This article was originally posted on the 9th of September 2019
AMD and Microsoft were kind enough to send me a review copy for Gears 5. The two companies (through developer Coalition) worked together to bring features to the game that should take advantage of AMD’s latest GPUs, like Asynchronous Compute and Multi-threaded Command Buffers, with more AMD FidelityFX features planned for the near future. The game is included in Microsoft’s Game Pass Bundle, and AMD is sweetening the deal for a limited time with gamers that purchase qualifying AMD Ryzen processors and Radeon graphics cards getting 3 months of complimentary access to Xbox Game Pass for PC, allowing them to play Gears 5 at launch. Sounds good to me, but remember that your campaign and multiplayer progress will be tied to the service.
Looking at performance first, the game is well optimized for PC provided you have a 1080p or 1440p monitor. For 4K there isn’t at the time of writing a single GPU on the market that can provide you with a playable experience at 4K Ultra, and lowering the graphical fidelity really impacts how the game looks.
- CPU: Ryzen 3900X
- RAM: 16GB 3600 CL16
- MB: MSI GODLIKE – AGESA 1003 (latest)
- GAME STORAGE: GIGABYTE GEN4 M.2 2TB
- DRIVERS: Radeon Software 19.9.1 Final | GeForce 431.68 Hotfix
- OS: Win10 64bit (latest)
The Numbers you came here for
Included are only the GPUs that any sane person would consider buying right now (excluding used). The equivalent offerings from NVidia and AMD look pretty much on par, and you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart. That is of course, until you look at the prices. Going from the 2060 Super to the 5700 sees you spending $50 extra for no reason. Going from AMD’s 5700 XT to Nvidia’s RTX 2070 Super sees you taking $100 and saying “I hate money”.
At 1440p the collaboration between Microsoft and AMD seems to definitely be paying off with the Radeon GPUs offering the best performance per dollar.
At 4K things don’t look so great for either GPU manufacturer, at least in the Ultra Quality preset. Playing around with settings will give you 60FPS, but with significant sacrifice to graphical fidelity. Usually tweaking one or two settings (like shadows) will give you a big boost in performance without much noticeable changes to the way the game looks, but with Gears 5, from my own experience testing the various options, it seems that the quality of the assets also goes down dramatically along with the post-processing filters, making the game look inconsistent (fire that looks like it’s from 2012, blurry textures, etc).
Having said that, I played Act I with the 5700 XT at 4K with an average of 41 FPS and the experience was OK at Ultra. I wouldn’t recommend it for multiplayer obviously.
What about 1440p upscaled with Sharpening?
This is where things get interesting. I tested the game on a 32” 4K monitor, the LG 32UD59-B, and I was hoping that scaling the Image with Radeon Scaling + Image Sharpening toggled on in the Radeon Settings menu would give me a decent experience. The results were mixed.
The above image is uncompressed in-game screenshots with various upscaled sharpening features applied – with native 4K on the left for reference. You can right-click and choose “view” to enlarge it. The in-game sharpening setting that looked the best to me at native 4K was at “7”, while at 1440p on this 32 inch monitor turning the in-game sharpening all the way up to 30 BUT also turning the Radeon scaling+sharpening OFF seemed to give the best results.
The following screenshots show the full image. Again, right-click and choose “view image” to view the uncompressed fullscreen images.
In my (subjective) opinion the Radeon Scaling + Sharpening seems to be destructive as far as detail goes, rather than enhancing the image in any way. Even though at native 4K the “30” In-game sharpening seemed excessive, at 1440p it seems to be a better choice than using the Radeon Settings upscaler (which admittedly has worked great for me in other titles like Fallout 4, PUBG or the Metro series). AMD has said that there will be more FidelityFX features added to the game soon so this will be something to keep an eye on.
Now what about that ULTRA TEXTURES pack?
There is an optional 10GB texture pack available for download. As far as performance goes, I noticed a 1FPS drop in 1440p and 4K, or error of margin, so I don’t see any downsides to using the pack. On the other hand, I also don’t see any differences in the texture or image quality. Here are some screenshots with and without the pack installed.
Since there is no save option it’s difficult get an exact comparison, but I chose this particular spot as the objects on the surface on the right – and particularly the green box to the far right – looked really poor to me with the original texture pack. I was hoping the Ultra Textures would improve these but honestly, I can’t tell the difference. The furnace fire seems to look a bit better but that could have just been the angle or the animation keyframe for that asset.
Again, I honestly can’t tell the difference here. The wooden barrel with bottles on top seemed like it was in need of some better textures with the original pack, but it doesn’t seem to be affected by the Ultra one. The performance is again within margin of error, so like I said I guess you might as well download the Ultra pack, if nothing else placebo might trick you into thinking it looks better.
There is a lot of hype around this game, and I think fans of the series will enjoy it. There is also a lot of talk and videos discussing how amazing the game looks. Honestly, I don’t see any great advancements in PC graphics. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by ENBs in games from 2012 but I feel like the performance drop to 40-50 at 4K isn’t warranted given the competent-at-best graphics fidelity. Don’t get me wrong, the game doesn’t look ugly or anything, but in a world of Quixel Megascans I can’t say this impresses me that much. I’m looking forward to seeing more FidelityFX options, and I really hope AMD introduces a more advanced sharpening feature in Radeon Settings, with options to increase or decrease the effect, and perhaps even different sharpening techniques.