in a nice nod to the previous Gears titles, it was nice that Marcus Fenix becomes part of the team during the latter stages of the game.

A welcome return: Marcus Fenix makes a welcome return in GOW4.

A welcome return: Marcus Fenix makes a welcome return in GOW4.

It was nice seeing The Coalition give us an older, more grizzled (could he get more grizzled?)

Marcus Fenix, a military man who has lived life as a civilian for 25 years and now lives on a farm, growing tomatoes and generally leading a quiet life (there’s a nice sequence where JD, Marcus and co make their way through Marcus’ tomato plants and Marcus complains that his plants are being destroyed).

The Coalition hasn’t reinvented Gears of War here, and I don’t think anyone expected that they would, but I felt that the middle sagged a little, with the game becoming bogged down with traipsing through Swarm-infested lairs. As you’d expect, the ending has set us up for Gears of War 5.

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Gears of War 4 looks wonderful on Xbox One – it could be the best looking game on Xbox One right now – and on PC, and it’s the third game to be released as part of Xbox’s Play Anywhere scheme where if you buy a digital copy on PC or Xbox One, you’ll get a free copy on the other platform and despite having a four-year old graphics card, I played most of the campaign on my PC. It’s incredibly scalable and my PC managed solid frame rates of close to 60 frames a second at 1080p using a mix of medium and high graphic presets. I was pleasantly surprised.

For a fan of Gears of War, I found number 4 in the series (let’s just forget that Judgement ever happened, shall we?) incredibly satisfying. It delivered all the things I wanted in a Gears game.

Now that The Coalition has got its first album out of the way, let’s see what direction the series heads in the future.

 

 

Deus Ex Mankind Divided new trailer

Umm, I’ll just leave this here, shall I? I watched it a few times, I must admit. I’m hyped for this game. HYPED!

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is out on PC, Xbox One and PS 4 on August 23 and you’ll be able to buy just the game itself (that’ll do me nicely) or two boxed versions. The Day-One edition which features an extra in-game mission (this sort of thing pisses me, to be honest: Why not give the level to everyone who paid for the game??),  Covert agent packs which contains a compilation of in-game items, including various weapons, re-skins, and upgrades, a digital copy of the original soundtrack (this would be most excellent as it is being done by the most excellent Michael McCann) and digital copies of a mini artbook, novella and comic book.

Then there’s the collectors edition (I bought the Batman Arkham Knight Collectors edition and after that, I’ve decided I’ll never buy a collectors edition again. I just don’t think they’re generally worth the money you pay) which comes with all the Day-One edition content, a 9-inch Adam Jensen figurine, a black and gold prism-shaped box, a 48-page art book and a steelbook.

Fallout 4: Welcome to the Wasteland, my friend

Fallout-4I’m only about 11 hours into Fallout 4 but it’s grown on me more than I expected it to.

What I’m saying is that I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did: It has some things I don’t like, it’s buggy and at one point the narrative didn’t sync with what I’d done earlier  but I’m enjoying it. I’ve taken on Super Mutants at a Brotherhood of Steel armoury, traded gun fire with synthetic humans in a hideout and see strange two-headed cows carrying supplies. The Wasteland is a strange, strange world. It’s set in what’s left of Boston.

I didn’t like Fallout 3 that much. In fact, I don’t remember playing much of it at all. It didn’t help that I had no idea how the VATS system worked or how deeply involved the RPG side could get. I gave up. I don’t regret that. It didn’t grab me so there was no point playing it.

Fallout 4 seems different, though. It seems lot more accessible than F3, but maybe that’s just because I’m more open-minded about the series now and am taking time to play it. I don’t have the time to sink 72 bajillion hours into it, neglect my family and be chained to my PC (I”m playing on PC) all hours  – I have a job to go to – but I’m playing an hour or so each night, so I guess you say I’m hooked.

I’ve met some interesting people along the way and I’ve tinkered around a little with the base building, too, and yeah, it’s fun. Actually, it could be the most engaging part of Fallout 4, even if Bethesda hasn’t really told people how to get the most out of it.

