by Nick V. Flor (@ProfessorF) — January 25, 2016
MY ANGRY FOLLOWERS
A lot of my Twitter followers were angry at me for not listing Fallout 4 as my GOTY (Game Of The Year, not the singer by the same name). They’re also really mad that I gave it a “D” grade when I first reviewed it on BaconBits Live. But I had a good reason: Fallout 4 is basically Fallout 3 except with a crafting system and a new story. And remember, Fallout 3 is just the old Elder Scrolls game with new 3D models and a new story. This is my typical follower reaction:
Bottom line: Fallout 4 is an old game that needs to be improved. If the story was better, I could maybe forgive the same tired graphics, the same tired soundtrack, and the same tired gameplay. But there’s nothing that has really improved since Fallout 3 came out. Thus, the overall “D” grade.
But I did find one area in which Fallout 4 earns a solid A+ — stress testing all the different PCs at my house. I tested 5 computers, each with a different combination of CPU and Graphics Card. The testing procedure was simple.
PROCEDURE FOR STRESS TESTING FALLOUT 4
First, turn on the Frames Per Second (FPS) overlay in Steam. This can be found at: Stream > Settings > In-Game FPS Counter.
Second, run Fallout 4 and set the display to 1080p for the resolution, and Ultra Settings for performance. Then go to the cooking pot in Sanctuary Hills and look towards Red Rocket. For some odd reason, that location is especially tough on your CPU & Graphics Card:
Finally, look at the upper-right corner to get the Frames Per Second (FPS or fps). This doesn’t show up in the screen capture above, but it will show up on your display.
What you’re hoping for in terms of fps, is 60fps. This gives nice smooth visuals. Really anything above 30fps is pretty good. But drop below 30fps, and your visuals start getting “choppy”.
Comparison Point: Both the PS4 and the Xbox One supposedly run Fallout 4 at 1080p/30fps. I say supposedly because testers have reported fps as low as 20, which is very choppy.
1. AMD FX-8350 4GHz (CPU)/AMD R9 390 (Graphics Card): 1200p/40 fps!
This is my custom Jessica-AMD build, and for some reason Fallout 4 refused to run at 1080p, instead expanding to 1200p. But still, I expected it to do 60fps! I’m not that angry because in most of the game it runs at 60fps, but this particular location is tough on the graphics card.
Verdict: Disappointed, but overall gameplay is enjoyable and gorgeous.
2. AMD A10-7800 3.5GHz (CPU)/Radeon R7 (APU): 1080p/10fps
APU means that the graphics “card” is build into the CPU. This is my wife’s desktop, and it represents the typical low-cost computer you’d buy at an electronics store for about $550. As you can see, it’s unplayable at the highest settings. Now, if you drop down to 648p, and the very lowest performance setting, you can get 45fps, which is fast enough. But 648p is so tiny, it’s not worth playing.
3. AMD A10-5750M 2.5GHz (CPU)/Radeon HD 8650G (APU): 1080p/6fps
This a laptop CPU with built-in graphics, not unlike a medium-cost laptop you’d buy at an electronics store. As with the previous example, you really need to drop the resolution way below 1080p and the performance down to low settings, but by then it’s not playable.
4. AMD Phenom IIx4 840T 2.9GHz (CPU)/ NVidia Quadro 2000 (Graphics Card): 1080p/10fps
This is a really old computer I had laying around, in which I installed an old Nvidia graphics card that someone gave me. This same graphics card in my Jessica-AMD PC was doing Dark Souls II at 60fps! But Fallout 4 is tough. Fallout 4 wrecked this old PC. However, if you set the performance to low, you can get 24fps, which is somewhat playable (and cinematic too).
Verdict: Somewhat playable. Graphics cards make a difference.
5. Intel i7-4758T 3.2GHz (CPU), Nvidia 860M (Graphics Card): 1080p/30fps
I despise Intel because they spit-on gamers by supporting SJWs. I only have an Intel CPU because it came with my Steam Alienware PC. Now, this machine used to be a piece of junk running Steam OS, that had almost no good games. I finally caved in and installed Windows 10, and now it’s a great machine. The 860M is basically soldered onto the mother board, so you can’t upgrade the graphics. But performance is good: 30fps in ultra settings and if you drop the performance settings to low, it does 60fps easily. This system is equivalent to buying a top-of-the-line gaming laptop.
Verdict: Pleasantly surprised. Very Playable.
In closing, I have some shocking news to report: It’s not so great being a member of #PCMasterRace unless you buy a computer with a powerful discrete graphics card. It’s unplayable on computers with built-in graphics unless you greatly lower the resolution and the performance settings.
So yes, there is a place in the world for console peasants.
BONUS: What’s the Big Deal Playing Fallout 4 at Ultra vs Low Settings?
The left image is Fallout 4 on ultra settings, and the right on low settings. If you look closely at the edges and shadows of objects, you’ll notice “jaggies”. Grass and other shrubbery is less detailed as well. If you can live with jaggies and less detail in some objects, there really is no big deal.