Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3 i5 issue addressed in new patch - PC port review

Call of Duty Black Ops 3

[Update 9-11-15] Treyarch have rolled out a PC patch for Black Ops III which looks to address performance issues suffered by players with Intel Core i5 CPUs, among other fixes. The team also suggest setting a frame cap just below your monitor's refresh rate to improve frame rate stability - 58FPS cap if your refresh rate is 60Hz, for example. Our test machines's fitted with an i7 CPU so we haven't sampled the i5 issue. Those of you with i5 CPUs: what have your experiences been so far? Has the patch helped? 

[Original story] Treyarch made a lot of noise about the PC version of Black Ops 3 prior to release. Rather than outsource the PC port to another studio, they're developing all platforms concurrently. What's more, they've added in a bunch of PC-centric features such as an FPS counter and lock, a FOV slider, and split-screen play across all modes. But does the end product really reflect the franchise's renewed attention to PC? Well, yes and no.

Tested on a Intel i7-2600K @4.7 GHz, 16 GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 680 (4GB), Windows 10.

In some ways, Black Ops 3 is an improvement on previous PC outings for Call Of Duty - the above features do exist, as promised, along with a decent spread of graphics options and even planned mod support. So it's not like Treyarch were just blowing hot air when they spoke to us about giving the PC version the attention it deserved. However, promising "the best PC game in Treyarch history" was probably going a bit far. 

Yes, there are PC-focused features, and yes, it's a scaleable engine - just not in the way you'd want. 

I'm testing Black Ops 3 on a mid-range system with NVIDIA's game-ready driver installed - it's well above the modest minimum requirements, but not full of enough bleeding-edge hardware to excpect 1080p60 gaming on high/max settings as a given. And it's just as well I don't take that as a given, because Black Ops 3 really doesn't want to give it to me.

The game is quite good at analysing your specs and tailoring its default graphics settings accordingly - so in my case, the game runs at a smooth-ish 30FPS with v-sync enabled without any menu tinkering. However, inspection of those menus reveals that the game's had to be scaled down considerably to achieve that performance. 

Let's look at those graphics options. It's a more robust set of menus than those found in last year's Advanced Warfare, and offers several genuinely interesting additions. 

Black Ops 3 PC graphics options 1

The one that catches my eye is "render resolution," which is effectively in-game downsampling. Without changing the actual screen resolution, you can force the game to output a resolution up to 200% bigger or 50% smaller than your native res, then use an algorithm to force it to fit your screen. The benefit is that using a bigger resolution makes textures appear incredibly sharp, and a smaller resolution boosts performance but doesn't degrade the fidelity quite as much as changing the actual screen resolution. I first became aware of downsampling via the Dark Souls GeDoSaTo mod, and later NVIDIA's Dynamic Super Resolution. This is the first game I've seen that supports downsampling natively - please do let me know in the comments below if you've seen it elsewhere, though. Either way, it's a bit of a surprise to see it in a COD, isn't it?

As promised, the frame counter and FPS lock are present and correct. 'Sync every frame' refers to v-sync, and will half your FPS depending on your monitor's resolution for an overall smoother experience. 

Black Ops 3 PC graphics options 2

In advanced options, things look a bit more familiar. Anyone who's played the last couple of CODs knows that any anti-aliasing option beginning with 'filmic' eats FPS like a hungry dog eating hot chips, and the difference my eyes can actually perceive between SMAA 1x and filmic SMAA T2x is minimal. If your eyes are like mine, this is a good port of call to eke out a higher frame rate. 

The options that'll make a big difference to overall fidelity are the top three - texture quality, filtering, and mesh quality - along with ambient occlusion. Keep these as high as possible, or risk turning your game into GoldenEye. 

There are no overall presets in Black Ops III's graphics menus, but as I mentioned it does a decent job of tailoring its default settings to your system. What I find a bit shocking is how low it had to set most of the options to get a decent, stable 30 FPS out of my rig. And more shocking still, how unplayably slow the game is on max settings.

