Ah, it’s that time of year again. 2013 was a good year, full of surprises. It was also the year we got our first ‘next-gen’ titles, so it’s time now to see which are the top 10 PC optimized games of 2013. Before beginning, let us be crystal clear on this; we are not judging their gameplay mechanics. No no no no. We’re focusing on their tech side. This year we’ve also included the biggest disappointments, as well as some honorable mentions. So, let’s take a look at our list, shall we?
Biggest Disappointments of 2013
The biggest disappointments of 2013 were undoubtedly SimCity, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
SimCity is plagued with a ridiculous DRM; a DRM that was put in order to prevent gamers from playing offline as a means of fighting piracy. Maxis claimed that the game required the cloud in order to be functional, however that was not the case.
Call of Duty: Ghosts was advertised as a truly next-gen title; a game that would push PC systems to their limits. COD: Ghosts is the game with the highest system requirements, however the game looks similar to Black Ops 2. It’s ironic, but Black Ops 2 – a game with far lower system requirements – looks ‘almost’ as good as Ghosts. Infinity Ward lied about the game’s RAM requirements, and we could not justify the game’s vRAM requirements. A lot of games come with low-res textures but when a title pushes GPUs with 2GB to their vRAM limits, we at least expect something better than what Ghosts offered.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was another title that disappointed us. Ubisoft reassured us that the game would not perform as bad as Assassin’s Creed III did. Ubisoft claimed that its engine would scale wonderfully on multi-cores. However, Assassin’s Creed IV is mainly a single-threaded title. The game suffers from performance issues that will never get addressed. A shame really as Nvidia did its best to provide the French studio with some nice graphical features. Hell, even Ubisoft itself included cool features, like the ocean and foliage tech. Still, the game’s inability to take advantage of more than two CPU cores, its mediocre lip-syncing and the fact that its animation system has not been overhauled were enough to put us off.
Honorable Mentions of 2013
We strongly believe that the following titles should be mentioned as they ‘almost’ made it to our Top 10 list. Our honorable mentions this year are: Aliens: Colonial Marines, Alien Rage, Remember Me, Resident Evil 6 and Lost Planet 3. Make no mistake; Aliens: Colonial Marines is an awful and boring game. However, its latest version came close to its E3 build and performed great. Alien Rage looks fantastic and would be our number 10 title this year, however CI Games has not fixed the bugged scenes we reported. Remember Me looks gorgeous but comes with limited graphical settings and also suffers from un-optimized scenes, and the same can be said about Resident Evil 6 as Capcom has not addressed anything at all after all these months. And while Lost Planet 3 runs like a charm, it’s a mere shadow – tech wise – of its former self.
Top 10 PC Optimized Games of 2013
10.) DmC Devil May Cry
Now that’s how Unreal Engine 3 games should perform like. DmC Devil May Cry looks fabulous and colorful. Although the new Dante is not as cool as the old one, DmC Devil May Cry performs incredibly well on a variety of systems. Even when lots of enemies are on screen, the game does not stress systems. As we concluded in our Performance Analysis, DmC Devil May Cry is a pleasant surprise.
“All in all, DmC Devil May Cry is a pleasant surprise. The game runs extremely well even on low-end specs (with all of its graphical options enabled), and its colorful level design really stands out. Ninja Theory did not support a lot of modern-day special effects, and there aren’t much – if any – PC-specific graphical features. DmC Devil May Cry is taking advantage of quad-cores, even though it does not stress them as much as Far Cry 3 did, and does not require a high-end GPU for a smooth experience. Quite frankly, this is a game that performs well and looks great, so kudos to QLOC and Ninja Theory for not turning this into another ‘GTA IV’ port.”
We were really impressed with Gunslinger. Although this is a downloadable game, it packs some great visuals. Not only that, but the game performs great on a variety of systems. Powered by Chrome 5, Gunslinger tops its predecessor – The Cartel – in every possible way. And contrary to Dead Island – another game that is powered by the same engine – Gunslinger does not suffer from annoying micro-stuttering side effects. A solid job from Techland.
“All in all, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was a pleasant surprise. Techland’s title looks good (though we think that it needs a little bit sharpening via SweetFX) and contrary to most other titles, it is colorful. Despite its ‘downloadable’/digital nature, it looks as good – and even better – as other multi-platform titles. Gunslinger does not also suffer from the annoying ‘keyboard+mouse’ stuttering issue spotted in Dead Island: Riptide, and there are ways to tweak the game’s FOV and remove its black borders. Moreover, the game runs like a charm even on dual-core systems, though it does require a good graphics card in order to be enjoyed on max settings.”
