Watch_Dogs – E3 2012 PC Build versus Latest PC Build Comparison

Ubisoft has recently revealed the first PC trailer of Watch_Dogs, so it’s time now to see whether this latest version is as good as the E3 build that impressed everyone back in 2012. Our last comparison with the PS4 build showed that there was a noticeable downgrade, so it’s time to find out whether the PC version is in better – or worse – state. As always, the E3 2012 build is on the left whereas the 2014 build is on the right.

Let’s start with what is missing from both the PS4 and the PC builds; anamorphic lens flares. For better – or worse – Ubisoft has removed them from the cars and most light sources. At this point we don’t know whether we’re glad that they are not present or not. We believe that this effect was overdone in the E3 2012, but we’d expect the French company to reduce their strength instead of completely removing them.

WatchDogs anamorphic les flares on_E3 2012WD no anamorphic 2014

Reflections, on the other hand, are as good as the ones featured in the E3 2012 build. We can clearly see that most light sources are reflected on the streets in the rainy sequences. This is a graphical area that has not been downgraded at all.

WD no 2012 reflectionsWD no 2014 reflections

A lot of people believe that the E3 2012 build had better NPCs. To a degree, it seems they were right (though we should note that the latest trailer does not show NPCs from a close range). As we can see, a lot of NPCs look as ‘bad’ as those found in the latest builds. Specific characters are better detailed, which we are pretty sure will be the case and with the latest builds of Watch_Dogs. Still, the latest models feel simpler than those that were introduced back in 2012.

WD crowd 2012 -1WD crowd 2014 -1
WD crowd 2012 -2WD crowd 2014 -2

Both the E3 2012 and the latest PC build suffer from ‘fake’ physics effects. In the beginning of the E3 2012 build, we can see smoke reacting to the wind. However, the smoke at the center of the street is not reacting to the wind at all. Similarly to the latest PC build, while the trees are moving due to the wind, the flags were not moving at all.

WD 2012 fake physicsWD 2014 fake physics

Environmental effects have been greatly decreased – if the latest PS4 and PC trailers are anything to go by. The initial E3 2012 build featured fog effects that added to the game’s atmosphere, something that is noticeably missing from the latest builds. In fact, this effect alone makes a huge difference as the environments in the latest builds feel a bit flat due to the absence of fog and smoke.

WD fog effects 2012WD no fog effects 2014

What’s also surprising is the fact that the E3 2012 build suffered from pre-baked shadows and light sources that do not cast shadows. As we can see below, the headlights of the car do not cast shadows, something that was not noticed back in the 2012 days. This is nothing new as it’s been a while since all light sources cast shadows, even in the latest triple-A games.

WD shadows 2012WD shadows 2012 -2

Regarding the lighting system, we can’t really judge it as the trailer feature different sequences and TODs. While the contrast seems stronger in the latest builds and the the lighting feels ‘warmer’ in the E3 2012 build, it’s not obvious whether the whole system has been downgraded or not.

All in all, there are minor differences between the 2012 and the 2014 builds. And yes, you can say that the latest build has been slightly downgraded. As with the PS4 version, the PC lacks anamorphic lens flares and the fog effects are nowhere to be found, resulting in somehow flat scenes.

It remains to be seen whether Ubisoft will have enough time to implement the missing effects, and whether the final build will have more effects and details than those displayed in the latest trailers.

Enjoy and stay tuned for more!

John Papadopoulos

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." Contact: Email