Black Ops 3 Ultra

(Larger version)

The ageing GTX 680 4GB simply can't handle Black Ops 3 at its max settings (above). While frame rate is consistent and doesn't dip when things explode or smoke fills the screen, it struggles to keep its head above the waters of 20 FPS on my rig. This is without any GPU-intensive downsample, though admittedly I'm gaming at a slightly more demanding 2560 x 1600 natively. Here's the thing though - it's at max settings that Black Ops 3 looks the way you'd expect it to. 

It couldn't be described as a beautiful game. It's not ugly either, but I struggle to see exactly what it is my system's having a hard time processing. It looks like the console versions, albeit running at slightly higher resolution. It's a surprise to see the FPS take such a tank. 

Black Ops 3 Default

(Larger version)

Default settings (above) produce a much more stable 30 FPS, but there's a notable dip in overall fidelity. Textures drop from 'extra' to merely 'high' while shadows and volumetric lighting are set to medium, with a noticeable effect on visuals. Most dramatic though is the render resolution dip to 80%, giving the game the appearance of having been smeared with a very, very thin layer of vaseline. 

The disparity between ultra and my mid-range system's playable defaults are best observed in the smoke quality, the detailing on the truck to the right, and the textures and shadows immediately underneath the fire at the centre of the screen. My problem here is that it looks notably worse at these settings than the settings I was able to get a stable 60FPS from in last year's Advanced Warfare. 

It's worth noting that the pesky filmic anti-aliasing is enabled by default on my rig, though, so watch for that. 

Black Ops 3 Low

(Larger version)

Dropping all the graphics settings down to low in seach of maximum stability and high frame rates (but leaving the render resolution at 100%), things get pretty ugly, as you'd expect. Texture quality is first up against the wall, making the game appear extremely washed out. Soldiers also take on the unfortunate appearance of Doom 3 cosplayers. In fact, everything in the game becomes esconced in plastic. 

And, sure it's possible to get really high frame rates and stable performances at low settings - but the fidelity hit is massive. This is what I alluded to earlier: no one could accuse this game engine of not being scaleable, but it appears much of that scalability works backwards from what most would deem an acceptable fidelity level, not above it. 

With a GTX 970, a 1080p panel, and a willingness to turn down the anti-aliasing a bit, you're unlikely to have major performance dramas - though you might have to drop the settings down still further to hit a locked 60FPS in multiplayer. For everyone else - those of us still using DX11 cards and below - Black Ops 3 is a perplexingly demanding game. And that's even with the help of NVIDIA's game-ready driver. If anyone's playing on an NVIDIA card and doesn't have that driver installed yet, I'd be interested to hear what kind of performance boost it offers. Let me know below. 

Black Ops 3

However, I'm not out to give this game a kicking. Treyarch have obviously spent a lot of time and effort on this PC version, even if performance levels aren't as you'd expect. There are a host of really welcome options, big and small. I particularly enjoy having the ability to change any graphics settings without having to restart the game or even reload the level. It's a marked improvement on previous PC ports. 

I also want to see its FOV slider, frame counter and FPS lock rolled out uniformly across PC games, so kudos is due for that. And let's not forget the addition of that fascinating render resolution, which offers a much higher fidelity ceiling for those with mutli-GPU setups. 

Verdict: Passed (just)

How's your experience of Black Ops 3 going? What kind of performance levels are you getting, and from what specs? Let us know below.

 

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Prime avatarPhil Iwaniuk avatarxNuke avatartronny03 avatarJyouzu avatar[TøR]TheCapulet avatar+6
Prime Avatar
247
Prime(20 days 22 hours played)
1 Year ago

Passed? Really?

I'm having a terrible time. Framerate is all over the place with my system and I'm not even trying to run it at crazy settings

2
Phil Iwaniuk Avatar
69
Phil Iwaniuk(10 hours played)
1 Year ago

*Just*...

What are your specs, Prime? If we hear enough reports from others about performance issues we'll look to update the review with common complaints.

