Benchmarked: How Well Does Watch Dogs Run On your PC?

Who Watches The Watchers?

Imagine Grand Theft Auto played back inside of Edward Snowden's worst nightmare. You now have a good grasp of Watch Dogs' premise. The game is set in Chicago, in a not-too-distant future where the entire city is run by a single operating system that knows everything about everyone all of the time. It's not the stereotypical dystopian vision of a heavy-handed big brother scenario; the Chicago operating system isn't sentient, nor is it malevolent. For the most part, it's a tool that provides a lot of convenience for its citizens. Lights at intersections are intelligently controlled so traffic jams are a thing of the past. People synchronize their schedules with smart software that actually makes their lives better. Understandably, criminals have a difficult time conducting business in a city that's aware of the location of all of its citizens. On the surface, such an existence sounds like it might be compelling, right?

Of course, the price everyone pays for this convenience is privacy. And no matter how altruistic the intentions of its visionary creators, the operating system offers incalculable potential for abuse. There's an obvious allegory to what's currently happening in our modern world.   

The player explores this universe through the eyes of Aiden Pierce, a cyber-thief whose mentor hacks the wrong network during a heist and draws the unwanted attention of bad guys behind the curtain. Of course, the protagonist is targeted. His niece is tragically killed in an attack meant to scare him, and Aiden subsequently becomes a vigilante.

He puts his talents to work by coding software that uses the Chicago operating system to predict violent crime based on the location and attitude of its citizens (leading us to ask the obvious question, why doesn't the game's police department do this?). Aiden has to wait until crime is actually perpetrated before stepping in. Otherwise, the criminal is scared off before doing anything wrong. Minority Report, anyone?    

But enough about the plot. How is the gameplay? It's a sandbox-style title obviously influenced by the GTA series, but with a few Deus-Ex-style twists. Aiden's smartphone is his key to controlling the Chicago OS. Among other things, it can change traffic lights, stop trains, hack other phones, control security cameras, raise bridges, engage barricades, and simply blow things up. It's definitely a cool dynamic.

In addition, the profiler app is always searching for potential crimes, and it'll direct you to different locations. There are many side missions, including a feature similar to Far Cry 3's radio towers. If you're a fan of sandbox games, I can almost guarantee you'll find something you like.

My favorite character is Chicago itself. The metropolis' digital incarnation has a great flavor, and the city-themed songs on the game's radio channels make for welcome background noise. For automotive enthusiasts like myself, you'll spot many vehicles that pay blatant homage to specific models. For instance, there's a car with an 80s Pontiac Firebird body and 70s Firebird front-end. From modern Dodge Chargers, Cadillacs, and Lamborghinis to the Volkswagen Rabbit and Honda Civic, a seemingly infinite number of different vehicles in the game were plucked from reality and given subtle changes. I haven't seen better adaptations of real-world cars since Burnout Paradise, so clearly the developer chose to create its own designs rather than pay royalties to an automaker.

What didn't I like? Well, for a vigilante fighting on behalf of the people, Aiden has surprisingly little conscience when it comes to stealing the common man's property. I suppose you could make a case that the character is complicated, but it doesn't feel plausible that a guy who cares enough about human beings to put his life at risk and save them from gun-toting thugs is also totally cool with absconding with their savings or partnering up with killers to achieve his goals. The game also makes it a challenge to engage in a heated car chase without mowing down innocent pedestrians. You'd think Aiden would be emotionally crippled by hitting a mother at a bus stop, given his original motivations. In that context, I would have appreciated if bystanders were harder to mow down. Maybe I'm just a terrible driver, but if you can finish the game without the blood of innocents on your hands, you have my respect.

I didn't play through as much of the story as I wanted, since my primary purpose was finding a taxing and consistent benchmark run. In the end, I chose a pre-planned path through the outskirts of the city, driving for 90 seconds per test. Thus, the results are quite repeatable, despite the many variables this game introduces.

We'll get to the performance results in a couple of pages. First, let's look at the game engine and its settings.

  • coolcole01
    Running on my system with ultra and highest settings and fxaa it is pretty steady at 60-70 fps with weird drops randomly almost perfectly to 30 then up to 60 almost like adaptive sync is on, Currently playing it withe the texture at high and hba0+ and smaa and its a pretty rock steady 60fps with vsync still with the random drops.
  • coolcole01
    definitely does not like to run up the vram
  • edwinjr
    why no core i5 3570k in the cpu benchmark section?
    the most popular gaming cpu in the world.
  • chimera201
    So a Core i5 is enough compared to Ubisoft's recommended system requirement of i7 3770
  • jonnyapps
    What speed is that 8350 tested at? Seems silly not to test OC'd as anyone on here with an 8350 will have it at at least 4.6
  • Patrick Tobin
    Most 780Ti cards come with 3GB of ram, the Titan has 6GB. This is an unfair comparison as the Titan has more than ample VRAM. Get a real 780Ti or do not label it as such. HardOCP just did the same tests and the 290X destroyed the 780 since the FSAA + Ultra textures started causing swapping since it was pushing past 3GB.
  • tomfreak
    If u dont have 780ti, 780, just show us stock Titan speed, Why would u rather show us Titan OCed speed than showing Titan stock speed & all that without showing 290X OCed speed? Infact an OCed Titan does not represent a 780Ti, because it has 6GB VRAM. Vram is a big deal in watchdog. So ur Oced titan does not look like 780ti nor a real titan.
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    Hi Don

    Please could you include tests at 4K resolution, and also please use a real 780Ti and also a 295X2? Can you not ask another lab to do it, or get one shipped to you please?

    +1 also on what @Patrick Tobin said.

    I can appreciate that you might've spent a lot of time on this review, and we'd really appreciate you doing the final bit of this review. I know that not a lot of gamers currently game at 4K, but I am definitely interested in it please.

    Thank you!
  • Lee Yong Quan
    why doesnt you have the high detail setting? and would a 7790 1gb perform the same as 260x 2gb in medium texture? if not which is better
  • chimera201
    We need more variety of CPUs