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Extremely poor PC port. DO NOT buy this game for PC.
on November 19, 2013
First off, I was very excited for this game. I've enjoyed all of the recent open-world Need for Speed games and I've been with the series since NFS II over a decade ago. I wanted to try this one because it got pretty decent reviews and looked good. I was eager to try a Frostbite game other than Battlefield, too.
Contrary to a previous review, this game DOES run on Windows 8. However, Need for Speed Rivals suffers from being an EXTREMELY POOR PC port. The game is simply missing a lot of the eye candy that is present in the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game. I'm running max settings at 2560x1440, and it still looks awful compared to the next generation consoles. This should NOT be the case on PC; in fact, it's unacceptable that in this day and age a PC game on max settings would look worse than it does on less-powerful consoles. The fancy bloom lighting from the PS4 version is missing, for example, and there is no option to turn on anti-aliasing (despite the fact that Frostbite has a great FXAA implementation that barely impacts performance at all) so all the jaggies look awful.
Worst of all, the game is capped at 30 frames per second, maximum. This is an absolute deal-breaker for me. What other modern 3D PC game is artificially capped at 30 frames per second? I have a very powerful gaming PC (Core i7-980X at 4.6 and dual GTX Titans) which is more than capable of running Battlefield 4 at maximum settings at over 60 frames per second with supersampling AA turned up a bit, and that game is running on the same Frostbite 3 engine that this game is. Why should I have to be locked to 30 frames per second? Unlocking the FPS cap through launch commands messes the game up and everything ends up going along at 2x speed. It seems like the game was coded with the 30 fps cap in mind, so I'm not optimistic that it can be patched to run at 60 fps. NVIDIA hasn't updated their SLI profiles for this game yet, but I don't even need it since a single GTX Titan is more than enough to run the game at 30 fps (with HBAO on and all maximum settings at my resolution, it's running at about 50% GPU utilization on ONE GPU right now). Worst of all, the 30 fps that the game does run at seems quite choppy, probably because of the frame pacing issues that have been reported with this game, which present themselves even with SLI turned off.
I really wish I could return this game to Amazon but I'm not sure what their return policy on game codes is. I'll update this review if EA patches the game to be better... the gameplay looks great but at 30 choppy frames per second the game is barely playable to me. If I do manage to get my money back, I MIGHT go for the PS4 version of this game, since I'm still a huge Need for Speed fan, but I'm reluctant to encourage EA's poor PC porting efforts (I'd rather have 1080p rather than 1440p than all these jaggies, and the game is locked to 30 fps on both platforms anyway) by buying yet another copy of the game. With EA pushing Origin on the PC, I was hoping they'd put more effort into making their PC games better. For now, it seems like the only EA studio that really cares about the PC experience is DICE, but I have a feeling that's just because that's where all their core customers are.
Windows 8.1 Pro
Rampage III Extreme
Intel Core i7-980X @ 4.6 GHz
EVGA GTX Titan SC SLI @ 1175 MHz core/7000 MHz mem
24 GB DDR3-2000 @ 2000 MHz
UPDATE 2: Someone discovered a way to unlock the FPS to 60 fps while also doubling simulation speed: Right click the game in Origin, click "game properties" and set the "command line arguments" field to "-GameTime.MaxSimFps 60 -GameTime.ForceSimRate 60.0" This, combined with the fact that you can enable anti-aliasing through the NVIDIA control panel for this game (and presumably this should work with the AMD Catalyst control panel too - though I can't test this), makes this game bearable. The game is still poorly coded and I still doubt that can be changed very easily - frame rate is always still locked to game simulation speed, so if your computer can't sustain a solid 60 fps all the time, then your game will start to run slow as soon as the frame rate dips. But at least now you can have 60 fps gameplay provided you have a powerful enough computer. I'm going to keep the rating at what it is until Ghost Games acknowledges and patches the issue.
UPDATE: This was worse than I thought. I forced some anti-aliasing on in the NVIDIA control panel to play around (which works - FXAA and a bit of MSAA added in don't appear to break anything) and, after turning it up, found out that it appears *THE GAME ACTUALLY RUNS IN SLOW MOTION IF YOUR FRAME RATE DROPS BELOW 30 FPS.* That's right, folks. It appears that the speed at which the game simulates the world depends entirely on the frame rate. 30 fps = real time. 15 fps = half speed. 60 fps = double speed. If your computer is slow and runs the game at 20 fps, the world - your car, everything - dips to 2/3 speed. If you uncap the frame rate and run the game locked at 60 fps, the world will run at 2x speed. If you have a lot of cars and particles on screen and your frame rate dips to 25 fps, your car in game will take longer to get from 0 to 60. How this works with multiplayer racing, I have no idea.
The people at Ghost Games have, for whatever reason, violated one of the core tenants of modern game programming: don't base your game world simulation on frame rate. In normal games, the physics, AI, etc. simulations run in real time independently of frame rate - that is, the car should accelerate from 0 to 60 in the same amount of time regardless of whether you're getting 5 fps or 120 fps. I don't understand why they made this design decision. This is speculation, but I'm not very confident they can fix it with patches unless they do a costly rewrite of large swaths of the game - mitigate some of the issues, maybe, but how you run the world simulation is such an integral part of the game engine.