1
xNuke Avatar
423
1 Year ago

Just look at steam reviews. Lots and lots of people who had no issues playing the beta are struggling to get the game running. The optimization shifted drastically with release build.

1
Prime Avatar
247
Prime(20 days 22 hours played)
1 Year ago

4670K, GTX 970, 16gb of ram

1
tronny03 Avatar
2
tronny03(4 hours played)
1 Year ago

well I have a pretty good set up gtx970/I5 4570/8gig of ram and it runs fine on my system and windows 10 64bit...

1
KemalKinali Avatar
1
KemalKinali(2 days played)
1 Year ago

The issue is not that it doesn't "run well." The problem is to run the game at highest settings. I can't run at 1080p with ultra and highest AA settings. And I should be able to. I have GTX970, i5 4690 and 8GB RAM. I run it with smooth 60fps at highest but then it starts dropping suddenly after 3-5 minutes.

1
Jyouzu Avatar
2
Jyouzu(3 days 20 hours played)
1 Year ago

There's definitely issues. I have a 970, i5 and 8gb of ram and can't max it out. Specifically, setting textures to Extra introduces massive stuttering -- it looks like the game is maxing out my vram. Thing is, I can lower everything else and it still gobbled up too much vram. It's like there's a memory leak because the visuals look worse than advanced warfare

1
Jyouzu Avatar
2
Jyouzu(3 days 20 hours played)
1 Year ago

One other thing to mention re: the PC port. I've heard split-screen is limited to 2 players (consoles get 4), and there are still black bars cutting down the resolution (they do this to keep console performance up). More signs of a poor port and general lack of prioritization of the PC platform

1
[TøR]TheCapulet Avatar
1
1 Year ago

Arma 1, Arma 2, Arma 3, Take on Helicopters, Carrier Command: All games that have native rendering resolution settings.

1
-=T-Rex | Killer=- Avatar
1
-=T-Rex | Killer=-(30 days 9 hours played)
1 Year ago

in bo2 i whas turning of scny evry frame and let frames gose to 200 got 75 hz monitor and its nice and clean movement how your mouse gose on desctop gose in game same but in bo3 its all f=#"$ up i5 proc 3.4 8gb ram asus direct cu 2 oc gtx 760 i lower the setting but not getting that smoth game .... ofc i can play it on high beta whas going so perfectly just like bo2 nice and clean and in beta i put evrything on extra :P

1
[TPD] KevMama Avatar
1
1 Year ago

i7 4790k

Nvidia 980 GTX

16gb corsair

ROG Asus mobo

500gb Samsung SSD

Windows 8.1

Crashes computer every 10 minutes. Running optimal Nvidia control panel settings. Antivirus off, vsync off, all the config.ini changes done, ran on low settings, ran on ultra settings. Still crashes, meaning the whole PC locks up with frozen robot sounds. Anyone having the same or similar issues?

1
boxx.jv Avatar
1
boxx.jv(2 days 11 hours played)
1 Year ago

my game is still laged, even in minimum settings, but my main two problems are not being able to play MP and zombies without internet, and i am not able to play Shadows of evil, i have Radeon dual graphics and ther is no updates avalable

1
[SSOR] DJ Khaled Avatar
1
[SSOR] DJ Khaled(13 days 19 hours played)
1 Year ago

would i run this game with a core i7 2600 with a amd hd 6900 and 20 gb of ram ? I dont really mind putting the settings low but did they fix it and can i run it

1
Serious Sam Avatar
1
Serious Sam(1 day 5 hours played)
1 Year ago

I don't know what all the fuss is about? Playing at 1080p with max detail, even textures are on Extra and SMAA 2x. I have no stuttering whatsoever even though my VRAM is maxed out, all 4 GBs. Actually, I am locked at 60 FPS all the time with V-Sync. GPU usage shows utilization from 50 to 75%. My rig is i7 6700K, 16 GBs of G.Skill DDR4 memory clocked at 2.4 GHz and GTX 970 G1 Gaming. Running the game from HDD, not an SSD. Cheers.

0