Watch Dogs was released earlier this year to a more tepid response than many hoped for, and part of the reason for that was the graphical disparity between the game as it was released and the E3 demo that everyone fell in love with. Going back to look at it, that game in the demo still looks “next-gen”, but it apparently never existed. At least, that’s what we thought. TheWorse, a member of the Guru3D forums, has discovered a number of hidden features and optimizations in the Watch Dogs files and has released a mod to enable them. Among the improvements are better rain effects, less graphical stuttering throughout the game, proper lighting and reflections, and fixing the camera’s depth of field. Unlike something like The Gentlemen of The Row for the PC Saints Row releases, these features were all in the game already but disabled and nowhere to be found in the settings menu.
If you follow this story even further down the rabbit hole (like our good friends at NeoGAF), you’ll find a slew of conspiracies. After more rooting around in the game’s code, a message was found which hints at Ubisoft not prioritizing the PC build of the game. Others have pointed out Sony’s close monetary ties to the title, suggesting that perhaps the PC version was gimped on purpose to make the console ports look that much better (and provide for a good reason to re-release the game in a couple of years). Personally, I tend to think the real reason is somewhere in the middle, or perhaps these features weren’t running smoothly on lower end PCs that they were targeting (which wouldn’t explain the stuttering and DOF fixes, but I digress). In any case, this is a black mark against any Ubisoft PC game in the future unless they get out in front of this story and explain themselves. Whether they do or not, I’ll continue to bring updates whenever a bunch of kids fix a multi-million dollar entertainment project from their bedrooms.
UPDATE: Ubisoft has come out with a statement regarding the mod.
The dev team is completely dedicated to getting the most out of each platform, so the notion that we would actively downgrade quality is contrary to everything we’ve set out to achieve. We test and optimize our games for each platform on which they’re released, striving for the best possible quality. The PC version does indeed contain some old, unused render settings that were deactivated for a variety of reasons, including possible impacts on visual fidelity, stability, performance and overall gameplay quality. Modders are usually creative and passionate players, and while we appreciate their enthusiasm, the mod in question (which uses those old settings) subjectively enhances the game’s visual fidelity in certain situations but also can have various negative impacts. Those could range from performance issues, to difficulty in reading the environment in order to appreciate the gameplay, to potentially making the game less enjoyable or even unstable.
Thanks for playing Watch Dogs and stay safe on the mean streets of Chicago.
-The Watch Dogs Team
There is some questionable logic here, but that seems to be damage control more than anything. The screenshots speak for themselves. Anyway, Ubisoft has also announced an upcoming patch of their own, so we’ll see how the fixes compare to the unofficial ones.