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Control: How it Plays on Different GPUs

More than 3 years after the release of Quantum Break, critically acclaimed studio Remedy Entertainment returns with another powered-up narrative shooter (but this time with shades of Metroidvania) for the paranormal experience of Control.

Just like Remedy have experimented to improve their narrative quality game after game, so have they strive to push the border in terms of rendering techniques and graphical fidelity. But what does that mean in terms of performance for people who don't have the latest or greatest graphics cards? What can you expect from a last-generation GPU? Can you still play the game comfortably?

Let's take a look at a series of test scenarios.

SpecificationsSettingsResults (during combat)
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G + Vega 11 + 8GBRender Resolution: 720p Lowest Settings30 FPS
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G + GTX 1050 + 16GBRender Resolution: 720p Lowest Settings + Medium Textures60 FPS
Render Resolution: 1080p Lowest Settings45 FPS
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G + GTX 1060 + 16GBRender Resolution: 720p Medium Settings60 FPS
Render Resolution: 1080p Lowest Settings + Medium Reflections60 FPS
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G + GTX 1080 + 16GBRender Resolution: 720p High Settings60 FPS
Render Resolution: 1080p Medium Settings60 FPS

Playing Control with AMD Vega Integrated Graphics

Regrettably at the moments it seems that a bug prevents Control from starting on integrated Intel HD GPUs. I tried the game on two laptops: a Xiaomi Mi Notebook Pro with a i5-8250U quad-core CPU configured to use its integrated UHD Graphics 620 and 8 GB of RAM and a Dell XPS 13 9360 from 2017 with an Intel Core i7-8550U, Intel UHD Graphics 620 and 8GB of RAM. On both cases the game would boot into the menu using the latest driver but would crash back to desktop when trying to load any game chapter at any setting.

The Ryzen 5 3400G APU comes paired with the Vega 11 integrated GPU which boast the title of being the most powerful integrated GPU currently available.

I paired it with 8 GB of 3000 MHz dual-channel DDR4 RAM for this test, as well the auto-overclock feature enabled for the GPU.

Control is a very GPU intensive game, even while static, and its combat tends to get flashy, with a large number of particles, effects, and environmental elements breaking into pieces. The game uses what seems like temporal scaling to reconstruct an image from a lower resolution, so you can render the game at a lower, more attainable resolution and reconstruct it on the full output resolution with surprisingly good effects.

For reference, using this scaling, the game renders at between 720p and 900p on base consoles while targeting 30 FPS at around medium settings (which some consoles struggle to maintain in some of the biggest fights).

With Render Resolution down to 720p and lowest settings I got into the heaviest fight I have encountered in the game so far and I was surprised when I noticed those worst moments would not dip under 34 FPS. The game remained playable at all times.

The upscaling from 720p actually looks impressively good, but one cannot ask much visually from the lowest settings which only have very-basic, baked-in shadows and reflections. Everything looks a bit like a console game from half a decade ago.

Still, the gameplay is fantastic and preserved in all its glory, so this performance on a Vega iGPU is definitely a win. Let's upgrade this PC a bit and see what we can get.

Playing Control with GTX 1050 Graphics

With a RAM upgrade to 16 GB and a GTX 1050, this PC is now closer to what a lot of people would consider an entry-level Gaming PC. What can we expect?

If you are aiming for as close as 60 FPS vsync as you can, your best best is to remain on 720p and use the extra space (and access to proper VRAM) to raise Texture Resolution, Texture Filtering and Shadow resolution. If better resolution is a must, you can increase render resolution to 1080p while remaining on lowest settings.

In the case of 720p, the changes in Texture and Shadows settings honestly do not make much of a difference. Much of the magic of this game's graphics are on the reflections and lightning which is so heavy that we cannot hope to enhance it on this GPU while keeping a 60 FPS lock.

The game can still drop to a 30 FPS lock on a number of very heavy battle scenes, but in general, it can maintain 60 FPS with acceptable stability.

If you choose instead to keep everything on low and increase Render Resolution to 1080p, you will get something closer to 45 FPS average but with cleaner advantages of a high-resolution image. Although again, do not expect any eye candy on lowest settings.

The game still feels fantastic to play. Let's upgrade the GPU and try again.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 3GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 3GB

Playing Control with GTX 1060 Graphics

With the upgraded GTX 1060 power, if we stay at a 720p render resolution, we can now easily hit the "medium" preset while still keeping the 60 FPS lock.

Medium settings are where things get interesting, as we finally get to experience some of the sophisticated reflections of this game. Most levels are covered in reflective materials which are managed with a difference between screen-space reflections and signed distance fields which allows decent reflections of elements outside of screen space without the performance hit of full-blown ray tracing.

However, reflections on this game are still computationally heavy and only at this level, we can finally enable them at medium. This is the more drastic visual change, although having ambient occlusion and higher quality global illumination certainly help!

Performance-wise the GPU is perfectly able to keep the 60 FPS lock with no problem even in the heaviest combat.

If higher resolution is a must, you can increase Render Resolution to 1080 and drop all the settings and leave reflections and Medium and still play at a somewhat-stable 60 FPS, although experiencing Vsync drops on a couple of instances.

The bump in resolution is nice, but the temporal scaling does such a great job that I would actually recommend sticking to 720 (or similar) with the medium preset for what looks like an overall better experience.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060

Playing Control with GTX 1080 Graphics

For most bigger games released this year, a GTX 1080 would be considered overkill for medium settings at 60 FPS and yet seems appropriate for those settings in Control, which is a testament to how heavy some of the effects on this game can be.

For medium settings and 1080p, the GTX 1080 can easily do the medium settings even at the worst of moments with a lit bit of space to spare. Raising any of the bigger settings (like reflections) to high will cause drops on those instances.

For higher settings, you can again rely on the resolution scaling and drop to 720p and hit the higher settings with a lot of space to spare.

The change is particularly noticeable, again, in the quality of the reflections but a lot of the effects can be quite noisy due to the low resolution, so I would personally suggest sticking to Medium settings on 1080p and increasing the texture quality just a bit further.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080

RTX and Ray Tracing

Control is the newest game to implement ray tracing, and the first one to do so in such a big way. If you have an RTX GPU, you can enable ray tracing for shadows, global illumination, reflections and more with tremendous graphical effects but a strong performance impact, especially on the mid-tier RTX GPUs.

Bottom Line

Control is a GPU-intensive game that requires a very strong GPU for the higher settings, even if only on 1080p and aiming for 60 FPS. The extra power does not go to waste, as the game combines years of graphical techniques to create an impressive looking image (even before considering ray tracing!).

If you are using a modest GPU and all you care about is the gameplay, Control allows you to disable most of it and the very-generous temporal scaler allows you to render the game at lower resolutions while it still looks looking quite decent. The game's story, exploration and combat is excellent too, so even at the lowest settings, this game is assured to be a thrill.

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