Fallout 76 on a $55 AMD Athlon? How it Plays on GPUs Up to GTX 1070

Bethesda' Softwork's post-apocalyptic franchise took an unexpected turn with the release of Fallout 76, the first multiplayer Fallout game. Originally conceptualized as the multiplayer component of Fallout 4, Bethesda Softworks decided to spin it off as its own separate game set in West Virginia. Fallout 4 runs in Bethesda's own Creation Engine, the same Graphical Engine powering the legendary Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which is in turn based on the Gamebryo Engine that powers everything from Fallout 3 to Morrowind and Oblivion.

But how does Fallout 76 actually perform? What sort of experience can you expect at different levels of hardware? To find out, we tested on six different PCs with GPUs ranging from Intel HD 620 integrated graphics to an Nvidia GTX 1070



There was a jump in minimum requirements from Fallout 4 to Fallout 76.


Fallout 4 Minimum RequirementsFallout 76 Minimum Requirements
CPUIntel Core i5-2300 2.8 GHz
AMD Phenom II X4 945 3.0 GHz
Intel Core i5-6600K 3.5 GHz
AMD Ryzen 3 1300X 3.5 GHz
GPUNVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 3GB
AMD Radeon R9 285 2GB
RAM8GB8GB 

But our results show that, with the right tweaks, you can play Fallout 76 even on integrated graphics, but if you want the best possible experience at 4K resolution, even the GTX 1070 card isn't strong enough.

GPUBest ResolutionSettingsFrames per second (fps)
Intel HD 620 (Dell XPS 13)768x432Custom ultra low30
AMD Athlon 200GE960x540Custom ultra low40
Nvidia GeForce MX150 (Xiaomi Pro)1280x720Low40
Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti (MSI GL62M-7REX)1280x720Medium/High60
Nvidia GTX 1060 (Alienware 15 R3)1920x1080High60
Nvidia GTX 1070 (Alienware 15 R3)1920x1080Ultra60

The Intel HD experience

Given the minimum requirements, I had very little hope that the game could be played at all on a Dell XPS 13 9360 from 2017. While the Intel Core i7-8550U and 8GB of RAM should be enough, the Intel UHD Graphics 620 leaves a lot to be desired.

And yet...with a little bit of effort, the game can be made to work better than you would expect. There is a fair bit you can do after dropping all the settings to the lowest.

Since we are working with the Creation Engine, the configuration files for Fallout 76 are easily reachable in the Document Folder under My Games/Fallout 76. The Fallout76Prefs.ini has a couple of useful variables to tweak.

For example, while you can't remove shadows entirely, you can limit them to a small area around the camera with:

fShadowDistance=0.0000
fDirShadowDistance=0.0000
iDirShadowSplits=1

You can also reduce grass draw distance to an absolute minimum, limiting grass and its effect to a very small area around the camera with:

fGrassStartFadeDistance=0.0000
fGrassMaxStartFadeDistance=0.0000
fGrassMinStartFadeDistance=0.0000

AntiAliasing is always enabled in Fallout 76, but you can force-disable it by setting:

sAntiAliasing=0

You can tweak the general draw distances a bit for extra performance, limiting the draw distance of non-essential objects and lowering the draw distance of enemies and other players a bit more but not enough to make it impossible to play.

fLODFadeOutMultActors=4.0000
fLODFadeOutMultItems=1.0000
fLODFadeOutMultObjects=2.0000
fLODFadeOutMultSkyCell=1.0000

Finally, you can customize the full screen resolution of the game to almost any 16:9 resolution by first adding the custom resolution in the control panel of the GPU (Intel for our case) and then changing a couple of lines in the file.

iSize H=432
iSize W=768

While playing in 768x432 sounds like a torturing experience, the gameplay loops and different elements of Fallout 76 continued being perfectly readable, and the basic gameplay loop worked even better than I expected while maintaining a solid average of 30 fps.

As you can imagine the game does not look particularly good at this state, but it works!

Low-End Integrated AMD Vega Graphics

With the introduction of Ryzen APUs, AMD started packing their Vega GPU architecture on integrated GPUs which resulted in an amazing performance on some rather affordable packages.

The cheapest of the Ryzen APUs is the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G at about $100. But recently AMD released the Athlon 200GE: a dual-core GPU with three Vega compute units for only $55. I have been experimenting extensively with this APU, and paired with dual channel 2666MHz RAM (the highest RAM clock speed supported) it was able to play anything I threw at it in one form or another.

