Watch Dogs Legion PC Performance Review – 30 FPS Is Good Enough

Watch Dogs Legion PC Performance Review

Ubisoft’s track record hasn’t been really good when it comes to optimizing PC video games. Either Ubisoft’s games rely on single Core performance or they utilize the CPU cores and threads like its free-for-all. Is Watch Dogs Legion any different? This is exactly what we are going to see in our Watch Dogs Legion PC Performance Review.

Watch Dogs Legion PC Performance Review

Ubisoft games are more-or-less CPU bound, especially, the open-world titles like AC Origins and Odyssey partly because of how many AI routines these games run at the same time.

Apparently, Watch Dogs Legion is no exception but there is a catch which we will discuss in-depth in our analysis of the Watch Dogs Legion PC.

For our PC Performance review of Watch Dogs Legion, I’ll be using two different PCs to benchmark it to see how well it runs. System 1, which is also the weakest of three, is equipped with an Intel Core i5-9400F, Zotac GTX 1060 AMP Edition 6GB, 16 GB dual-channel 2666 MHz RAM.

The reason why I chose GTX 1060 is that it’s a very capable GPU that still packs a punch and a significant number of PC players still use it.

System 2 is equipped with a Gigabyte GTX 1070 Gaming G1, 7th-gen Intel Core i5-7600K, 16GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM.

As you can see the systems we are using are variable. This is to check how well the game performs on 4 Core CPU and a 6 Core CPU combined with mid-range GPUs. Let’s begin with our Watch Dogs Legion PC Performance Review.

Note: This PC performance review for Watch Dogs Legion is done before the release of Game Ready Drivers as we received a review code from Ubisoft. Also, Ubisoft has noted that a patch will be released for Watch Dogs Legion on October 30th that will fix performance and crashes. If anything changes following the patch, I’ll update the review.

System 1

We will start our analysis with the weakest system. As I mentioned above, this PC is equipped with an Intel Core i5-9400F, Zotac GTX 1060 AMP Edition 6GB, 16 GB dual-channel 2666 MHz RAM.

Let me start by saying this, I am thoroughly disappointed with Watch Dogs Legion’s performance on a GTX 1060 even on the lowest possible settings. Why? Seems like the game reduces the CPU and GPU usage as the graphical settings are lower at an unlocked FPS.

Let’s start with running the game at Very High graphical Settings. You can see the benchmark in the video below. It’s business as usual, the GPU usage is around 90% most of the time, which is expected. Also, the FPS is all over the place which is normal as the GPU is being fully utilized. Meaning GTX 1060 doesn’t have the headroom to output high FPS while also rendering the game at a Very High preset.

However, CPU usage across all cores is around 70% most of the time. Watch Dogs Legion isn’t using the CPU to its fullest which makes sense considering the GPU is being fully utilized already. What I am trying to say, at higher settings the game is supposed to be GPU bound and there is nothing wrong here.

But, as we lower the graphical setting, things become much more interesting. The logic dictates that the lower the graphical settings the more CPU bound the game will be. However, Watch Dogs Legion doesn’t follow this logic.

Let’s take a look at Watch Dogs running at Medium graphics preset with unlocked FPS. As you can see in the video below, the CPU usage is not what it’s supposed to be. Overall the FPS is higher compared to the Very High preset.

As we move ahead in the benchmark, you’ll notice that the CPU usage is still around 70% but, for the third and fourth Core of the CPU, the usage is very around 50 – 60 percent. The GPU usage has also dropped to 80% and drops even lower at some points.

My point is that Watch Dogs Legion is running at an unlocked FPS in this benchmark. It’s supposed to be using both CPU and GPU to their full potential but, it’s not. Not only that, CPU usage is lower compared to the Very High Preset. The game is supposed to be CPU bound at this stage and should be burning the GPU to render FPS as fast and as much as it can.

Considering, the GTX 1060 is a four-year-old GPU and might not be able to handle Watch Dogs Legion even at its Medium preset. In that case, let’s drop the game’s graphics top the lowest possible preset.

While the overall FPS is higher and occasionally goes above 60 FPS but in terms of CPU and GPU utilization, it’s the same story as medium preset. At the lowest graphical settings, Watch Dogs Legion is supposed to be CPU-bound but the CPU usage is hovering around 70% most of the time.

