Well, there it is. PC graphics... on 'Ultra'. How does it look? A little disappointed? A little let-down? Feeling like the rich old guy who bought his 35-year-old wife the plastic boobs, but then gets turned off whenever the underboob-scars are visible? Well, tough luck. That's life. Full of big promises and lots of disappointment.
Watch Dogs has been leaking out and about on multiple platforms, one way or another, sort of like a baby wearing a clothe diaper after being fed liquified Gerber paste.
Originally, retail leaks occurred that prompted for Ubisoft to warn the general public about “false reviews”. This was followed by the chronic occurrence of torrent leaks, and that has eventually bled into early PC access.
As the video above showcases, the game running on the 'Ultra' settings is definitely a step up from the home console versions running on the 'High' settings, but at the same time the step feels... meager. You can see some more footage of the PC version running ultra courtesy of Gaming Bolt.
I suppose a lot of us were still expecting E3 2012-level awesomeness, but we've had to settle for what's showcased in the video at the top of the article. It's like going from Jessica Biel to Scarlett Johansson, when most people were probably expecting the graphics from 'High' to 'Ultra' to be more like going from Matt Damon to George Clooney.
Instead, a lot of the features seem to be subtle and more “behind-the-scenes” than out-and-out upgrades that a lot of people expected. There's a lot of under-the-hood mechanics happening – even in the very short clip of the PC footage at the top of the article.
Take for instance, when the cars crash at the intersection and roll to a stop while one of the cars catch fire, a few pedestrians whip out their cell phones and snap photos; others slowly walk by while starring, and a few stop and survey the situation. This AI independence is a huge step up from the mob-mentality featured in games like GTA or Assassin's Creed.
We also see subtle physics elements on display, like the wind gently rustling the leaves in nearby greenery. Small things; subtle things. The highlight of the game seems less about the actual visual change than the nuances that make up for the experience, just like the change over in policies from Bush to Obama: there's a lot happening, just not the sort of stuff that seems obvious.
My only major gripe is that the limitations of the home consoles have carried over greatly into the presentation of the PC version. At the 1:15 mark in the video you see how there is still old-school alpha blending and sprite-based particle emitters in the explosion and smoke effects. Sadly, we are not seeing real-time volumetric smoke or voxel-based explosion simulations.
After we were introduced to new-gen particle effects in things like Unity and Unreal Engine 4, it seemed like this would have been standard for new-gen games, but sadly the old-school limitation has been put into play either due to Watch Dogs being cross-generational, or because the new-gen twins can't muster the muscle the run with the big dogs.
Either way, Watch Dogs on 'Ultra' looks decent. It's not quite as groundbreaking as we all would have hoped, but it certainly beats how the game looks on the geriatric twins. Yuck.