So coming into Fallout 76, I at least expected to be able to use the same low graphical tweaks to get the game running at 720p resolution.

Initially, the game was maintaining almost 30 fps under those conditions, but I quickly ran into areas where the game would crash every time the area loaded, something that stopped happening on a lower resolution. This might be a bug in the current version of the game (as the current version has gained a bit of a reputation for being unstable), but dropping it to 960x540 quickly put an end to that while maintaining an excellent performance average of over 40-50 fps.

Compared to our previous experiment, the jump to 960x540 is noticeable. The game is still on its forced lowest, so all previous comments apply.

Let's finally take the leap to a dedicated GPU.

Nvidia GeForce GT 1030

My daily driver is a Xiaomi Mi Notebook Pro laptop from 2017 sporting an Intel Core i5-8250U quad-core CPU, 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU. The MX150 is the mobile version of the Nvidia GeForce GT 1030, which is based off the Pascal architecture and, therefore, is not ideal for heavy gaming in most cases.

However, the MX150 is perfectly appropriate for Fallout 76 on the lowest settings with the adjustments to Shadows and AntiAliasing mentioned above, while maintaining a 45 fps average.

I did not quite notice the increase in object draw distance as I expected, and while the jump to 720p is very appreciated, we are still essentially dealing with the lowest settings: no anti-aliasing and shadows under a very low draw distance. The basic gameplay loop works and feels great in motion!

GTX 1050 Ti

Jumping into the MSI GL62M-7REX with a Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM, the result was unexpected.

On 720p, the laptop played on high settings pretty fantastically with 60 fps...for the most part. While the creation Engine continually shows its age in details like animations (or interiors), but some of the new details of this iteration help a fair bit on the lush outside environment. Well, as much as you can appreciate them on 720p.

There has been discussion among gamers on the odd performance this game can have in certain areas on consoles and some other specific hardware. I noticed some of this myself on this laptop, with certain buildings or areas dropping all the way to 30-40 fps for absolutely no reason, even on 720p. With the GPU usage hovering around 50 percent, these unexpected heavy areas did not appear frequently during my tests but were definitely consistent, even after recent performance patches.

Something similar happened all through the game when running at 1080p resolution. Even on the lowest resolution, the game would get stuck around 40 fps at any and all areas tested, with a GPU usage of no more than 70 percent.

I experimented a bit, but I was not able to zero in on exactly what the bottleneck is for this case.

Let's jump up a level.

GTX 1060

The Alienware 15 R3, packed with a Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU offered great performance on Fallout 76 in our tests.

This laptop is easily capable of reaching high settings and maintaining a 60 fps cap with space to spare. However, it cannot handle full maxed out settings without experiencing frequent drops.

There are plenty of neat illumination effects and other bells and whistles that help the environments pop. 

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070

The Alienware 15 R3, with a Core  i7-7820HQ, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU can easily max out the settings on 1080p with what initially seems like computing power to spare.

A recent update has removed the 60 fps cap and fixed the speed issues that this would cause, but testing with this laptop did not quite provide the expected results. Performance fluctuated between 60 and 90 fps without full GPU utilization. Even while using dynamic VSYNC, things ran far from the stable 80, 90 or 120 fps that a lot of people would like.

Graphically, exteriors looks gorgeous on the GTX 1070 card, while the animations and interiors could leave some high-graphics aficionados a bit unsatisfied.

If you prefer a higher resolution over higher frame rates, this laptop can do 4K...as long as you set the lowest possible settings and limit your expectations to 40 fps.

You cannot beat the clarity of full 4K, but the reduction in settings (which dampens a lot of the awe of the game's external environments) and sub 60 fps might all be too much for some people to handle.

Conclusion

Fallout 76 is an experiment on multiplayer using a slightly improved older engine with modern minimum requirements that might be a tad exaggerated. Thanks to a very flexible configuration file, it can run in low resolution in modern Intel HD GPUs, as well as AMD's integrated Vega GPUs. The game's gameplay loop actually works pretty well in low resolutions, so you can easily get away with playing this way if you must.

A low-end dedicated GPU, like an MX150 or GT 1030 can almost run the game in 720p on the lowest settings, and with some small configuration, file tweaks can achieve 30-40 fps averages. It will not look pretty, but it will work well.

