In 2012 Ubisoft presented one of its newest games, Watch Dogs. But when it was released in 2014, the game wasn’t the same. In this guest post, Henry Dyer asks whether gamers are being let down by publishers.
Watch Dogs is an open world action-adventure game set in Chicago. When it was released this year, immediate differences could be seen compared to what was shown two years earlier. Differences were to be expected – two years had passed. However, you’d normally expect these differences to be improvements.
Instead, what was released was a downgrade compared to what I and many other gamers had become interested in back in 2012.
Watch out for Watch Dogs
Gamers across all five platforms, from the Xbox One to the PC, suffered from several issues, such as poor performance, control issues, bugs, low population counts (which isn’t the best for immersion for a game set in a city), and pop-in issues (where textures in the distance suddenly appear). Some of these can be forgiven, such as poor performance which can be fixed shortly after with a patch.
The worst problem was for PC gamers – reportedly the ‘lead platform’ – for whom there was meant to be an extra level of graphical fidelity above the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’s understandable for the consoles to not feature such high-end graphics, as Ubisoft demoed the game on a high-end PC in 2012. But this video shows that Watch Dogs even took a graphical hit on high-end PCs:
Most interestingly, a modder on the gaming forum Neogaf discovered that the 2012 textures and graphical effects were still in the game’s assets. They just weren’t enabled. Furthermore, you could enable them yourself with a tweaked configuration file. Oddly, the change not only significantly improved the game’s graphics, it was also claimed to have an effect on the performance.
Ubisoft said this in response:
‘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.’
Be cautious of game footage
This isn’t an issue exclusive to Watch Dogs. Among others, Aliens: Colonial Marines had an extremely troublesome release, with similar accusations that it was downgraded.
Personally, I think the answer is not pre-order games. Wait for them to be released and reviewed before deciding to purchase. And if a company continues to let me down with its releases, I’ll be voting with my wallet.
Do you think publishers need to be careful about promoting game footage that doesn’t match the graphical fidelity of what’s actually released?