Watch Dogs Video Game Review


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Watch Dogs Video Graphics Quality Settings

Watch Dogs is an overall good looking game that takes advantage of some of the latest technologies out of NVIDIA. It’s main strength is the dynamic lighting and FX effects, especially on high or ultra settings. Detail suffers a bit on all settings, especially with the foliage, character faces, and structures, and vehicles (especially the L-Trains), have a nasty habit of appearing out of thin air due to the draw distance. I also had a major issue with a graphics glitch that caused small walls to appear randomly on my screen. I am unsure what the cause of this was, and to my knowledge I don’t think other reviews have mentioned the same issue. Vehicle models are possibly one of Watch Dogs greatest graphical achievements, and look great even on medium settings.


On low graphics, shadows and lighting are very bland and non existent. Ambient Occlusion and AA is disabled, and the buildings look plain.


Taking it up to medium vastly improves lighting effects, and details, especially water, look much more passable. But that is the only major change. Explosions and other effects still appear bland and uninteresting.


On high settings, not much seems to have changed, which is unfortunate given the huge loss of nearly 20 FPS incurred when upgrading from medium to high. The biggest visual improvement came in FX effects, especially explosions, boat spray, and collisions. High settings also add motion blur, which can heavily impact performance while driving. I think that high and ultra settings were not as well optimized as they should have been. The recommended specs are an i7 3700 or a FX-8350 with 8GB of RAMand a GTX600 or HD7000 series GPU. I have an FX-8350, 8GB of RAM, and the recently released GTX750TI SC, and my maximum FPS on high is around 40 (assuming I’m not outdoors and moving, in which case it drops to around 35).


Ultra settings honestly do not look much different from high. Unfortunately, I was unable to really test the settings at ultra because the FPS dropped to about 25 or below. Considering that Watch Dogs was supposed to be optimized for the latest hardware it’s a little disappointing how poorly it performs on high and ultra. I’m guessing that to play Watch Dogs on ultra with a strong FPS you would need a high end i7 chip and GTX600s in SLI or a GTX760+. Also, Watch Dogs is clearly designed for NVIDIA GPU’s and some players have complained about poor performance on AMD hardware.

Watch Dogs is certainly not a bad looking game. In fact, with the settings turned up it can even compete with Frostbite or CryEngine. However, it is a pity that in order to get Watch Dogs to look its best you really need such a beefy system.


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  1. Jeff

    What resolution were you playing at? High or Ultra textures? I’m trying to gauge whether I can play it at decent enough settings to even bother buying it. I have an FX-6300 @ 4.5 Ghz and a GTX 670 2GB with a 1920×1200 monitor. I read somewhere else that high textures and medium settings are the best one can hope (and get smooth gameplay) with a 2GB GPU.

    1. David Shields

      I played at 1680 x 1050, mostly on medium settings (the video is on medium). My 750SC TI could run high settings relatively well, so your 670 should have no issues running all high settings. Ultra is where you’ll need 3GB+ of VRAM. Your CPU is below the recommended specs, which may hurt your performance, but I’d be surprised if you couldn’t get medium with one or two settings at high. Upgrading to an 8350 should get you high settings no problem.

  2. Caring1

    I’m guessing a Graphics card with 4GB will give better performance in this game compared to one with 2GB of DDR5 ram.

    1. Olin Coles

      That depends on the GPU. There are high core-count GPUs with 2GB or vRAM that will outperform low core-count GPUs with more vRAM.

    2. David Shields

      Right. More vRAM could potentially help, but you should look at performance more than actual memory. If vRAM was everything then alot more people would for instance buy the R9 270x 4GB card, but it’s a lower performer than 2GB cards in the same price range. The 2GB 750TI SC I played Watch Dogs with has a higher clock speed than the recommended 2GB 660, but it performs worse because it has much fewer cores.

      One thing I find interesting though is that Newegg sells two EVGA 660 SC cards that have the same number of cores, clock speeds, and so forth, but one card is $20 more and has 3GB instead of 2GB. I obviously don’t have the cards to do a performance comparison..but that is something you could potentially consider.

    3. Olin Coles

      I should have added that vRAM’s purpose is to pre-fetch textures and store them, along with routines, etc. Software tools such as MSI Afterburner will display the amount of vRAM that actually gets used, which is very useful for separating marketing hype from application dependence.

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