Jumping to a laptop with a really decent Core i7 and 1050 Ti means that we are easily able to play on medium settings on 720p and 60 fps, with some drops on some specific parts of the map. On 1080p some of the game's weirder performance issues come to light, as fps fluctuates between 30-40 fps on all areas on the lowest settings even while the GPU seems to be sub-utilized.

Finally, with an Alienware 15 R3 with a GTX 1060, you can go for high settings on 1080 while expecting a mostly 60 fps average. The game's exteriors and illumination look pretty amazing, although the interiors and animations can be a tad dated.

Jumping to a GTX 1070, the game can easily max settings on 1080p while maintaining the 60 fps average. Newer updates make it possible to unlock the 60 fps frame rate, but sadly it was not possible to reach a stable 80 or 90 fps at this level. If the priority is resolution, 4K is feasible on lower settings at 40 FPS.

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  • lumineZ
    To be honest mate... I dont really think most gamers care thanks to the gigantic mess that Fallout 76 is... It does not have a big gamer base, and it is bleeding players.
    R.I.P fallout 76. The game that should not have been released.
  • Ronald Ruffner
    A good or bad graphics card wont help a crappy games! DON'T BUY THIS GAME! IT's LOUSY and incomplete and Tom's Hardware should stand up for GAMER's and warn them not to purchase ad hock games rushed by developers for their backers! tom stop supporting bad money grubbing lying cheating gaming companies that only want your money!
  • s1mon7
    This game honestly doesn't deserve a mention or test from Tom's. And this comes from a Fallout fan of over 20 years.
  • kelius
    I concur with the previous postings. FO76 is to be avoided and deserves no mention. Bethesda deserves our scorn for what they have done! I love FO, played every game, owned every game except FO76. Thankfully, I was able to play on a friends broken pre-purchase (what a scam!). Bethesda needs to suffer and be punished for disrespecting their fan community. This trend of large companies making bad decisions all for money or politics, then attacking fans when they receive proper criticism needs to stop. The fans asked for FO4 with co-op, we did not ask for FO pvp or full multiplayer ON YOUR CRAPPY SERVERS BETHESDA! However, you wanted a cash grab, and that is what you went after. Bethesda, you made your bed, now ROT in it!
  • confusiongta
    Spell check is your friend :P I cannot spell very well personally, so I use a spell check program. Lets see how many people can find the error!
  • confusiongta
    Wow a ton of hate for the new fallout game.
    Can someone tell me why you/others hate the game so much? I was just about to buy it when I came across this post. After reading the comments, My Fallout 76 purchase has been put on hold.
  • spigias
    Really? after the just buy it fiasco now toms promotes fo76?
  • orifiel
    My country gaming websites didnt add any score to it, just a red flag DO NOT BUY.
  • lumineZ
    Anonymous said:
    Wow a ton of hate for the new fallout game.
    Can someone tell me why you/others hate the game so much? I was just about to buy it when I came across this post. After reading the comments, My Fallout 76 purchase has been put on hold.


    Just search for Fallout 76 on youtube
    On Metacritic it has gotten 2,7 points out of 10 possible...
    https://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/fallout-76

    There is comming a FarCry 5 spin off that is set to a "fallout" universe that I belive is alot better than Fallout 76 to be honest.

    Or

    Obsidian is making a new game called The Outer Worlds That from I can see from the trailer is made in a way that fallout 76 should have been. So I will not support the game Fallout 76 by buying it but I will sure be keeping an eye on The outer worlds.
  • justin.m.beauvais
    I bet that in 6 months Fallout 76 will be a perfectly playable game and in a year will have a loyal and devoted following. FO76 is this year's No Man's Sky. Yup, the release was a hot mess, but thanks to the magic of patching and constant improvement No Man's Sky is a very playable and fun game today. I expect Fallout 76 to make it to that point even faster with a team like Bethesda has behind it.

    I mean, the game is practically still in beta. Honestly it was a mistake for them to make it as publicly accessible as they did while still in testing. This is practically an Early Access game, but instead of seeing it as that the critics and gamers have just torn it apart. Bethesda hasn't ever made a game like this. It is understandable that they have no idea what they are doing, but that doesn't stop the masses from utterly railing them over it. So, while Bethesda does deserve some criticism here, I think the gaming community has totally overreacted.
  • siman0
    It's not that bad... its more of a $35 ad-don and not a "game" but yeah. I would never suggest someone buy it at retail or the price of 200 for the power armor edition... It's enjoyable to play but you have to play it with friends if you don't, its not worth it. If your a story person its a bad game. if you place the standard of its 2018 and compare it to similar games, its also a bad game...

