Quantum Break on the PC is an un-optimized port of the excellent Xbox One version.
Quantum Break is an excellent action game and in many ways is one of the best looking games on the Xbox One right now. Other than the complex resolution techniques and slight performance dips, Remedy Entertainment did a great job with the console version, one which should be commended from a technical point of view. However, Quantum Break is also available on the PC and this gives us the perfect opportunity to see how the PC version performs and what kind of improvements it has to offer over the Xbox One build.
There are also a couple of other reasons why the PC build intrigues us. The Windows 10 store isn’t exactly user friendly with a number of restrictions in place such as v-sync issues and the lack of any overlays. Furthermore, just like Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Quantum Break on the PC is a Windows 10/DX12 exclusive title. Gears of War Ultimate Edition had a number of performance issues at launch on Windows 10 and it was in no way a title that could show us the capabilities of DX12. Before heading into the analysis, we were skeptical about how the PC build of Quantum Break will hold up given that the game had reportedly shorter development time compared to its Xbox One counterpart.
Before jump into analyzing the performance, what kind of graphical parameters we can expect from the game? Well, not a lot to be honest. There are four graphical presents ranging from low to ultra, advanced options such as volumetric lighting, shadow resolution, shadow filtering, texture resolution, screen space ambient occlusion and lighting, effects quality and global illumination can all be changed. Anti-aliasing can simply be toggled on and off. To be honest, we were expecting far more options given that this is a mainstream AAA production title but well, nothing can be done about it now.
The hardware required to run this game at its recommended and ultra settings is quite hefty. You would need an Intel Core i5 4690 and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970/AMD Radeon R9 390 for running this game at recommended settings or if you want to max out everything, you would need an Intel Core i7 4790 and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti/AMD Radeon R9 Fury X.
So the big question is, how does the game perform on the PC? We tested the game out on two builds along with the latest GPU drivers. The first build consisted of an Nvidia GTX 970, 16GB of Memory and Intel Core i5 4690 which you may notice is the same as the recommended requirements. Running the game at 1080p with ultra settings, performance for the most part was okay but in no way did we got a consistent 60 frames per second experience. Performance was much better indoors; however we witnessed drops in the more open areas whenever there was a lot of shooting or physics involved. Switching over to our second build which is in line with the Ultra requirements of the game, we tested the game on an Intel Core i7 4790 and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti. Performance was surprisingly a bit disappointing. We were largely stuck with mid-40fps performance at Ultra settings. We are not quite sure what the issue is here. Frame pacing inconsistency seems to be the culprit. Overall, we are not pleased with how the game performs on the PC. The requirements are hefty and this is a clear cut case of an un-optimized port.
So how does the PC version stacks up against the Xbox One version? Well to be honest, we are quite surprised as to how well the Xbox One build holds up against its more powerful counterpart. To begin with, the game looks like it’s using the same resolution reconstruction technique that we saw on the Xbox One version. Basically what is happening is that when you are running the game at 1080p resolution, the game engine is still using the previous 720p MSAAx4 frames to convert it to 1080p using a shader program. According to reports, when you select 1440p resolution, the engine then utilizes 1707×960 MSAAx4 frames to output into 2560×1440. Lastly if you are running it at 4K, 2560×1440 MSAAx4 frames are reconstructed into 3840×2160 resolution. Now, there is nothing wrong with this methodology but as we reported in our initial analysis, this method results in shimmering and generally blurry image quality. We can understand the need to implement such a methodology on the console version where the developer needs to optimize the game around limited resources, but on the PC, this kind of solution simply does not pay off.
We are also quite surprised by the lack of any major differences between the PC and the Xbox One builds. Other than better shadow quality and slightly better reflection quality, there is absolutely nothing to choose from between the two versions. Core assets such as texture quality, volumetric effects, alpha effects and skin shaders all remain remarkably similar. We also wanted to note that we have doubts whether the in-game effects such as ambient occlusion are running at 720p resolution. This is something that we cannot confirm at this point but given the reconstruction methodology that Remedy hasdeployed, it won’t be a surprise if this indeed turns out to be true. Furthermore, some of the problems that plagued the console version are also present in the PC build. Level of detail issues on some objects and pop-ins in areas which have vegetation and dense foliage are found in the PC version as well.
Overall, we are not really happy with how Quantum Break has turned out on the PC. Given that there is hardly any major difference between the Xbox One version and the PC build, the need for such high end hardware requirements is questionable. This is clearly a game that has been rushed on the PC and simply pushed out for launch. Furthermore, Microsoft really needs to fix the Windows 10 store. We faced a number of issues while downloading the game. At one point, we had downloaded around 23GB of the game only to come back and see that it had been switched back to 0.1 GB.
Microsoft’s commitment to PC gaming is appreciated but they won’t win many hearts if they don’t get their priorities right with the Windows store. This further complicates things since Quantum Break is only available on the Windows 10 store and at this point, PC fans are probably getting an inferior version of what is actually a very good game. We were expecting a true spectacle utilizing the power of PC hardware and DX12 but in the end we were left with unimpressive results. So yes, our final verdict; stick with the Xbox One version if you can. That is the best version to experience the game on.