Blizzard announced in January that Overwatch had surpassed the 25 million player milestone, but despite being nearly a year old, there’s still no standardized way to benchmark the game. We’ve developed our own method instead, which we’re debuting with this GPU optimization guide.
Overwatch is an unusual title for us to benchmark. As a first person shooter, the priority for many players is on sustained high framerates rather than on overall graphical quality. Although Overwatch isn’t incredibly demanding (original recommended specs were a GTX 660 or a Radeon HD 7950), users with mid-range hardware might have a hard time staying above 60FPS at the highest presets. This Overwatch GPU optimization guide is for those users, with some graphics settings explanations straight from Blizzard to GN.
We saw a lot of games at PAX West and, as always, didn’t get a chance to cover all of them individually. One little game stood out, though: Midair, the spiritual successor to the Tribes series.
Cloistered away in the back of the sixth floor of the Seattle Convention Center, Archetype Studios barely got their game into PAX. Another exhibitor dropped out of the show two weeks prior to kick-off, opening a slot for waitlisted Archetype. As longtime fans of the Tribes series, Archetype Studios and its founders were disappointed by Tribes: Ascend’s support and payment model, leading to the creation of Midair. The game was already successfully Kickstarted for nearly $130,000, about 30% more than initially asked.
System integrator iBUYPOWER is furthering its commitment to eSports with the return of the iBUYPOWER CS:GO Invitational, accompanied by the newly introduced iBUYPOWER Overwatch Invitational. This weekend-long event begins on July 16th. Those in Santa Ana area can show up at eSports Arena to play in the free-to-play area and to compete in side events at the venue. Games will be streamed from the event floor.
CS:GO, League of Legends, Overwatch, and Super Smash Bros. will all be set up to play.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is EA’s reboot of their 2009 first-person parkour game. The first Mirror’s Edge was well-received for its advanced visuals and intuitive, mechanical gameplay. For some of those who played the first ME, time has only sweetened memories of the innovative parkour-style gameplay. When EA and DICE announced the sequel, we were immediately interested -- we liked the first game most for its time trials and 3D platforming, somewhat unique in execution with Mirror’s Edge.
Like its predecessor, gameplay in ME Catalyst is deceptively simple. You run, you jump, you slide, and sometimes, you kick. We pick-up playing as Faith, a young woman who makes her living as an aptly titled ‘runner.’ If you couldn’t guess, that means she runs items and information from point-to-point, like a courier -- but in a dystopian future where private security companies routinely invade the privacy of citizens. Runners allow data to be moved about more discreetly. As a runner, you traverse the rooftops of Glass -- the city ME Catalyst takes place in -- almost entirely made of a white concrete that stays freakishly clean. Those rooftops also host a lot of ventilation, piping, and fences, all of which are used to the advantage of our parkour-trained runner. Navigation of the rooftops is left largely up to player, but certain obstacles light-up red to guide the player towards the objective.
Mirror's Edge – the first game – had some of the most intensive graphics of its time. Just enabling PhysX alone was enough to bring most systems to their knees, particularly when choppers unloaded their miniguns into glass to create infinitesimal shards. The new game just came out, and aims to bring optimized, high-fidelity visuals to the series.
Our Mirror's Edge Catalyst graphics card benchmark tests FPS performance on the GTX 1080, 1070, 970, 960, AMD R9 Fury X, 390X, 380X, and more. We're trying to add more cards as we continue to circumvent the DRM activation restrictions – which we're mostly doing by purchasing the game on multiple accounts (update: we were able to get around the limitations with two codes, and it seems that the activation limitation expires after just 24 hours). The video card benchmark looks at performance scaling between High, Ultra, and “Hyper” settings, and runs the tests for 1080p (Ultra), 1440p (Ultra), and 4K (High), with a splash of 1080p/Hyper tests.
We've also looked briefly into VRAM consumption (further below) and have defined some of the core game graphics settings.
Update: We have received the following statement from EA Games:
"I checked with our dev team they confirmed that Origin for PC and Mac allows players to activate EA games (including Star Wars Battlefront) five times a day. If you’ve activated a game five times that day, you’ll be able to activate the game again 24 hours after your first activation of the day. This includes installs on new machines and new hardware configurations. If you are encountering something different I’m happy to put you in touch with a dev to remedy the roadblock." (Angella Wong, EA Games Integrated Communications Manager).