8.) F1 2013
Color us impressed. F1 2013 was a game that made us smile the moment we realized that Codemasters has addressed most of the CPU performance issues that plagued its predecessors. F1 2013 is also one of the few games that benefits from a fourth CPU core, so kudos to the Codies for further optimizing this particular racing series.
“All in all, F1 2013 performs better than its predecessors on the PC platform. The EGO engine is finally taking advantage of quad-cores, though there are still some graphical options that are not being handled by the GPU. Dual-core owners will be able to enjoy this F1 game, and there are a number of settings to tweak in order to bring performance to your liking. And yes, we have to admit that we were really impressed with Codemasters. Contrary to other companies, the Codies have actually improved their EGO engine. There are still some CPU scaling issues, however Codemasters is heading towards the right direction.”
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon looks unique as it’s an over-the-top take on ’80s and ‘
“All in all, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon performs great. As its predecessor did, Blood Dragon offers a nice variety of graphics options to tweak. The game has a unique look, though we were hoping for something more. Blood Dragon takes advantage of tri-core and SLI systems, and requires a high-end GPU in order to be enjoyed at its max settings. Blood Dragon’s biggest issue is its DX11 bugs; bugs that can be immediately noticed when players enable the higher levels of MSAA. Therefore, we strongly suggest avoiding using anything higher than 2xMSAA. Apart from that, though, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon performs superbly on the PC platform.”
6.) Battlefield 4
Battlefield 4 is – at this point – a mixed bag. Although Frostbite 3 is incredible, the game itself still suffers from major issues. While the game performed well with its second update, its third update had a huge (negative) impact on our framerate. DICE has disabled some graphical options – like the grass physics – via the game’s patches and Mantle – an API that would benefit from DICE’s FPS – is still not supported. According to the latest reports, the Mantle update will be rolled out on January. While we are certain that Frostbite 3 is a great engine, Battlefield 4 – in its current form – does not live up to its predecessor. Okay okay, it works fine in SP mode but who will buy BF4 for that mode? Simply put, BF4 still faces major issues.
“All in all, Battlefield 4 seems unable to properly take advantage of four CPU cores most of the times, though there are a few scenes where we can notice a slight difference between tricores and quadcores (only 5-6fps). Apart from that, the game performs great on older PC systems, though it is not as optimized as we had hoped to. And if the driving sections are any indication then we can safely say that Need For Speed: Rivals will not be as demanding as most people believe it to be. Frostbite 3 pushes the best visuals we’ve seen so far, and is the game that most of you can use to showcase what your GPUs are capable of. Well… that is if you are owners of Single GPUs as SLI users will have to wait for a new driver from Nvidia.”
Ah, Metro: Last Light. 4A Games’ FPS suffered from annoying stuttering issues that have been resolved. Although the GPU PhysX effects bring a noticeable hit – and 4A Games has not addressed that awkward ‘resolution’ behavior we reported – Metro: Last Light looks and runs fine on most PC systems. Metro: Last Light packs an incredible atmosphere and that’s something we truly value. In addition, Nvidia has updated the game’s SLI profile, thus there is no flickering on multi-GPU systems.
“All in all, we have mixed feelings about Metro: Last Light. The game takes advantage of more than three CPU cores, however it suffers from some annoying stuttering issues. Furthermore, 4A Games did not offer any FOV slider (there is a workaround for this thanks to the first patch that has already been released) or proper advanced graphical options. Moreover, Nvidia has not done a great job with the game’s SLI profile, meaning that the green team will have to release a new profile with better scaling. As said, flickering issues are present in both AMD and Nvidia cards, meaning that this could very well be a bug with the game’s engine. For what is worth, our in-game framerate did not drop below 40s (at 1080p with max settings but without PhysX), despite this borked profile. In its current state, Metro: Last Light is playable – and enjoyable if you can overlook its stuttering issues. However, there is still room for improvement. Therefore, let’s hope that AMD, Nvidia and 4A Games will address those aforementioned issues as soon as possible.”
