Last Gen Games - Max IQ and Perf on Today's GPUs

Have you ever wanted to pull out an older game from years past, and play it on your new video card to see if the gameplay experience is improved by turning on all the highest graphics options, or a higher resolution like 4K? We sure did! We test some older games and see if we can "max out" the gameplay experience in 2018.


Grand Theft Auto V

We are going to start our evaluation with the oldest game being used today, working our way up to the most recent. Grand Theft Auto V was released to consoles in 2013. However, it took years later for it to be released on PC in April of 2015. Part of the delay was to add special graphical features to the game that the PC version can run with GPUs to improve the gameplay experience beyond that of consoles. The game uses the RAGE game engine, which also ran the popular game Max Payne 3.

Though special graphical features were added to the PC game to improve the experience, performance was another issue. The GPUs of the time did not have the performance to utilize all of those graphical features at the highest settings at the time. We evaluated the game at the time of launch and created many articles evaluating performance and image quality in the game. First we did a preview of performance, then we did a full performance review part 1, and a full performance review part 2, we also did an image quality features performance article part 3, we also did a shadow feature performance part 4 and finally an image quality comparison part 5.

In our original performance evaluations back in 2015, using the latest GPUs of the day, single-GPU performance was not powerful enough to enable everything. Many of the advanced features like PCSS Shadows, AMD CHS Shadows, or Advanced Options like Soft Shadows, or Extended Distance and Extended Shadows were not playable. The fact was, we could not "max out" the game at the time of its launch. That is why now that it is three years later it is important to find out if we can now improve the gameplay experience beyond what was capable when the game was launched.

Game Features to Test

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In the graphics menu note that we will test with all the options at the highest value, that is all the texture quality, shader quality, shadow quality, water quality, particles quality, grass quality, reflection quality, tessellation, ambient occlusion and filtering, all of those options are at the highest values.

The first special graphics feature we are focused on is the Soft Shadows option, as shown in the first screenshot. Here you can go beyond the game’s built-in shadow options and use a special NVIDIA PCSS shadow option or an AMD CHS shadow option. NVIDIA PCSS Shadows are the highest, and best-looking shadows in the game, also the most demanding. To use the highest settings in the game includes using NVIDIA PCSS Shadows.

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Another image quality feature performance we will look at is MSAA. We won’t consider MSAA as part of determining whether the game is playable at the "highest settings" now, but we will test it anyway just to show you performance on the latest hardware today. Note that this game supports up to 8X MSAA, so that definitely will cause a performance burden.

In addition, this game also supports 8X Reflection MSAA. This reduces aliasing on reflections. Again, it is a performance demanding option, and while we will test it, we won’t let it affect our decision on whether this game can be "maxed out" or not. MSAA is not part of that determination for any game, since it is a supporting IQ feature, but we also know a very demanding one. We are focused mainly on in-game quality options.

In the final screenshot, note that this game also supports NVIDIA TXAA. Once you toggle this "On" you can only enable 4X MSAA as the highest MSAA level. We will also test the performance of TXAA.

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Finally, we come to the advanced graphics options in this game. At the time of launch these options were not playable on the single-GPUs of the time. There are three main features inside this menu that are drastic to performance. Being able to run with High Resolution Shadows will cause a performance drain, so that is an important one. Second, the Extended Distance Scaling is very important. It creates more detail farther into the distance in the game, but also causes a big performance impact. Finally, Extended Shadows Distance allows shadows to be rendered farther into the distance as well, again a big performance drain. If we can have all of these options enabled at the highest settings, that will be very important.

Can we play this game at the highest in-game settings?

In the first part of our evaluation we will determine if we can play at the highest in-game settings now, however, we will leave MSAA options and TXAA options disabled, this is just the main game settings as well as all advanced options and PCSS Shadows.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti

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In this first graph we are just looking at the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. We have 1400p and 4K resolutions being shown. We are running the game at the highest in-game settings, that is PCSS Shadows and all the Advanced Graphics Settings enabled.

This graph shows that yes, with the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti we can play at the highest settings now at both 1440p and 4K. At 1440p we are averaging near 80 FPS, and never drop below 60. At 4K we drop to the lower 40’s, but average 55 FPS. These performance levels work great, the game is smooth and enjoyable at both resolutions on the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti with the highest in-game settings. This means you can enjoy this game now at 1440p at the highest possible settings, which you could not do when it was launched.

AMD Radeon RX Vega 64

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The AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 was not released when this game launched, so the performance we are testing today is brand new information. This is the first time we’ve tested this game thoroughly on the new Radeon RX Vega 64.

The Radeon RX Vega 64 also does great at 1440p with the highest in-game settings. The game is very playable averaging 68 FPS and dropping to the lower 50’s at 1440p. This means that the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 does allow the highest in-game experience today at 1440p. At 4K though, the same cannot be said. The Radeon RX Vega 64 does not have the performance to run the game well with the highest in-game settings. Therefore, only 4K is playable at the highest settings, but not 4K.