Gears of War 4 DX12 Performance Review
We take Gears of War 4, a new Windows 10 only game supporting DX12 natively and compare performance with seven video cards. We will find out which one provides the best experience at 4K, 1440p, and 1080p resolutions, and see how these compare to each other. We will also look specifically at the Async Compute feature.
Gears of War 4 was released on October 11th, 2016. Gears of War 4 was developed by The Coalition and Published by Microsoft Studios, unlike past GoW games which were developed by Epic Games. This new game continues the GoW franchise. It is is a third-person shooter game with familiar gameplay features and some new ones as well.
On the technical side of features there are a few facts which separate this game from the norm. On the PC this game is exclusive to the Windows 10 Windows store. While this game is naturally on the XBOX, in terms of PC this will only run on Windows 10. In addition, this game uses the Unreal Engine 4 game engine. Since this is native Windows 10 game, and using Unreal Engine 4 it runs only in the DX12 API. That’s right, you won’t even have the option to run this game in DX11. No matter what video card you use, it will be running a DX12 code path, if your card doesn’t support DX12 you are out of luck.
On the one hand, that makes it much less compatible on older PCs. On the other hand the game feels more like a complete and optimized DX12 game out-of-the-gate finally. No having to wait for patches that may or may not show a performance advantage. This also means we cannot compare its DX12 performance to DX11 to see if that is making any kind of impact. There are literally no API option settings. You can view the PC Specs to see what the minimum spec, recommended spec and ideal spec is for this game here.
We did however still want to wait a bit before reviewing GoW to give updates in the terms of patches and drivers to mature a bit. This game has been patched since its launch. On November 1st this game received its 1st Title Update. These are large scale updates that require downloads. This was a very large update, in excess of 5GB. There doesn’t seem to be any indication of performance changes with this patch however, just a lot of gameplay fixes. Our evaluation today is using this new patch, you will note on the title screen this is version 220.127.116.11.
We wanted to show the screenshot above first because you will see a feature that has been a very hot and debatable topic this year. That’s right, Gears of War 4 not only supports DX12 but it also supports Async Compute! The description states that it allows compute work to be interleaved with graphics work on the GPU. It even goes on to state the feature should be left on for better performance. Interestingly however, to the right under GPU it lists the overall affect of the feature as "Minor." This game has indicators like this that shows if a graphics setting will affect performance in a bigger way, or a smaller way.
Regardless, we will of course use Async Compute turned on with every video card. In addition, we will run specific Async Compute On and Off tests to compare and find out if it really is helping with performance in this game.
This game also supports dynamic resolution scaling so resolution can be scaled based on performance needs. However, we will not be using this for evaluation purposes so we can compare video cards at the specific resolutions we chose.
The Tiled Resources option we also have On for every video card. The definition of this feature is that it improves texture streaming efficiency by optimizing texture loads into VRAM. It also says to leave this enabled for best performance.
These are all of the graphics settings, and there are a lot. You will see that this game can scale resolution, independent of your native resolution. We made sure this game was on a 1:1 ratio and matched the display resolution. We also turned off the Frame Rate Limit and turned off VSYNC.
This game has four separate texture settings. There is Character Texture Detail, World Texture Detail, Effects Texture Detail, and Lighting Texture Detail. All of these values have a highest capable setting of "Ultra." When you select the "Ultra" global preset, these values are at the highest settings.
This game also uses a temporal anti-aliasing method, it is shader based. This value is also maximized at the "Ultra" setting. Changing the global preset value will change this one as well.
You will find typical draw distance options and level of detail options. There are separate lighting options for bloom, and shadows, and something called Capsule Shadows. We found that this option changes the soft shadows produced in indirectly lit areas as opposed to Shadow Quality which is for directly lit areas. This game also uses Ambient Occlusion and uses the SSAO method.
Things start to get very interesting under the Advanced Visuals. There is an option called Screen Space Reflections. This feature basically controls the amount of dynamic reflections from inside the world you see, in water reflections, like in a puddle of water. The thing here is, "Ultra" is not the highest setting it has. In fact, it can go up one more to a setting called "Insane." We are not making this up, the setting is called "Insane." You have to manually increase it to that value from the Ultra Global Preset. What Insane does is basically render every world object in the reflections, this can have a large impact on performance. The indicator under GPU says this one is "Major."
The next unique setting is actually Depth of Field. Once again "Ultra" is not the highest option for this feature. There is also an "Insane" option on this feature. Depth of Field of course blurs the scene based on distance. The Insane setting basically produces the highest quality Depth of Field this game can produce. This is also a "Major" impact on performance.
How We Tested and our Goals
In our testing we are going to use the "Ultra" global preset option which sets everything to "Ultra." You will find this is a very performance-friendly setting, even though it is using the highest possible settings on everything but Screen Space Reflections and Depth of Field.
Then we will also show you some "Insane" quality performance testing to show you how demanding the game can be when those two options are at their highest values.
Since we cannot change APIs we cannot show you any comparison to DX11 so every video card is running DX12 in this evaluation. We are going to use seven video cards in this evaluation.
Our goal is simple, compare the video cards and find out which ones provide the best gameplay experience at 4K, 1440p and 1080p. We will also show you how Async Compute performs, On versus Off. In the conclusion we will talk about it all. Our run-through consists of actual gameplay, shooting the baddies, blowing stuff up, lots of particle effects, and just playing as a normal gamer would.
The test system is the same from our previous DX12 Performance evaluation. For NVIDIA GPU drivers we are using GeForce 375.95 WHQL dated 11/18. For all AMD GPUs we are using Crimson Edition 16.11.4 Hotfix dated 11/17.