It’s that time of year again. 2013 is almost upon us and promises to be a great year. Well, that is if the Mayan prediction was not accurate enough and the world doesn’t end tomorrow (though we all know that we’ll be just fine and nothing ‘bad’ will happen). So, our dear readers, we’re presenting you our Top10 most optimized PC games of 2012. Before starting, let us tell you that our Top10 is based on those games’ performance under DX9 and DX10. DX11 did not take off in 2012, and that’s why we did not focus on it. However, our GTX690 will serve us well in 2013, so rest assured that our upcoming Performance Analyses will also cover this API.
Now a lot of you will be wondering where Borderlands 2 and Assassin’s Creed III are? Well, that is if you hadn’t read our analyses, so make sure to give them a go. Borderlands 2 has a number of optimization issues. Even though it offers a nice variety of options, the game is unable to take advantage of three or four CPU cores at various scenes, resulting in low performance. And Assassin’s Creed III… well… no comments on that one.
And here we go…
10.) Hitman: Absolution
We were initially disappointed by Nixxes work on this title. You see, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was our second most optimized PC game of 2011, therefore we’re expecting great things from Nixxes. And although Hitman: Absolution features high-resolution textures and visuals that surpass its console counterpart, it suffers from some odd console optimizations. Apart from that little detail though, the new Hitman game performs better than a lot of other PC games that were released in 2012.
“All in all, Hitman: Absolution looks great but suffers from console optimizations. Nvidia has already included a proper SLI profile to it, and scaling is great (when PC gamers are not limited by their CPUs). A GTX295 can handle this title at Ultra DX10 settings, though you will definitely need a high-end CPU to overcome the game’s optimization issues. As always, Intel’s iX processors will perform better, but you’ll still need to overclock them if you want to be playing with constant 60fps at Ultra settings.”
We want to make crystal clear one thing: we’re not judging how good these games were, but rather how optimized they were for the PC platform. This means that we’re looking at the available graphical options – but most importantly – at how they performed and whether or not they were taking advantage of multi-core CPU and GPUs. And while Syndicate was an average game, it performed great on the PC. Its only downside was the – somehow – minimal graphical settings and its FOV.
“All in all, Syndicate PC performs amazingly well but does not have anything special to offer. The game scales great with quad-cores and there is a 10fps difference between them and dual-cores that are clocked at the same frequency. Syndicate PC will definitely run without performance issues to a lot of middle-end PC configurations. Be advised though that this is not the Syndicate you fell in love with.”
8.) The Darkness II
We’re continuing with a title that looks great and does not require a high-end PC. In fact, even a single-core CPU can run The Darkness II without major issues, as this is a GPU-bound title. We should also note that The Darkness II features light sources that cast dynamic shadows (instead of pre-baked or static shadows like those found in the majority of current-generations games).
“All in all, The Darkness II runs great, even with low-end systems. Although it doesn’t push the graphical boundaries to new levels, the game comes with amazing artistic style. There are low-res textures here and there but thanks to its cel-shaded nature, it manages to overcome those technical limitations. The Darkness II runs and plays great, and we hope that Digital Extremes will release the FOV fix as soon as possible (editor’s note: FOV patch was released). If you don’t own a high-end PC and want to enjoy a good-looking game, The Darkness II is for you.”
It’s ironic, but Transformers: Fall of Cybertron was originally announced as a console-exclusive title. In an unexpected turn of events, Activision decided to let Mercenary Games handle the PC port, and we are glad they did. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is one of the few Unreal Engine 3-powered games that takes advantage of more than two cores, does not suffer from micro-stuttering or mouse acceleration side effects (like its predecessor), looks great and performs great.
“All in all, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a great console port. This is not as perfect as Max Payne 3 or Sleeping Dogs, but it’s still better than most other ports. Mercenary Games has created the best version of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, a version that looks – and runs – better than its console counterpart and does not require a high-end PC to shine. Even though we’ve criticized Activision in the past, we have to congratulate them for allowing a team that is experienced with the PC platform to take care of it. This is what more publishers should be doing, especially when development teams of such titles are not familiar with our beloved platform.”
Arkane’s FPS is both a great performer and an amazing game. Dishonored takes advantage of more than two CPU cores, and scales well on SLI configurations. And even though it suffers from low-resolution textures, PC gamers can use SweetFX to overhaul its visuals. Not only that, but the game is packed with a lot of options to tweak. Kudos to Arkane for such a good PC version of a multi-platform title.
“All in all, Dishonored performs and plays great on the PC platform. This is no Max Payne 3 but make no mistake – you’ve seen far worse PC games/ports than this. PC gamers can adjust a lot of options (though not as much graphical as we’d hoped to), and there is a way to force a higher FOV via the .ini files.”
Even though the car chase levels of Warfighter run awful (thanks to NFS: Most Wanted’s engine), all the other levels that are powered by DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine look and run exceptionally well. Warfighter shows tremendous differences between a dual-core and a tri-core CPU, and sports some of the best ‘vanilla’ textures we’ve ever seen. Frostbite 2 is definitely an amazing engine, and we can’t wait to see what DICE has in store for us in 2013.
