Last year’s Assassin’s Creed Unity was a disappointment on the PC. Featuring several optimization issues, bugs and performance drops, Ubisoft gained a ton of bad reputation among PC gamers for its somewhat underwhelming effort on what was essentially a brand new Assassin’s Creed game on a next-gen engine. The performance was admittedly awful on AMD line of GPU cards but things were not entirely rosy on Nvidia side of things as well. Ubisoft then followed up with a stream of patches for Unity across all platforms as it made all effort to improve performance and frame rate parameters. But nothing worked and several high-end gaming PCs literally struggled to reach a constant 60 frames per second.
Regardless of the performance issues, there is no denying the visual fidelity of Assassin’s Creed Unity. The game was a trend setter using top of the line high dynamic range lighting technology, post processing effects and the amazing tress enhancements. It was a look at what the future might possibly bring in terms of setting new graphical benchmarks with literally hundreds of NPCs with their own set of AI and dynamic levels of interactions. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was released a year later, first on the PS4 and Xbox One followed by the PC release and as we reported before the performance on them was much better compared to Unity. The PC version was delayed by 3 weeks so that Ubisoft Quebec can optimize the code base. But the big question is, does the PC version makes the same amount of sacrifices as the console versions do or does it use the power of the modern platform to deliver visuals on par with Unity?
Video showcasing PC footage and head to head comparison with the PS4 version. Please select 1080p and 60fps for best possible video playback quality.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is definitely a better looking game on the PC compared to the consoles. Although it does not come close to Unity it matches the visual fidelity offered by the latter at times. Most of the sacrifices that were made on consoles make their way to the PC version as well. The graphics settings found in Syndicate haven’t changed much when one compares it to Unity. We still have the usual shadow quality, several custom AA solutions along with your standard FXAA, textures and environmental settings.
When you change the various options through these settings, the game provides you with a visual benchmark on how much video memory the engine is using. This really helps you with custom setting the game’s performance, however it must be noted that the slider is just an indication of the performance and not a benchmark tool. To begin the test, we first took a look at Ubisoft’s recommended setting for 1080p and 30fps gameplay. We used an AMD Radeon R9 290X and AMD FX 8350 and obviously went ahead and maxed out everything and checked whether it can hit 30fps. Unfortunately, it does not and we had to scale down the shadow quality and AA down to FXAA to run a fairly stable 30fps. In short the recommended setting will not run the game at a maxed out 30fps experience. So what does it take to achieve a solid 1080p and 60 fps performance? After playing around with a number of configurations and the game’s setting, we believe the high end AA solution and PCSS are big time performance drainers and since not everyone will have the top of the line PC gaming configuration, it’s best to opt for a balance between the hardware you have and the game’s graphics options.
A 1080p and 60 fps performance can be achieved using a GTX 970 and i7 2600k but only if you use FXAA and lower the environmental and shadow quality to medium but you can keep the texture quality to high. If you want to notch it up a bit higher than we suggest using an i7 3770K along with a GTX 980 with environmental quality, textures and shadow quality set to high. Fortunately, even if you ramp up to settings to MSAA2x + FXAA and HBAO+ it will still result into a fairly decent 60 fps performance with minimum drops. In short, you need a reasonably modern GPU and CPU processors to achieve 60fps at 1080p with most settings in the high to very high range.
However, note that besides the PCSS and higher AA options, volumetric effects like rain could be a performance drainer too and we saw drops during these sequences. Overall, it performs better than Unity but we can’t help but wonder that the engine can still be optimized further. The requirements are pretty hefty and if you want to the game the run at Ultra at 1440p and over 60fps, then you would need a 2x Titan X SLI which is honestly a bit over the top.
I also wanted to quickly compare the PC version with the PS4. Obviously, the PC version trumps the console versions with a higher resolution but smaller details such as an improved LOD, shadow quality and detailed screen space reflections can be observed. A higher quality ambient occlusion solution can be seen as well. Texture quality on the PS4 is equivalent to the high settings found on the PC and other details like volumetric effects, alpha effects seem to be quite similar as well. One thing we are personally disappointed about the PC version are the missing enhanced tress effects, something which created a buzz last year.
At the end of the day, the PC version is a fairly decent port. The hefty requirements are somewhat unjustified but we think the next-gen Anvil engine is not up to speed yet. Bugs and glitches return as well but by large you are looking at a better performance than Unity.