Watch Dogs Performance and Image Quality Review

We published a preview of Watch Dogs performance when it was released back in May this year. We have given this game time to mature. Now that a couple of game patches have been released, along with newer drivers from NVIDIA and AMD, it is time for our full performance and image quality comparison review.


No other game released this year has stirred so much conversation and debate as Watch Dogs. From general disappointment and building distrust of the developers amongst gamers, to animosity and outrage, to online game review publications voicing opinions, to forum posts galore, Watch Dogs has generated a lot of attention.

Before its release, Watch Dogs was an attention grabbing game, but in a good way. All the way back in 2012, at E3, a video demo with actual in-game gameplay for Watch Dogs was released to the public. This showed the game's graphics, and it was stunning. Then a year later, at E3 in 2013 another video demo was shown once again of real in-game gameplay and once again gamers were stunned at this "next generation" game.

Watch Dogs was described as a "next generation" game because it would be capable of exploiting the graphics and features of the XBox One and PS4, which at the time these demo's were shown were the next gen consoles. Naturally, gamers assumed on the PC it would be even more fantastic since PCs have the potential for even greater performance and image quality, so gamers were expecting a well performing game from that point.

Fast forward to May 27th, 2014 when the game was released and a whole different story about this game emerges. Watch Dogs did not display the same level of graphics quality portrayed to us in early E3 gameplay videos. Gamers were experiencing poor performance and severe stuttering, even on a lower texture settings.

The experience of this game delivered is not what was promised or showed to us. Gamers quickly started losing trust in the developer and publisher of this game. Animosity built. All over the Internet everyone could hear the cry of gamers voicing their outrage and disappointment at what Watch Dogs had become. Many PC gamers still cannot even get the game to run past loading screens.

Time for a full Evaluation

When this game was released, we immediately jumped on it and published our performance preview article and image quality preview article. We experienced the same stuttering and lack of quality every other gamer was experiencing. We also found that the "Ultra" texture setting did affect image quality in a big way. There was a lot more to look at, but in this first build of the game it was not an enjoyable gameplay experience.

Since its release we have been using the Watch Dogs in every video card review, hoping it would get better, just like everyone else was, and are still doing. We figured we'd hold off on our full evaluation of the game for a few months while game patches and new drivers were released. We wanted it to be fixed, we wanted to evaluate this game on the level it is meant to be.

It is now mid-August, we have waited nearly three months. We have given Watch Dogs more time waiting for patches to evaluate than any other game we have ever evaluated. After two and a half months there have been only two game patches, but these game patches do address some of the performance and stuttering issues. There was a patch for this game on June 18th and there was a patch on July 29th. There have also been a few driver releases from NVIDIA and AMD since the launch of this game.

We feel we have given Watch Dogs an opportunity to mature, and have spent the time to perform our full performance and image quality evaluation now. If a newer patch comes down the pipeline for this game, we will follow-up with an update if newer patches improve performance or eliminate stuttering.

NVIDIA Added Features and Game Engine

Before we dive into our full evaluation it is worth reminding that NVIDIA had a heavy hand in ensuring NVIDIA graphics features were implemented in this game. NVIDIA's GameWorks development platform was used by the developers in the development of this game. We will once again post the entire reviewers guide that provides information about the features added.

On the topic of the game engine itself, this game uses a proprietary engine, and this is the only game to use this engine. Watch Dogs uses the Disrupt game engine, which shares features with the Dunia and AnvilNext engines seen in popular Ubisoft games. This game does use DX11. Physics are handled by Havok.

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As you can see HBAO+ is included, which is NVIDIA's advanced Ambient Occlusion version. However, a lesser MHBAO is also included. There is TXAA support on NVIDIA cards. Beyond that, there are strict support requirements for running "Ultra" textures in this game, and high AA settings like 8X MSAA. Video RAM is very important in this game, you really cannot have too much. This game benefits from large VRAM capacities.