As we’ve already said, 2014 was a pretty interesting year. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare focused on current-gen platforms, Metal Gear Solid finally came to the PC, new titles supporting AMD’s Mantle API emerged (Sniper Elite 3, Civilization: Beyond Earth and THIEF), Ryse: Son of Rome hit the PC, and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter wow’ed everyone with its high-resolution textures that did not require more than 1.5GB of VRAM.
This year, we decided to break down our special article in order to cover both the most disappointing PC titles of 2014, as well as the most optimized PC games. You can find our article about the worst optimized games of 2014 here. So, time now to see what were the games that impressed us the most in 2014.
But what do we consider great examples of optimized PC games? Let’s clarify on this. In our opinion, a game optimized for the PC is one that can scale on lots of multi-core CPUs and multi GPUs, that is not plagued by ‘console-ish’ side effects (like really low FOV, controller only on-screen indicators and mouse acceleration/smoothing issues), that packs lots of graphics options to adjust, and that also looks and runs great.
In short, we’re examining a game’s technical aspect, meaning that not only must the engine scale well on modern-day hardware, but also the developer must ensure that things like PC specific graphical features, PC technologies (like SLI and Crossfire) and PC controls are properly implemented.
With this out of our way, let’s take a look at the most optimized PC games of 2014.
Codemasters’ racing game is in the tenth place, surpassing at the very last moment Nixxes’ THIEF. THIEF is still plagued with some stuttering issues, which is why it has not made it to our Top10. On the other hand, Codemasters’ racing game looks great and performs incredible well. The Codies have enhanced their EGO engine that scales now well on multiple CPU cores and multiple GPUs. Not only that, but the game runs smoothly even on dated systems (while at the same time looking really good).
“All in all, GRID: Autosport performs amazingly well on the PC. Codemasters’ claims of offering a great PC version are not exagerrated (provided you keep in mind that this is a game that always targetted old-gen systems). Oh, and despite the fact that our Logitech MOMO Racing wheel worked fine with this latest racing title, Codemasters has included keyboard on-screen indicators for all those wishing to play with a keyboard. It’s absurd to play a racing game – at least these days – with a keyboard, so kudos to Codies for offering such a thing.”
Blasphemy, how can a strategy game surpass other titles? Well, to Civ: Beyond Earth’s credit, Firaxis did an incredible work. The game’s engine scales even on six CPU cores, and for the first time we witnessed a noticeable performance difference between quad-cores and hexa-cores. Not only that, but the game comes with amazing SLI/Crossfire support, as well as Mantle support. While it may not pack spectacular visuals, Civilization: Beyond Earth is a game properly optimized for the PC.
“All in all, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth performs incredibly well on the PC platform, despite the fact that it will not dazzle you with its visuals. The game scales on multiple CPU cores and perhaps for the first time, we see a noticeable difference between a hexacore and a quadcore system. Not only that, but the game is fully enjoyable even on dual-core systems. And even though a GTX680 is unable to run the benchmark tool with constant 60fps, Civilization: Beyond Earth comes with various graphical options for those with weaker GPUs to tweak.”
Rebellion impressed everyone with the latest part in the Sniper Elite series. Sniper Elite 3 packed great visuals, featured lots of graphics options to tweak, offered and option to disable mouse smoothing side effects, had impressive tessellation effects, and sported an amazing dynamic lighting system. While there were some really awful pop-in issues, Sniper Elite 3 looked great and did not need a really high-end PC (unless of course you want to enable Supersampling).
“All in all, Sniper Elite 3 performs amazingly well on the PC. Rebellion did an excellent work and Nvidia has not dropped the SLI ball on this one. While the game does require a high-end GPU to shine, it comes with a fully dynamic lighting system that will be appreciated by all those who got bored with all the pre-baked shadows that have plagued most triple-A games lately. Not only that, but the game’s CPU requirements are as low as they can get, meaning that a lot of gamers will be able to enjoy this latest Sniper Elite title.”
Monolith’s open world game based on LOTR was – overall – great. While we expected better CPU scaling (given the fact that we’re talking about an open world title), the game was able to perform incredibly even on dual-core CPUs. Contrary to its CPU requirements, Shadow of Mordor required a high-end GPU to shine but Monolith included a wide range of graphics options to tweak. Unfortunately, however, the game felt like an enhanced old-gen title despite its high GPU requirements. Which basically explains why it’s not higher on our list.
“All in all, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor performs great on the PC. The game scales well on multiple CPUs, and despite Monolith’s claims, it is perfectly playable on dual-core CPUs that support Hyper Threading. We also did not notice any mouse acceleration side-effects, so that’s another point for Monolith. And while Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor requires a high-end GPU to shine, Monolith has added a lot of graphics options to tweak in order to achieve playable framerates.”
