By Graham Smith on June 16th, 2014 at 8:00 pm.
Watch underscore Dogs took a pre-release beating for the differences in visual fidelity between its early trailers, such as the original E3 reveal, and its later videos and final release. Now a mod creator called ‘TheWorse’ has released a tweak that aims to bring Watch_Dogs in line with how people originally hoped it would look. I’ve had a quick play with it, and there’s some comparative before/after screenshots and a video below.
As outlined in the Guru3D thread for the mod, the two files including in the download introduce a number of graphical changes, including fog, bokeh depth of field, stuttering improvements, the bloom lighting effects from the E3 2012 demo, shadows on car headlights, illuminated raindrops and more. Unlike the likes of the ENB Series, which revamps games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Skyrim with new visual effects, it seems at least some of these Watch_Dogs settings were already present in Watch_Dogs but were disabled during development presumably for stability and performance reasons.
Here’s the best screenshot from the mods forum thread, and it’s undoubtedly attractive.
There are more, similarly impressive screenshots through on the mod’s forum thread. Most mods of this sort only work under very particular conditions though, so I wanted to try it for myself to see what it looks like in action. First, I took a before shot at a spot down near the waterfront of Watch_Dogs’ re-created Chicago. This is with all settings turned to their maximum and everything possible switched on.
Then I installed the mod (which took only a few minutes) and re-visited the location. This is what it looks like with all the added tweaks turned on.
For moments, it does look better, I think. The bokeh depth of field effect hides some of the level of detail scaling and lower resolution textures on distant buildings. The screenshots were both taken at approximately the same in-game time, but the lighting in this tweaked version is definitely nicer, too. As I spin the camera round, the distant sun flares dramatically.
But here’s what it looks like in another part of the city.
It turns out that the bokeh depth of field of effect – which games have been able to do for a while now – is kind of insane. This is admittedly just a couple seconds after I’ve stopped jogging, but the angle of the camera makes the game think that the player, that phone booth and bin are the most important thing on screen. If something across the road was shooting at me at this point, I wouldn’t be able to see them. I’m Mr. Magoo.
Which is pretty much what happens in parts of this video, in which I travel around the city for a while with the mod enabled, before someone hacks into my game and tries to steal data from me as per the game’s ambient multiplayer mode:
Look at you, hacker. You shouldn’t have disabled that helicopter. Also: sorry civilians!
Much like the bokeh field of effect, the bloom lighting is dramatic but also more obtrusive than Watch_Dogs’ standard settings. Plus Aiden’s coat seems strangely damp at all times. If you set those aside, there are still moments when it looks astonishing; lighting and camera focus mingling in just the right way, at just the right levels, at just the right moment to create a graphical Goldilocks.
If you want to try the mod for yourself, you can download version 0.6 from MediaFire. Make sure to read the readme.txt for instructions on how to get it working; it’s straightforward, but you’ll have to do slightly more than just copy the files into place. Future updates should make that process easier, while also introducing further visual changes. For now, what’s here is an interesting curiosity that’s useful if you want to pose some nice screenshots – and I almost certainly do – but I wouldn’t recommend playing the game with it switched on. Yes, it makes it look more like that original trailer, Watch underscore Dogs is already extremely underscore pretty and a couple of these tweaks make it harder to play.
What’s Watch_Dogs like beyond its looks? Read my review.