DOOM: On a Budget....PC
DOOM has returned bigger, badder, faster and more epic than ever before and after my detailed look at the Console release across PS4 and XboxOne we know how gorgeously grotesque the new game is, bringing a breath of fresh air to the first person shooter genre on a planet with non.
Now we look how it runs across 2 budget range PC's and if Nvidia or AMD is the way to go and if they lose or can exceed what the console releases have offered up?.
First up we have some driver updates to cover and is actually one of the reasons this is later than I wanted. With the Vulkan release still not out just yet but due shortly the game is not a Direct X based title but an OpenGL one meaning that both Hardware manufacturers have a chance to stretch their GL legs for this title. Nvidia had its driver up at at launch and AMD came a few days later with its Hotfix and we can look at what this delivered on the R270/7870 machine paired with an Octo-core FX8350 CPU.
Running the 16.3.2 driver, right from the start with settings around the Medium level (this is near console) we can see the game struggles to hit 30 let alone 60. This does not get any better and the first pare back needed here is the Virtual Texture space back from the Console High to Medium which helps alleviates the long 100ms+ stutters the game has, as Vram is near max at all times with this at High. From here we can see the game is not looking good for AMD cards at this point or for the OpenGL driver. But to the rescue is AMD driver squad shipping in a hotfix release just after the release weekend on the 16th. But has this saved the day for team red or is it a placebo update?.
Its getting hot in here
As you can see with the like for like examples in the video this is a revelation on the game. Offering up at points throughout the opening battles over 100% frame time increase, boosting the average rate from a lowly 36fps to a near 50fps some 12fps higher on average. But more importantly it now renders above the 40 mark and into the 50's more often with the older driver seeing us stay in the 30's and even dip to the 20's on far to regular occasions. The simple point is that IF you have this game and an AMD card, installing this driver it is an absolute necessity. So from here on in we have a good base to test the AMD machine and see how close we can get to the console versions and if team green and its budget 750Ti card can muster a better experience.
Running with the same 8350 CPU and Nvidia's latest driver 365.19 we can see that on the same Medium level settings it struggles to match the level of the 270/7870 card and that also means even further behind what we get on the XboxOne and PS4. Now the change here is that the on consoles the games runs a Dynamic Resolution which we do no have on PC. This means that from my tests we are looking at an approximate 1600*900 level for XboxOne with it also hitting a full 1080P and a lower level at various times depending on action. The PS4 does a better job of holdding 1080 but can dip to 1728*1080 at rare points when the GPU is being taxed more at my lowest count tested. This means that we only see a 1 axis reduction of around 10% on the PS4 to keep its near 60fps delivery coming in with a long 9 minute test across various sections with a 59fps average and the XboxOne close behind with a 57 average. You can check out the detail in my head 2 head video of the console release below.
So with the levels set we can see that both cards struggle to hit a locked 60 at the same settings which you can read in the video or on the side-out box on the left that match the console versions as close as I can find.
It means that most options are at medium with only decals being the lowest setting of Low. But like many options in the game this only effects the distance these objects are rendered at and shadows between medium and ultra are near impossible to spot, they just have a further cascade level the higher up you go and thus draw in sooner. Directional Screen occlusion is also at the medium settings and works similar to SSAO of many other titles, which you can see the various levels in the video along with other tested sections. Medium and High are not that far apart and it can include a colour bleed from directional light sources on screen but I have not found any sections across all version that show that is in practise but the AO in this game is very nice indeed, helpful with so many dynamic light sources and abundant shadow maps across the plains of mars and hell.
Rise or fall?
So with all settings confirmed the obvious changes are the framerates and the IQ as the PC seems to have a reduced/subtly different AA pass from consoles using the same TSSAA x8 option which includes a bespoke MSAA element on geometric edges. This could be down to the sharpening filter that PC has in the advanced options along with some other nice render options delivering Alien vibes when put into the cinematic mode complete with letterbox borders...I know PC purists will be disgusted with the loss of real estate but it is actually a nice option. Something the console version has but here PC gamers get a wealth of options and it is very welcome and impressive.
Setting the sharpening filter to 0 gets a softer look as per the console release, not identical but close so this may be a combination of both a stronger blend within its re-projected weighted frame blend on console AND/OR the lack of any sharpening. I have contacted the developers to get some more info on the game and its impressive engine so stay tuned to my channel and site if they can respond.
This aside you can check out the image gallery below to see more but we are looking at a like for like match now and still we see performance below the 60fps you would want or expect of the R270/7870 card at least. Dipping the internal render to 90% on both giving us an approximate 1824*1026 near the same pixel quota of the 1728*1080 rare low on PS4. We get closer to the 60 rate we want on the AMD machine but the Nvidia one needs more to get at this level and a further drop of 70% see's it claw back the margin with a softer look more in line with the XboxOne (but still much lower than majority of play) and delivering nearly the same performance metrics. But this does come with a big caveat that I mentions at the start.
With V-sync on the AMD card manages to average into the mid 40's across large sections of play but with Nvidia or at least the 750Ti card this never seems to work as well even at the lower settings. It regularly caps at the 30 rate with only rare points above and this means the performance is severely affected. Setting adaptive V-sync of better still V-sync off completely solves this issues and delivers a much smoother delivery but the price is that the screen tears itself up pretty much all the time during play, this being the cost of the increase in performance.
Even Overclocking the card by 100MHz core and 200MHz Vram does not return much of a difference in like for like tests. Even after a full re-install of a fresh windows copy along with Afterburner and Driver panel tweaks the V-sync option never worked as well as the AMD one and having this off is the only real choice. But this may get updated later in future patches which I will cover if and when.
At this level both PC's fail to hit the same level as the PS4 with the AMD machine beating the other 2 to be just behind the PS4 in action. But the XboxOne does perform much better than the AMD machine but by tweaking the settings or dropping V-sync you can get much closer to it with a slightly better IQ. As the game still dips more often or hangs for longer on the PC well the AMD card anyway as we never see dips higher than 50ms on Nvidia but the AMD card can still hang over 100ms often during my play even after a full clean windows Install from scratch in addition to the driver update to make sure we have the best level possible for both machines. But these bigger dips aside so long as you tweak the settings as shown OR drop back shadows etc and lighting you give back some more resolution you can still enjoy the fast action of mars across a range of PC hardware. My higher end I5/970 look will be up shortly but I may hold off till the Vulkan driver is released so that we get a good test of how that performs as it could claw back much more on both machines and change what is now a loss to console becoming a win for PC once we boldly go where no-one has gone before....aside the 1080.