Four Square Enix PC Ports that’ll blow your mind.
Posted on Wednesday, November 21st, 2012 by Alex Trotter-Fernandez
With the industry’s attention focused on consoles, PC gamers have been left out in the cold with shoddy ports that don’t take full advantage of a decent gaming system. Last year we saw ID betray the PC user base that made them, with a locked down port of their almost-comeback shooter Rage. Their console-centric approach to how much an enthusiast could tweak the settings induced rage among the community. It may have looked sharper and more vibrant on PC, but the lack of ability to push the ID Tech 5 engine to it’s limits was crushingly disappointing.
It’s a sad state affairs but at the same time it makes perfect business sense. Consoles have a huge combined installed user base, and unfortunately that’s where the money lies. Still, there’s anywhere between 3-5 million Steam users online in any given 48 hour period, and it’s strange that a large majority of the companies don’t seem intent on providing them with the maximum PC experience. What do we want? Awesome graphics that push our systems to the limit, well thought out Keyboard/Mouse configurations and smooth gameplay. Although I never find it an issue, a lot of PC gamers consider anything below 60fps unplayable. Strictly speaking that isn’t true, but once you play something at 60fps and beyond it’s hard to go back to anything else. I digress, really what we’re looking for are ports that have the same amount of love and attention spilled into every texture and every frame that are truly optimized for PC.
Thankfully we’ve seen a rise in the amount of decent PC ports, with publishers finally realizing “Hey, we can make money out of the guys!” PC games are finally taking advantage of Direct X 11 features like Tessellation and GPU perks like CUDA and PhysX. This year we’ve seen a ton of amazing multi-platform games providing eye candy at the same or higher level as the usual suspects – The Witcher 2, Metro 2033 and Crysis 2. One publisher has been making strides in this area, with several high profile PC offerings that look absolutely incredibly with graphic settings set to annihilate; Square Enix. Remember how amazing Watch Dogs looked at E3? Take a close look at Hitman: Absolution and Sleeping Dogs. The next generation has already arrived, you just didn’t get the memo.
Let’s take a look at the four amazing Square Enix ports that promise to give your hardware a full blown work out.
Hitman: Absolution is a truly outstanding port, optimized with PC enthusiasts in mind by Nixxes. Visually it’s pretty much Next-Gen with an amazing amount of detail poured into every frame. With truly dynamic crowds, incredible lighting effects this title is only hampered by the fact you need an equally outstanding system to get the best out of the Glacier 2.0 engine. Even running on Nvidia’s top affordable chip, performance isn’t quite what we’d expect with few hitting the 60fps floor in Ultra. Whether or not this is due to poor optimization, or the fact it it really is what we could consider a next gen title, it can be annoying for those who dislike playing anything below 60fps. In all honestly it really doesn’t matter, it may not be as smooth as I might like, but the slow pace of the game ensures that the benefits of 60fps gameplay doesn’t really apply. With the promise of patches, these optimization issues should be mute in the months to come. It also includes a useful benchmarking tool which seems to now be the standard for all Square Enix releases. Hitman: Absolution should be standard for all multi-platform titles appearing on PC.
Comparing Sleeping Dogs Xbox 360 version to the current PC port is a real eyeopener. It’s revelation in that before you never realized how muddy console visuals really are. With the hi-def texture pack Sleeping Dogs is a sight to behold, textures really pop, character models don’t look as crummy and pop in is virtually undetectable even when driving a motorbike at 400mph. Taking advantage of advance lighting models that just wouldn’t work on a console it’s consistently beautiful making the world you inhabit a real joy to explore. Again, there’s a nifty benchmarking tool that’ll ensure your getting the most out of the game in both terms of performance and visuals. I would go as far to say that even though I loved the game on the Xbox 360, Sleeping Dogs PC is the definite edition if you have a rig that can handle the visuals. Saying that, like with most current games, a reasonable £100-200 card will give you all the performance you’ll ever need.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Human Revolution is an excellent port, but not because of it’s visuals (which are outstanding anyway), but because it feels like it was designed purely for the PC. It plays as if it was designed with a mouse and keyboard in mind, not a shonky port where controls are clumsily mapped to a keyboard in a haphazard way. With the classic quick menu the developers obviously respect the fans of the PC exclusive original, and in that regard this port excels. Deus Ex has a very distinctive art style, at time having that classic geometric source engine feel – with the added bonus of dynamic lighting and a generally glossier feel. Tessellation and crazy Direct 11 particle effects add more atmosphere into the world; an example of graphical quality adding to the immersion of the title.
Just Cause 2
Say you want to about Just Cause’s shallow but incredibly fun gameplay, Just Cause 2 still remains a stunner on PC years after it’s release. With a CUDA enabled graphics card the water is the best you’ve ever seen and the foliage should make any full-time Gardner salivate from the mouth. As with all Square Enix published titles, there may be a little bit too much bloom for my liking, but hey, I can just go ahead and turn that off. Two years later the Avalanche engine still holds up, with performance only increasing with each new generation of graphics card, ensuring that Just Cause 2 can still happily stand side by side with some of the best looking titles this generation.
With developers tuning into the monetary potential of the PC scene, expect to see more high caliber multi-platform games in the near distant future. Ubisoft may have dropped the ball several times with the Assassins Creed series, but Far Cry 3 is looking pretty incredible. Likewise we can only hope that Rockstar put in the same amount of effort with the upcoming GTAV as they did with their Max Payne 3 port. The chances are we’ll probably have to wait an extra half a year, but hopefully the unconfirmed port will be a lot better than the diabolical Grand Theft Auto IV PC release, which was saved by Modders (who actually gave it an impressive Next-Gen makeover). The future looks bright for PC gamers, and with the next generation of consoles rolling in hopefully we’ll see an influx of Direct 11 enabled games and decent ports.