GPU usage is mostly around 60% and even dips to 50%. Meaning the game has resources to use and it refuses to use them to render at a higher FPS.

If I have to guess, the game isn’t optimized to utilize CPU and GPU properly and Ubisoft seems to think that if Watch Dogs Legion runs at 30 FPS on PC, it’s good enough.

I think this is a combination of the issue with Watch Dogs Legion’s game engine combined with poor PC optimization. It’s disappointing to see that the game doesn’t even lock at 60 FPS even though it clearly has the GPU and CPU to achieve that target.

System 2

As I mentioned above System 2 is equipped with a GTX 1070, 7th-gen Core i5, and 32 GB DDR4 RAM. The processor we are using is a 4 Core/4 Thread CPU and Watch Dogs Legion does not like a 4 Core CPU

Let’s start with the game’s High Preset. As you can see in the video below, both CPU and the GPU are being fully utilized. However, the GPU isn’t capable of running the game at 60 FPS even at a high preset.

What’s interesting is that the CPU bottlenecks the GPU causing the GPU usage to drop around 50% and the FPS below 30. It’s quite apparent that the 4 Core/4 Thread CPU isn’t enough for Watch Dogs Legion.

Now Let’s drop the graphics setting to Medium and see how well this PC handles it. The game starts off strong with the GPU and CPU usage being around 80%. But even at the medium preset, the PC is unable to reach 60 FPS.

Again, the GPU is being bottlenecked by the CPU as the game goes below 30 FPS with the GPU usage again dropping to 50%. This is because the game is squeezing the CPU and there isn’t enough headroom for it to utilize the GPU.

Now let’s drop the graphics setting all the way to Low and see how well the game performs. Sadly, even at the low preset, Watch Dogs Legion fails to run at an acceptable FPS target and even drops below 30 FPS.

Clearly, Watch Dogs Legion isn’t designed to scale on a 4 Core/4 Threaded CPU which causes a GPU bottleneck and the FPS drops below 30.

Now I get it that Watch Dogs Legion has a host of AI routines to manage across the game’s map but, the performance is unacceptable. I believe that Ubisoft could have done more to optimize the game further by making it more GPU-bound instead of CPU.

Not to mention, the Watch Dogs Legion has issues with a 6 Core/ 6 Threaded CPU as it failed to fully utilize it and creates an artificial bottleneck on the GPU even at the lowest graphics preset.

Conclusion

It’s clear that Ubisoft has designed Watch Dogs Legion with the mentality that 30 FPS is good enough. Ubisoft doesn’t realize that PC can do more and the developer needs to do more when it comes to optimizing games for PC. Watch Dogs Legion doesn’t scale well across multiple cores and it’s a disappointing release in terms of PC performance.

1 COMMENT

  1. I assumed that this game was badly optimised as well as at first. I am running it on an rtx 2080 super, a ryzen 2700x (12 threads that generally stay at their boost speed of 4ghz) and 16GB of 3200mhz DDR4. At first running either high settings at 4K or high settings at 1080p I could not hit 60fps with both gpu and cpu usage not capped out. Even at 1080p while staring straight up at the sky I was getting low 50’s fps.
    What I eventually discovered is for some reason my ram XMP profile was not engaged anymore (no idea how that happened) and my ram was only running at 2100mhz. Re-instating my XMP profile from the bios suddenly knocked my minimum fps at 1080p to around 95fps while looking at the sky and also massively reduced stuttering within the game.
    I think people are overlooking how hard this game is pushing ram during open world traversal segments. I’m sitting at nearly 13GB of ram usage while driving around London and I think the super high quality assets being pushed in and out of memory constantly is what is causing issues for a lot of people. Basically this game will eat as much memory and speed as can be thrown at it and it’s a combination of cpu speed and ram clock speed that will allow you to push better frame rates. The game itself isn’t that heavy on modern GPUs (not including ray tracing) which is why usage appears low a lot of the time. The issue holding back frame rates is the cpu waiting on data to be shuffled around in ram ready to be pushed to the gpu and then the gpu waiting on the cpu to push through massive amounts of data in to the gpu memory.
    I think anything less than 8+ threads at high frequencies and less than 3200mhz ram clock speed and you’re in for a bad time on any settings. Also memory speed on your graphics card is going to massive impact on a game like this as well.

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