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So get this: The really awesome graphics that Ubisoft used to help sell Watch Dogs at E3 back in 2012 never left the game. The downgrades we reported on were entirely designed for the consoles and to compensate for the poor optimization of the PC version. Enterprising modders have found out that not only can you access restricted files that contain the E3 2012 graphics upgrades, but you can also push the game just a tad bit further than expected... on PC.
Originally, Guru3D member The Worse came up with a mod that enabled certain features for Watch Dogs on PC. It was later uncovered that things such as headlight shadow casting and reflections weren't the only upgrades available for the PC build of Watch Dogs, as described by NeoGaf member CyberPunked...
“He has discovered that almost all of the shaders and improvements seen in 2012 and 2013 are still in the game files, such as the e3 2012 explosions. For now he has managed to implement dynamic shadows from headlights, the increased rain density, increased NPC density, as well as 2012 e3 bloom and lens flare.”
For those wondering, POM would be parallax occlusion mapping, a method used to add perception depth to textured objects, similar to parallax textures but the next stage of advancement, so it gets harder to tell what's actually modeled in 3D and what's mapped to the environment as a not-so-simple texture.
But that's not all, there's a list of features that can also be enabled, check it out below...
-Changes to the default fog values
You can grab the mod from the post right here. Be warned that you're doing so at your own risk.
If you look at the image below, you'll see that it carries many of the same features as showcased in the E3 2012 demo, such as cinematic bokeh depth of field, shadow casting for every object, and richer light passes throughout the environment.
The really interesting thing about this is that Ubisoft technically didn't lie when they said that the PC version could look better than the E3 2012 demo.
After the comparison between the 2012 demo and the current PC build, many gamers felt disappointed with the results; but eager modders never gave up looking into exploiting and expanding on the game's possibilities.
I should note that not all of the graphical modifications provided in the file will be beneficial to the overall gameplay experience. Bokeh DOF that pulled in would probably make it impossible to drive or see into the near distance properly, but it sure does make the game look cinematic.
Another thing to consider is that Watch Dogs is poorly optimized for PC, and there are numerous reports about the game having serious issues on AMD cards, as noted by sites like GameCrastinate. If you already have a beefy rig that's struggling with the game's poor optimization, unlocking bigger and more advanced graphics features may not help at all.
Even still, the mod would be perfect for taking some very impressive, high-resolution screenshots to mirror the prestigious showcase at E3 from a few years back.