4.) Tomb Raider
Nixxes did an incredible job with the PC version of Tomb Raider. Although the team has not addressed some scenes we reported (in which the framerate drops for no apparent reason), Tomb Raider looks incredible on the PC and runs – most of the times – fine. Tomb Raider is optimized for tri-core systems and is mainly a GPU bound title. This is also the first game with AMD’s TressFX tech; a feature that we strongly recommend avoiding unless you own a high-end GPU. Tomb Raider also comes with a variety of graphics options to tweak, and features an built-in benchmark tool to use.
“All in all, Tomb Raider looks – overall – sexy, and although TressFX is cool, it comes with a big performance hit. Tomb Raider is mainly a GPU-bound title, and you will need a really high-end card in order to enable all of its graphical features. However, we were slightly disappointed by both Nvidia and Nixxes. We were disappointed by Nvidia because its latest driver is still plagued with several crashes when tessellation is enabled, and we were disappointed by Nixxes because there are a lot of scenes with optimization issues (this applies to both Nvidia and AMD users).Here is hoping that both of these companies will be able to address the aforementioned issues sooner than later.”
Irrational Games offered us an amazing PC version of Bioshock: Infinite. Bioshock: Infinite comes with lots of graphical options to tweak. The game is powered by Unreal Engine 3 and while it does not stress modern-day CPUs, it does require a high-end GPU for its DX11 settings. Bioshock: Infinite suffered from some annoying stuttering issues that have been taken care of. While there is still noticeable stuttering, it is not as bad as when the game got out. Oh, and while Bioshock: Infinite is not as advanced as Metro: Last Light or Tomb Raider, it packs incredible and colorful visuals. Its art direction is spectacular, so kudos to Irrational Games.
“All in all, Bioshock: Infinite performs great on the PC. Irrational Games offered a great PC version, though there are some issues that need to be polished. The stuttering effect is the most annoying one, and we seriously hope that the company will release a patch to smooth things out. Bioshock: Infinite runs great on PC configurations with relatively old CPUs, though it needs a powerful GPU to shine (a GTX680 is able to offer you the holy grail of constant 60fps at 1080p). And even though – from a technical point of view – Irrational’s title is not as advanced as Crysis 3, its art direction is above anything we’ve seen so far. Yes, that’s the word we’d be focusing on. Art. Let us close this analysis with this then; Bioshock: Infinite is simply a piece of art.”
We were utterly impressed by Blacklist. Splinter Cell: Blacklist is taking advantage of more than three CPU cores, scales incredibly on multi-GPUs, looks stunning, comes with lots of graphical options, and does not suffer from mouse acceleration issues. Blacklist tops Conviction in every possible way. Ubisoft has done an amazing job with this one. The funny thing here is that Blacklist is based on Unreal Engine 2.5 (heavily modified version but still). Believe it or not, this is a really polished and optimized title.
“Overall, we were really impressed with Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Blacklist is among the few that benefits from quad-cores, and runs better – while looking even better – than its predecessor. It’s a step towards the right direction, so kudos to Ubisoft for finally learning their lesson. Splinter Cell: Blacklist will also stress today’s GPUs. Thankfully, PC gamers can lower some settings in order to enjoy it. Not only that, but the game’s levels have been designed in such a way that offer both stealth and assault approaches. In short, Blacklist can be played just like the Splinter Cell games you loved. And that’s a great thing.”
1.) Crysis 3
There is no doubt about it; Crysis 3 is the most advaned and optimized PC game of 2013. Crytek did an amazing job with CRYENGINE. CRYENGINE takes advantage of four CPU cores and displays some of the best visuals we’ve seen. Crysis 3 pushes most PC systems to their limits and does not suffer from ridiculous CPU optimization issues. Crysis 3 also supports lots of advanced techniques that we’ve not seen in other games to date. There are still some scenes that could run better (provided Crytek had not abandoned support for its title) and we believe that a ‘LOD’ system for the vegetation physics would be ideal, but those are really nitpicks.
“All in all, Crysis 3 is the most demanding game we’ve ever tested. And even though the game’s visuals justify its GPU requirements, there is certainly no excuse for its CPU requirements. Make no mistake; the game scales incredibly well on more than three CPU cores and that’s a great thing. However, we strongly believe that it would be best if those physics were calculated by the – more powerful – GPUs. As always, some will agree with us while others won’t. Point is that Crytek has made a step backwards with this decision, as it could easily take advantage of DirectCompute for such a task. After all, AMD is doing this exact thing with its recently announced tressfx technique.”