“All in all, Medal of Honor: Warfighter performs great on the PC platform, despite that it is not as good looking as we’d hope to. The game takes full advantage of tri-core CPUs, though there are some stuttering issues with its SLI profile (especially when the vRam of your GPU is nearing its max levels). The car chase level was underwhelming at best and did not perform as well as the rest of the game. In all honesty, the previous MoH title (that was powered by Unreal Engine 3) is looking as good as Warfighter. The only noteworthy benefit from the move to Frostbite 2 is the environmental destructibility and weather effects that was introduced to it.”
4.) Alan Wake
Well hello there Mr. Wake. How are you? Feeling well on the PC platform? You should as this is where you were meant to be hanging around, until MS decided to kidnap you. And thankfully, Remedy brought you back to us. And we are glad to have you on board Mr. Wake.
“All in all, Alan Wake PC is an astounding game that looks and performs great. Remedy did an excellent work, although we’d wish for something a little more from the game’s textures and multi-threaded capabilities. The game feels smooth even at 40fps, and a GTX275 is sufficient for high settings at 1080p. Although SLI is not working ideally right now, Nvidia and Remedy are working into fixing it. Oh, and AMD has released a CrossFire profile for the game that does wonders, so make sure to get it if you are owners of a CrossFire system.”
3.) Sleeping Dogs
Contrary to Hitman: Absolution, Sleeping Dogs is one of the best PC ports we’ve seen in recent years. United Front Games has implemented a lot of PC exclusive graphical features, and the game scales well on quad-cores and multi-GPUs. This is how multi-platform games should be ported to the PC, and shows that an open-world game can run great on older CPU configurations (unlike GTA IV).
“All in all, Sleeping Dogs is an addictive, polished game. Contrary to Max Payne 3 though, there are some minor issues with Sleeping Dogs game’s engine that have not been resolved yet. Here is hoping that United Front Games will further optimize it and find what causes the performance hit while driving. Sleeping Dogs takes advantage of quad-cores, comes with a nice amount of graphical options, scales great on SLI systems, is fun and enjoyable. Even though it’s not the top PC port of 2012 (as this award goes – so far – to Max Payne 3), it’s still one of the best we’ve seen in recent years, so kudos to Square Enix and United Front Games.”
2.) Max Payne 3
Call us impressed but Rockstar’s third person action shooter is the second most optimized PC game of 2012. Max Payne 3 is a great looker and puts to shame its console counterpart. Not only that, but the game runs silky smooth and takes advantage of three and four CPU cores. In fact, there were scenes in which the difference between a dual-core and a quad-core was above 25fps. Oh, and let’s not forget that Max Payne 3 comes with a lot of graphical options to adjust and tweak. This is simply brilliant and we strongly believe that this title deserves this place.
“All in all, Max Payne 3 is the most optimized PC game of 2012. It’s really surprising to say this, but Rockstar delivered and offered a game that is meant to be played on the PC. And although there was an annoying mouse acceleration side-effect, the company has already released a patch that fixes it. Max Payne 3 PC is highly enjoyable, performs well, looks great even on dated GPUs and shows how PC ports should be done. The only thing that Rockstar’s shooter lacks is a FOV option, although there is no need for one. We thought that Remedy did an amazing work with Alan Wake PC, but Rockstar did an even better with Max Payne 3.”
1.) Far Cry 3
Okay, you saw that coming, didn’t you? Well, in all honesty, we believe that Far Cry 3 is the most optimized PC game of 2012. As said and before, we’re judging its DX9 and not its DX11 version. Far Cry 3 takes full advantage of multi-cores and stressed our overclocked Q9650 like no other game. Not only that, but the SLI scaling is great and Ubisoft’s open-world FPS title is packed with one hell of graphical options. And make no mistake; even though Assassin’s Creed 3 may be one of the worst PC performers of 2012, Far Cry 3 is the best PC performer of this year.
“All in all, Far Cry 3 is the most optimized PC game of 2012. Far Cry 3 looks great, takes full advantage of quad-cores, and stresses the GPUs like no other game. As we’ve said in the past, we don’t mind when games push our system to its limits, provided those requirements are justified and not a result of bad optimization. And Far Cry 3 is the exact opposite of both Hitman: Absolution and Assassin’s Creed III. Oh, and let’s not forget that it was not delayed (like other Ubisoft games), does not use the always-online DRM, and is actually a great game. So, congratulations Ubisoft; this is how you should be developing the PC versions of your games.”
Enjoy everyone and happy PC gaming. Christmas is almost around the corner, so let us wish you merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
John is the founder and Editor in Chief at DSOGaming. He is a PC gaming fan and highly supports the modding and indie communities. Before creating DSOGaming, John worked on numerous gaming websites. While he is a die-hard PC gamer, his gaming roots can be found on consoles. John loved – and still does – the 16-bit consoles, and considers SNES to be one of the best consoles. Still, the PC platform won him over consoles. That was mainly due to 3DFX and its iconic dedicated 3D accelerator graphics card, Voodoo 2. John has also written a higher degree thesis on the “The Evolution of PC graphics cards.”