Fallout 4

Today, we’re looking at Fallout 4 on the PS4 and Potato Masher!

SHINY
First, let’s talk about the minimum requirements for the PC. As usual, they’re basically just random pieces of hardware that sound nice in a list, that have little bearing on the game’s actual performance. The Potato Masher doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for processor or RAM. It does exceed the requirement for the graphics card, and of course it has plenty of hard drive space. Given this, you’d think that it would maybe be able to run the game at low or medium settings, with a few issues. Well, that’s not the case. Literally everything is turned up right now. Every setting. Even God Rays, which looks no better at Ultra than at Low. I’ve locked the framerate at 30fps and set the resolution at 1080p, to match the PS4 version. The Potato Masher is not pushing itself very hard to maintain these settings.

That 8GB RAM requirement? Definitely not necessary. RAM usage usually stayed under 3 and a half gigabtyes, but did occasionally climb to 3.8. That’s totally normal and average for modern games. As usual, if you have more RAM, your system will use it. My personal computer has 16GB of RAM, and it uses almost 10GB when I’m playing Fallout 4. But the game does run perfectly fine on 4GB.

There is some slight controversy about whether or not Fallout 4 is a good looking game. It definitely looks better than Fallout 3 or Skyrim, but does it look good? Without getting into a larger discussion about how the graphical arms race hurts the gaming community, I’d say that Fallout 4 is behind the times, but looks fine. There are some oddly lo-res textures on both the PC and PS4 that are just hideous, but these are thankfully rare. The art design is great and unique, but you won’t forget that you’re playing a Bethesda game. Faces have a flat and dead quality to them, and animations are similarly stiff and lifeless. Also, shadows flicker and fade in as you approach objects. This is somewhat noticeable on the Potato Masher, but very obvious on the PS4. The PS4 just doesn’t have shadows past a certain distance from the player, and watching them all appear as you walk through the wasteland is distracting. Grass and objects also load much earlier on the PC than on the PS4. Lighting appears to be mostly the same across both versions of the game, but it did appear that shadows were slightly deeper and there were a few more light sources on the PC.

On the Potato Masher, the framerate was largely stable. There were occasional slight dips to 27 or 28 fps, but these were for no more than one second. It appeared to be because of additional artwork assets streaming in, which is fairly common for an open world game. Fallout 4 has a very ambitious amount of objects and characters to load as you move through the world, so a momentary frame drop or two isn’t a big deal. The PS4 does tend to struggle a little more, though. I can’t measure the PS4’s framerate with the equipment I have, but Digital Foundry’s excellent technical evaluations show that it does drop in framerate somewhat consistently. I did notice this when I was playing the PS4 version, so hopefully future patches help with that. The Potato Masher’s framerate was definitely much more stable.

FRAMERATES
30fps is fine if you’re in to that sort of thing, but 60fps or higher is usually preferred by most people who’ve seen the difference. That said, you always have to drop the graphical settings a bit to stay at a steady 60, so it’s not always worth the trade-off, depending on your hardware. On the Potato Masher, I had to lower the settings to Medium to maintain a stable 60fps. I did turn God Rays down to low, but it looks identical to the higher settings and mostly just wastes performance and makes AMD cards look bad. On Medium, shadows do start to fade in noticeably sooner, and turning anti aliasing down does produce a slight shimmering effect on distant objects. It still looks better than the PS4 version, but it’s slightly inferior to Very High. Action is much better though, and panning and moving feel more fluid. I’d probably take the visual hit to keep the framerate up, 60fps definitely feels worth it.

OTHER RESOLUTIONS
Here’s where we throw practicality out the window, and just see how far we can take this machine. Most people don’t spend more on their monitor than on their PC, but the Potato Masher would be ready for it. I could run High settings at 30fps and 1440p resolution, which looked pretty great. There’s a noticeably clarity boost, especially with distant objects. 60fps is much harder, though. On Very Low settings, the framerate would stick at 60 until I got into combat, or in other situations where there was a lot going on. Then, it dipped to the low 50s pretty often. That is still a good framerate, but at those graphics settings the shadow pop in, shadow resolution, and distant object detail is pretty bad. 4K is a similar story. That extra level of detail is nice, but I had to settle for low settings and 30fps. The framerate stumbled often enough that I wouldn’t say it was stable. The framerate was worse than the PS4, but better than the Xbox One. Unstable framerates aren’t ideal, so I would say that the Potato Masher did not do an acceptable job at 4K.

CONCLUSIONS
For how it looks, a lot of people are disappointed with how poorly Fallout 4 seems to run on a wide mix of hardware, and both consoles. While the Potato Masher was able to max out the settings, I do agree that the game should probably run a little better, or look a little nicer. Part of that is due to the large open game world, but The Witcher 3 and GTA V both managed to look cutting edge and run decently well. Future patches and improvements may help with performance, but for now, the game is still really enjoyable as is.