Our 24-hour window should tick-over soon and allow us to validate this. If this is the case, the Denuvo DRM limitation on hardware changes would largely be a non-issue -- as stated in the original piece (below), no normal user would be feverishly switching hardware 4-5 times in 24 hours. We will test and report back. Original content follows.
As an aside, here's our Mirror's Edge Catalyst GPU benchmark, now finalized.
EA's new Mirror's Edge Catalyst uses DRM to impose activation limits on the game, restricting total hardware configuration changes to four. That means that, over your life of ownership, you may have to buy the game multiple times if hoping to return in several years from now. We discovered this previously with Star Wars: Battlefront – another EA Origin title – and actually ended up buying it multiple times just to test GPUs.
We've gotten through four video cards in our GPU suite (which spans more than 10 total devices) and have already encountered the dreaded “We're Sorry. An error has occurred. Too many computers have accessed this account's version of Mirror's Edge Catalyst.”
Doom is one of PC gaming’s most celebrated titles. A flagship title and pioneer of the FPS genre, Doom established first-person shooters as one of the most prolific genres in gaming. Despite this, the franchise is almost 23 years old -- and that age bears with it a need to update. A whole generation of gamers weren’t even born when the first and second games were released (1993 and 1994). The third title was fairly well-received, but didn’t seem to have the same impact and staying power as its older brothers. Now, eleven years after the eponymous film, the fourth installment has been launched, simply named “DOOM” (caps optional). This is effectively Doom 4.
Doom carries a lot of stature with its name, but it’s being launched into crowded waters. Id Software has always put an emphasis on singleplayer when it comes to the Doom titles; the focus on multiplayer was left to their Quake titles. If it was Doom that made FPS games popular, it was Quake that made competitive gaming and online twitch play popular. The most popular FPS games around today are vastly different than the twitch shooters of old. Like classic twitch shooters, games like Call of Duty still place a heavy emphasis on mobility, speed, and reflexes; unlike the older games, however, games like CoD put more emphasis on what happens in-between games. Building a loadout/class and unlocking weapons plays significantly into how progression and staying power are managed. Regenerating health means encounters with other players are more likely to be fair, and the wondrous world of pickups has been all but abandoned.
Game Director Stig Asmussen recently posted to Respawn Entertainment's website that “I am happy to announce our partnership with Electronic Arts and Lucasfilm to deliver a whole new adventure to the galaxy.” Asmussen says that the company has begun work on a third-person Star Wars action-adventure title, and posted the announcement partially to make a call to talent for hire.
Respawn is known almost exclusively for Titanfall and is a studio founded by former Infinity Ward executives Vince Zampella and Jason West. With an expansive game making history, to include Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (recently remastered), Respawn believes it will herald the “exemplary level of quality first established at Respawn with Titanfall, a game that epitomizes our studio's dedication to […] groundbreaking mechanics.”
Before Rainbow Six: Siege launched, it seemed like the game had some real momentum behind it -- even potential as a competitive shooter. Counter Strike: Global Offensive has also been making waves in the eSports scene; last year, ESL Cologne set the record for most viewers on a single stream with 1.3 million watching CS:GO. There is real demand for tactical, team-based shooters.
The team at Giant Enemy Crab are currently looking to fulfill that desire with upcoming title “Due Process.” Comprised of around nine people, Giant Enemy Crab have been putting Due Process together for around a year and a half now. We recently had a hands-on gameplay session with Due Process, joined by GN Hardware Editor Patrick Stone and members of the Giant Enemy Crab team.
Torn Banner's Mirage: Arcane Warfare made its inaugural press tour at GDC a few weeks ago, but we weren't allowed to play it until last weekend's PAX East. Previewing a mechanically deep game from a show floor environment is always difficult – you've got a few minutes to figure out the controls, and it's normally just enough to get a good “base feeling” for the heart of the game. That's it, though, and there's little to be learned in the form of combat or mechanics intricacies.
We previewed Mirage: Arcane Warfare gameplay at PAX East in a full multiplayer match, managing to play each class at least once between the two of us. One class remained locked, but the rest were open to play.