We were pleasantly surprised by Advanced Warfare. After all, COD: Ghosts was one of the worst optimized PC games of 2013. Sledgehammer Games was able to turn the tide, and create a great COD game that performed incredibly well on the PC. It had a number of shortcomings, but overall the game was way beyond what we’d hoped for. Not only that, but its E3 mission was not downgraded at all, proving that Sledgehammer did not pull a Ubisoft or a Naughty Dog stand on this one.
“All in all, we were pleasantly surprised by Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The game performs incredibly well on the PC, does not require a top of the line CPU, will push a single GTX680 to its limits, and at times it does look like a next-gen game. Still, there are some shortcomings and there are times when everything simply falls apart (and that awful LOD is really one of them). There is no denying that it looks great, however it’s not a Crysis 3 killer.”
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter amazed us with its visuals and its low VRAM requirements. Astronauts did an incredible work. Astronauts used a new technique called Photogrammetry, via which it was able to include really high-resolution textures to its title. And this technique really paid off. The game looks and runs great on a wide variety of PC systems, proving that great looking games are possible with relatively – at least by today’s standards – engines like Unreal Engine 3.
“All in all, The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter is a pleasant surprise. While it has its issues, it does sport amazing visuals and -eventually – manages to immerse you into its world. The game comes with a respectable number of graphics settings, does not require a top of the line CPU, and basically needs a mid-tier GPU for max details at 1080p (provided you don’t go crazy with its AA options). What will also surprise you is the fact that Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 is powering this game, thus proving that this engine can be still put to good use.”
The Creative Assembly impressed everyone with its Alien game. Alien: Isolation looked awesome, and performed well on a variety of PC systems. Moreover, the PC version looked and ran better than its console cousins that had various performance issues. The Creative Assembly also offered a wide range of graphics options to tweak, a FOV slider, the ability to disable Chromatic Aberration, and there were no mouse acceleration issues. To put it simply; it was a rock solid PC version of a current-gen title.
“All in all, Alien: Isolation performs amazingly well on the PC platform. This game is easy on its CPU and GPU requirements, meaning that it can be maxed out by a wide range of PC configurations. Alien: Isolation looks great, though we have to say that we were a little let down by the lack of fully dynamic shadows. Still, the game’s visuals come really close to the scenes found in the first Alien movie, so kudos to The Creative Assembly’s artists for staying so close to the original source material.”
Ryse: Son of Rome is one of the most beautiful games of 2014. Powered by Crytek’s engine, this new third person action game showed the gap between Xbox One and current high-end PC systems. Now while CRYENGINE scales on more than four CPU cores, Ryse: Son of Rome did not put into good use all of our six CPU cores. Moreover, environments were more confined than those found in Crysis 3, and environmental interaction was also limited. While Ryse: Son of Rome looked gorgeous, it did not push the envelope as Crysis 3 did.
“All in all, Ryse: Son of Rome performs great on the PC platform, though we’d expect more graphical options from Crytek (AA options are quite limited if you compare them to those of Crysis 3 for example). While the game does not require a high-end CPU for a 60fps experience, it does certainly require a high-end GPU for that. And while its GPU requirements are really high (in fact they are pretty close to those of Crysis 3), it does sport some of the best visuals we’ve seen to date.”
Dragon Age: Inquisition is powered by DICE’s Frostbite 3 engine; an engine that performs amazingly well on the PC. As a result of that, it was almost given that it would be in the higher places of our Top 10. While Bioware has not addressed yet the game’s tactical view, it did release a number of patches that fixed some of the issues we had. In its current state, the game does not crash at all (even after playing for six-seven hours), there are proper water effects and water ripples, and the annoying silver hair bug has been resolved. Bioware did an incredible work and Dragon Age: Inquisition looks incredible, especially if you take account its “open world” nature.
“All in all, Dragon Age: Inquisition has its issues on the PC but for the most part, it performs great. Thanks to the Frostbite 3 engine, the game scales incredibly well on both multicore CPUs and multi GPUs. Bioware has provided a wide range of options to adjust, and the game looks great even on High settings. There are no mouse acceleration side-effects, the default control scheme is not as bad as it’s been rumored, and the game does look lovely for most of the time. “
Our most optimized game for 2014 is no other than Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. While Ground Zeroes does not look as sexy as Ryse or Assassin’s Creed: Unity, it sports the perfect visuals/performance ratio. Powered by the FOX Engine, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes scales incredibly well even on six CPU cores. Moreover, and while the game does not stress the GPU as much as you’d expect, Ground Zeroes looks lovely. What also surprised us was the fact that this is the first PC game from Kojima Productions. Contrary to Dark Souls, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes features a lot of graphics options to tweak, it’s not bugged by mouse acceleration issues, has a number of graphical effects added to the PC, and has proper on-screen keyboard+mouse indicators. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes feels like a PC game, and that says a lot for a game that was originally released on consoles.
“All in all, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is one of the most optimized games of 2014. Kojima Productions’ first PC game is phenomenal as it looks and performs exceptionally well. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes scales incredibly well on multi-core CPUs and multiple GPUs, and proves that a well polished game can be impressive visually without pushing every damn high-end GPU to its limits.”