I built a rather shitty little hut in Sanctuary that had mismatching roof panels and gaps between the walls but the game let me hook a generator up to it and some lights. For some reason, I plonked a computer terminal outside it.  I should have taken a screenshot [note to self: Take some screenshots]

I don’t like the fact that it doesn’t take long for my character’s pockets/backpack/inventory to be full: The game constantly telling me I can’t run because of it and it’s buggy at times. During one mission, after I got into an elevator, my AI companion suddenly appeared beside me after the doors had closed. Then I managed to push him through the side of the elevator just by nudging him. I know people know Bethesda games are buggy, I hear people saying that all the time but is that acceptable? Should we accept the game in that state?

Fallout4_PrestonI know Fallout 4 is a huge game – hours and hours and hours long – but Bethesda just seem to get a Get out Jail Free card sometimes for the buggy nature of its games just because of the sheer scope and magnitude of them. People are saying Fallout 4 is Game of the Year material. I don’t know yet. If you’d asked me six hours into my play through, I would have said “Nope, it’s not Game of the Year for me”. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ve played a handful of really good games this year so I’m not picking that one yet.

I’m going to keep plugging away at Fallout 4. I want to explore more of the Wasteland, scavenge more useless stuff, and take out Super Mutants in my Power Armour. I want to meet more interesting characters like Nick Valentine.

Oh, yeah, about the Power Armour. You find it quite early in the game (I’m sure that’s not a spoiler), which I think kind of takes away the mystique of the whole thing. Someone told me that it took hours in Fallout 3 before you were even ready to use the Power Armour. In Fallout 4, your almost handed it on a plate during an early mission. Yes, the Power Armour is cool (until you run out of power core juice) but come on, Bethesda, let people work a little harder to get it, huh? I like the fact that you can customise your armour at special workstations and craft weapon mods and stuff. That’s really cool.

ScreenShot0Oh, hey, wait: I’ve just found a screen shot I took of me wearing Power Armour. I’m in the sky. On an airship owned by the Brotherhood of Steel.

So the long story short, so far, is that I’m liking Fallout 4. Whether I’ll still be enamoured in another 10 hours time, I’m not sure. I’ll keep you posted.

Homeworld Remastered Let’s Play: Part two

OK, here’s my second video of me playing an early mission of Homeworld Remastered (no commentary).

The mission takes place in the Great Wastelands where we meet an alien race called the Bentusi who give us weapons technology to use on enemies. The final task of the mission is to destroy an enemy carrier before it jumps to hyperspace: I fail. Seems like I need to have more bombers and interceptors and have them attack the heck out of that thing.

Enjoy.

Watch The Witcher 3 running on my Geforce 660Ti

OK, so I last night I used nVidia’s Shadowplay video capturing software to record just under 10 minutes of game play from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I just wanted to show you how the game looked on what is considered the minimum specced GPU for the game.

As I said yesterday, I’m running the game on what I  consider to be an ageing GPU: A Geforce GTX660Ti but it seems to handle the game OK.

Every thing is set to medium and I have locked the frame rate to 30FPS so I can ensure a consistent  experience. Things look nicer on medium settings than on low, especially the grass and other foliage. It’s just a pretty game, to be honest.

Sadly, I forgot to activate the FPS counter while I was playing so can’t see what the  frame rates were doing but everything seemed smooth and very much playable. There was no combat so I can’t see what happens during heavy combat but if I get the chance over the next day or so (work commitments dependent) I’ll record some more footage with the FPS counter running.

Any questions, post a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer. Thanks for watching.

Well, well, my Geforce GTX can make The Witcher 3 look good!

While my PS4 copy of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt hasn’t materialised yet (it was mailed out on May 15, apparently), I was lucky enough to get a PC code from the game’s distributor in Australasia (clearly my annoying him with emails worked).

I’m nowhere near a review yet – nor impressions – but I thought I’d post some screen shots taken using Fraps. My PC is has the CPU grunt – it’s running an Intel i7 – but only meets the minimum for GPU: An nVidia Geforce 660Ti.

I was expecting it to struggle but, frankly, it hasn’t, posting frame rates in the high 50s on low settings and the mid to high 40 frames per second on medium settings. Imagine what a more recent GPU will do!

In the meantime, feast on these images (low graphics settings) and I’ll post more impressions as the days follow.

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