Dying Light Video Card Performance Review

Dying Light is out on the PC and we are liking it. Today we evaluate performance on many video cards to find out what kind of gameplay experience to expect. We will also compare graphical settings and find out which ones are the most demanding and what level of video card you need for this game.

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VRAM Summary

We wanted to discuss the Dying Light VRAM comparison on the conclusion page because VRAM is an issue that affects this game and its playable settings.

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In the table above you will see all of the video cards we tested today and the maximum utilized VRAM capacity in Dying Light at said resolution with maximum game settings. By maximum game settings we mean "Best Quality" global option and then raising Shadow Map Size to "Very High" and View Distance to maximum.

In all cases above you will note all video cards are hitting maximum capacities possible. The GeForce GTX 970 maxed out at 3.6GB, we could not get it to run above this, even at 4K. However, as we indicated, Dying Light was playable at 1440p without stutter. Specific optimizations have gone into this game for the GeForce GTX 970 as of the 1.3.0 patch.

The issue to focus on however is that all of these video cards are hitting the maximum capacities in Dying Light. This game demands high VRAM capacities to alleviate stutter. We found that in VRAM limited situations the game would stutter when being grabbed by zombies, or having to combat zombies. There would be a hang, or pause, or freeze if the resolution was too high for the video card.

For example, at 4K this happened on the GTX 980 and R9 290X, the 4GB of VRAM wasn't enough at 4K. On the 2GB video cards trying to run them at high setting sat 1080p also caused stuttering. That's right, even 2GB video cards had limitations at 1080p when trying to run higher settings.

Our recommendations, based on our experiences, lead us to recommend these VRAM capacities for the best enjoyment of Dying Light.

1080p - 3GB VRAM Video Cards

1440p - 4GB VRAM Video Cards

4K - 6GB+ VRAM Video Cards

This is a huge open world, there is a lot of detail in Dying Light. Running "High" textures, and "Very High" Shadow Map with "Maximum" View Distance will eat into your VRAM big-time.


SLI and CrossFire

We need to rant on NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFire for the lack of support in games recently. Whether the fault of NVIDIA, AMD, or said game company, many games have been released in the past several months with lacking or no SLI or CrossFire support. In fact, Far Cry 4 has been out over four months now and still does not support CrossFire.

Dying Light came out at the end of January, but AMD hasn't released a new driver in over three months! There is simply no AMD CrossFire profile support for this game because AMD hasn't provided one and hasn't kept up to date with new games. If that does not give you a reason to not buy a second AMD card, there is not much that will.

NVIDIA is a little bit better, or rather not as bad. NVIDIA is aware of the SLI issues in Dying Light and did come up with a solution to provide a profile through GeForce Experience. However, we still cannot get SLI to work properly in this game. It is understood that a game update patch or further driver/profile updates from NVIDIA will be needed to get it working well. This game has already been out almost six weeks however, and that SLI support is still lacking. Again, more reasons to not buy a second GeForce card...

We are extremely disappointed at the lack of attention from game developers, and in part NVIDIA and AMD, for not having SLI and CrossFire support working in these games on launch day.

Performance

We have found that Dying Light can be a demanding game when the graphics settings are maximized. This game needs and warrants faster video cards with higher VRAM capacities to get a good gameplay experience. Currently, a 4K optimized gaming experience is not achievable in Dying Light, until NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFire are working properly.

At 1440p there is no question GTX 980 and GTX 970 are faster than the AMD counterparts in Dying Light. Given the price of the GTX 980 however, the GTX 970 is the more appealing video card at its price point for 1440p Dying Light performance. Despite the VRAM limitations, it doesn't stutter at maximum settings in this particular game. Otherwise, if you can get a cheaper AMD Radeon R9 290X it will work alright at 1440p, but you won't be able to use "Very High" Shadow Map Size because the performance hit is too much.

At 1080p if you have an older AMD Radeon R9 280X you are doing quite well performance-wise in this game. It provides a top-notch 1080p experience. We wouldn't go for the R9 285, we had to sacrifice too many options to enjoy the game at 1080p. The GeForce GTX 960 may be an alternative, if you can get it for a cheap price. The 2GB VRAM limitation worries us, and you could run into some stutter situations at the highest settings at 1080p. Naturally, if you wanted to stick to 1080p an AMD R9 290 could maximize this game at the highest settings.

Image Quality

This game looks great as it does look "next gen," if that's a thing. The new Chrome Engine 6 is an upgrade from the previous version. We've played Dead Island and can say this game definitely looks better than Dead Island did.

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The lighting in this game is more realistic for one. The way the sun shines past objects, or around objects and casts its gaze is some of the best sun lighting graphics we've ever seen. This world has a day to night cycle that is just beautiful. Some examples of the lighting quality are above. There are a lot more varieties and time of day than just those, but it gives you an idea of some of what is in the game in terms of lighting and contrast.

Dying Light is the kind of game where very good shadows and ambient occlusion play a big role in the visuals. They may cause a huge impact on performance, but these are worth it. If you can run the "Very High" Shadow Map Size and Maximum View Distance it is worth it. The shadows fall on the foliage in a extremely pleasing way. The Ambient Occlusion helps fill in depth as the day to night cycle happens.

The views in Dying Light are some of the best in any game. People have been posting screenshots of wild crazy long distant views in forums to show off how beautiful this game is. This game will be known for long view distances. The foliage is also quite nice and looks great, with detailed grass and trees. There are a lot of world objects in Dying Light that make it look lived in and detailed. The engine can support that, without stuttering, and it is great.

In fact, it makes us think, "What if Far Cry 4 used this game engine?" We would have very likely had better visuals than FC4 currently has now, and would have no stuttering. FC4 still suffers from random stuttering. I would love to see a Far Cry game use the Chrome Engine 6.


The Bottom Line

Dying Light is not the best game ever made, but it sure is a fun game. It also pushes video cards and creates a need for upgrades. This game is going to benefit from faster video cards, and video cards with higher VRAM capacities. While Dying Light performance wasn't playable at 4K with single GPU video configurations, the visuals at 4K were outstanding. When SLI and CrossFire are fixed, hopefully soon, 4K Dying Light gameplay should be amazing.

There is a clear difference in which GPUs perform faster in Dying Light. Keep this in mind though, NVIDIA has been on top of optimizations in this game and has delivered new drivers for this game. AMD on the other hand hasn't released a new driver in several months. With AMD driver optimizations, performance could improve, but obviously AMD would have to make that accessible to its GPU owners. This is certainly what we need from AMD. The lack of driver and CrossFire profile updates over the past several months is disgusting.

We will be adding Dying Light to the HardOCP GPU gameplay testing suite. If you are looking to upgrade for this game it depends on what resolution you plan to be gaming at. If 4K or multiple-display, forget it until SLI and CF are working. At 1440p GeForce GTX 980 and 970 are your best bets currently. At 1080p AMD R9 290 would be a solid choice for Dying Light.

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