    @Justin I half way agree with you, the problem is Bethesda is part of zeni. They have access to the tech 5 engine and experience with ESO to draw from. IMHO Bethesda doesn't really have a leg to stand on because this is a fully released game.

    Now onto the subject of the subject itself:

    You can get the game to run well on a toaster instead of mandating draw distance for grass and what not, you can shut of most of them off from the render stack entirely and keep it playable. Id dive a bit more into the .ini if you want to run this on a toaster...
  • cryoburner
    Anonymous said:
    On Metacritic it has gotten 2,7 points out of 10 possible...

    Technically, the game currently stands at a 53 Metascore among professional reviewers, with 2.7 being the user score. User scores can often be more prone to wild swings due to people being more likely to rate something zero just to lower its score, but even the professional reviewers rate this game quite poorly, which is perhaps more telling. Fallout 76's Metascore places it in the bottom 4.3% of all PC games ranked on Metacritic in 2018, just below the abomination that was Metal Gear Survive, another late-to-the-party survival game asset-flip released earlier this year.

    From the sound of it, Bethesda managed to include all the worst parts of their games, the bugginess, the janky combat, and the broken core gameplay systems, tacked on a poor multiplayer implementation, and stripped out just about everything that people consider to make their games "good".

    I have doubts that the game will ever be fixed to any notable degree, since Bethesda is never really known for fixing their games, instead generally abandoning them in a broken state shortly after launch and leaving that work up to modders. Seeing as it already features things like microtransactions for cosmetics, and card packs that could also be given the microtransaction treatment, it stands to reason that they might just make it free-to-play to squeeze whatever remaining money they can out of it, and eventually shut down the servers once that's no longer profitable.
  • waialua1
    The game is worth about 35 dollars and is fun to play with friends. If you want story this is not the game for you "purists". People need to think for themselves, just cause all these people are taking a dump on the game doesn't mean that its total garbage.This version is like a booty call, when you need her call, but don't put a ring on her finger just a good time for now.
  • Ronald Ruffner
    Anonymous said:
    To be honest mate... I dont really think most gamers care thanks to the gigantic mess that Fallout 76 is... It does not have a big gamer base, and it is bleeding players.
    R.I.P fallout 76. The game that should not have been released.


    Yes, total disappointment from one of my former favorite companies..a damn shame. And I don't wish it to Rest In Peace, I wish for a total annihilation to whomever dreamed up this scam (backers)!
  • Ronald Ruffner
    Anonymous said:
    This game honestly doesn't deserve a mention or test from Tom's. And this comes from a Fallout fan of over 20 years.


    Amen! I'm wondering how much Tom's got paid for posting this?
  • Ronald Ruffner
    Anonymous said:
    I bet that in 6 months Fallout 76 will be a perfectly playable game and in a year will have a loyal and devoted following. FO76 is this year's No Man's Sky. Yup, the release was a hot mess, but thanks to the magic of patching and constant improvement No Man's Sky is a very playable and fun game today. I expect Fallout 76 to make it to that point even faster with a team like Bethesda has behind it.

    I mean, the game is practically still in beta. Honestly it was a mistake for them to make it as publicly accessible as they did while still in testing. This is practically an Early Access game, but instead of seeing it as that the critics and gamers have just torn it apart. Bethesda hasn't ever made a game like this. It is understandable that they have no idea what they are doing, but that doesn't stop the masses from utterly railing them over it. So, while Bethesda does deserve some criticism here, I think the gaming community has totally overreacted.


    So sorry but I totally disagree with you. Yes Bethesda is a great company and they've in the past produced FO in near perfection. The problem is that they released an unfinished product, called it an 'A' game with a price equivalent and instead of fixing it properly it wants us Gamer's to pay for the fixes. Many Gaming Developers are moving this way to make big money up front and then promise to fix a game that was totally broken and nearly unplayable. Their backers are the main problem for wanting big bucks from in-game purchases but those should be for needed things in the game not to make it better. I'm sorry, but I thought Bethesda was better than this and it surprised the hell out of me that they would roll out the game as is.