Watch Dogs is a hot mess on PC, stay away for now

Opinion

The PC version of Watch Dogs should be the best version of the game. Gaming PCs tend to be more expensive than gaming consoles, but that's the point: If you have the means to throw money at hardware you should be rewarded with the best, most graphically rich version of the game.

This is not the case with Watch Dogs.

Bad controls, poorly optimized

I preloaded the Steam version of the game and was ready to play through the whole thing on my gaming PC. I ran into the expected problems with Uplay at launch, but the overall performance of the game was the largest disappointment once I was able to log in at all.

I have a very able gaming PC, if you're curious about what's in the office these days:

  • Intel Core i7 2700k processor
  • Patriot 8GB 1600Mhz PXD38G1600LLK Memory
  • EVGA GTX580 1536MB 015-P3-150-AR
  • Patriot 120GB Wildfire SATAIII SSD
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

It's not the beast it once was, but it's not a bad gaming rig at all. However, the first problem with Watch Dogs on the PC isn't the graphical performance, but the keyboard and mouse controls. The mouse support feels like you're moving through a thick soup, and there's no option in the game to adjust anything but your sensitivity.

You have to get a bit creative here, so if you're playing on the PC, go to C:\Users\[your username]\Documents\My Games\Watch_Dogs\ and open the GamerProfile.xml file with a text editor. Move "UseMouseSmooth" from 1 to 0. Set "Smoothness" from 1 to 0.

Setting these values should remove the mouse issues from the game, but the mouse and keyboard controls still felt wonky to me, so more tweaking may be needed. There is no reason these options shouldn't be available without having to edit .xml files, but here we are.

This isn't the last issue you'll bump into, however.

"Perhaps more disappointing are the issues with PC performance," Digital Foundry wrote in its own look at the different versions of the game. "We noted a lot of comments online about stutter and can confirm that this is an issue, even with powerful gaming hardware. It appears that streaming of assets is the major culprit as adjusting texture quality has much more of an effect than dialing back graphical presets."

Other staffers with ATI cards reported crashes and blue screens when they tried to play the game

Screen tearing is also an issue, making vsync all but mandatory unless you want a blazing headache. And Reddit has a lengthy thread with PC gamers complaining about the power of hardware it takes to get decent performance out of the game.

If you have a mid-range system, or even a high-end system, in many cases, you're going to struggle to get the kind of performance you expect from similar open-world games. This is just my experience running the game with an Nvidia GPU; other staffers with ATI cards reported crashes and blue screens when they tried to play the game.

The Steam listing for the game is likewise filled with people complaining about the game's performance, and I've received feedback from other readers having similar problems.

Ubisoft has stated in the past that it would like to repair its relationship with PC gamers, but these games need to be stable at launch. They need to give us the options we need to get the games working smoothly, without having to go into text files to manually edit settings. Ubisoft has taken positive steps to begin treating PC gamers better, but launches such as this don't help.

I've finally settled on the PS4 version of the game, just to take advantage of the graphical advantage the PS4 holds over the Xbox One. I'd love to play the game on the most powerful gaming device in my home, but sadly the PC version of the game is a mess as of this writing.

Buyer beware.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Polygon as an organization.

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