Destiny 2 on PC runs smooth as perma-gloomy butter

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I’ll defer to m’esteemed colleague Pip in terms of opinions about Destiny 2 [official site]’s PC beta (coming this evening – ed), currently open to pre-orderers and then for the whole wide world from 6pm UK time/10am PST today, for she has spent significantly more time than I in the Crucible. What I can do is give you a good sense of Bungie’s long-awaited return to PC-based shootybangs runs on a variety of system, how good (or otherwise) it looks, and the more nebulous but more important business of how it feels on our WASDy weapons of choice.

First, let’s talk performance. It’s good news all round here: even in beta form (and still some weeks away from the full PC release on Oct 24), Destiny 2’s tech seems to be extremely efficient. I’ve tested it on four different graphics cards at a range of settings, and experienced nary a hitch.

Right at the top end, my e’er-unflinching GeForce 1080 Ti (paired with an Intel 7700K CPU) could run the beta at 3440×1440 maxed out with the exception of antialiasing, which I had to drop from MSAA to either FXAA or SMAA, and sat happily in the 60-100 frames per second bracket, usually landing in the mid-70s. With MSAA on it fell to 45 FPS, but you’re a far more detail-obsessed human being than I if you can meaningfully spot the difference between the three AA techs while you’re running around spraying bullets at whatever evil aliens are causing problems this time.

With the res dropped to 1920×1080, MSAA was no longer a problem – Destiny 2 ramped as far as it would go then wandered between 60-90 frames depending on the scene/action here. I don’t have a G-Sync/high frame rate monitor, but that result implies the game will do well on one of those if you’re running it on a high-end GeForce card.

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Down in the mid-range, an AMD R9 Nano hovered around 30-40 FPS at high (not highest) settings at 3440×1440, which is more than playable and a very good result for that card given the whopping resolution. Dropping down to a more sane 1080p yielded the magic 60 frames per second at High settings, and I was even able to turn a few options towards highest without the frames dropping far. Like I say, this game seems to be extremely well-optimised.

And dropping down towards the lower range, a GeForce 1050 Ti 4GB (running on an Intel i7 7700HQ mobile CPU) was equally barely bothered by Destiny 2. It cranked out 60 frames per second at 1080p at High settings and, as with the R9 Nano, I could turn on a few Highest settings and have the same result. Maxed-out bar anti-aliasing, again using FXAA or SMAA instead of MSAA, yielded 30-40 frames per second, so if prettiness is more important to you than performance, you can have Destiny 2 looking its best and being perfectly playable even on fairly affordable hardware. Though the 1050 is a newer card, this speaks to the kind of result we’d get on the older but punchier likes of a GeForce 960 or 970, or Radeon 280/290. It’s good news, in other words.(30FPS 3440×1440 was possible on the 1050 too, but required a mix of medium and low settings – in any case, I think it’s unlikely too many people would be running that kind of res on that kind of card).

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1920×1080, High, 60FPS on a 1050 Ti

Just for kicks, and even though it’s below the minimum spec of a GeForce 660 or Radeon 7850, I tried running Destiny 2 on Intel integrated graphics, specifically the Intel HD 630 built in to the 7700HQ processor (and which is pretty much the same GPU as in the earlier 530 on Skylake chips).

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1280×720, minimum settings, 75% render res running at 20-30FPS on Intel HD 630

Whether it’s actually playable or not is going to depend on your own personal tolerance for slowness and jerkiness but, for what it’s worth, I managed to achieve a framerate that danced between 20 and 30 frames per second at rock bottom settings, 720p resolution and the in-game render resolution dropped to 75% (i.e. the 3D elements of the game are rendered at just 75% of the listed resolution, which means a blurrier and more aliased image but more performance). It spent more time close to 30 than it did to 20, and didn’t look quite as horrible as it might sound on paper.

What I’m saying is, if you’re desperate for a Destiny fix while you’re on your travels, it’s definitely possible, particularly if you stick to shooting AI baddies rather than live humans. Destiny’s a game designed for the slower controls of gamepad, and that means it’s also forgiving of playing at a reduced framerate, even if it obviously doesn’t look or feel as nice.

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Speaking of how it looks and feels, how does it, uh, look and feel? Well, I’m not wowed by its appearance personally, but – oh no opinions – that’s because its art style has, inevitably, much in common with the somewhat sterile and muted look of the first Destiny. There’s nothing that particularly pops – with the exception of some dramatically gigantic space-architecture during an opening mission that concerns a shock invasion of the Guardian’s home. There’s a couple of reasonably striking scenes, but it returns to gloomy metal spaces pretty quickly. Early days and limited missions in this beta though – hopefully we’ll get brighter and greater outdoorses in the full game.

All told though, it looks like a multiplatform triple-A 2016-2017 shooter would broadly be expected to look. No rulebooks are ripped up on that front, and it certainly didn’t give me the sort of itchy screenshot figure I get with some games, but equally there’s nothing to actually complain about – though I can speak only as myself there, that being someone who’ll grumble if some graphical element looks particularly bad but does not feel anger if it is merely so-so. Some of the textures are not the crispest, but so far it’s been the kind of stuff you have to look for rather than the kind of stuff that jumps out at you.

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I think the lack of much vibrancy to its gloomy colour palette is Destiny 2’s worst graphical sin, and find its exploding spaceships and flying robots far more boring than they should be as a result, but in fairness mainstream techno-shooters are as mainstream techn-shooters do.

What I would note is that moving settings between Medium/High and Highest didn’t make a vast amount of difference to me, and even Low was not an agonising lurch downwards in visual quality, as least compared to how this can go in other games. Sure, if you stop and look closely you can see it, but by and large this is not that kind of game. Higher resolutions and framerates aside, don’t expect too much to willy-wave about if you run this game on a high-end card.

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3440×1440, Highest

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1920×1080, High

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1280×720, Medium

Feel-wise, I don’t have any particular complaints about either interface or controls. A couple of times I felt as though the shooting was perhaps a little light and floaty, but if I’m honest it might be that the issue was getting confused by memories of playing Destiny 1 on PS4 with an angrily rumbling pad in my hand, and the silence of a mouse is a very different prospect. Far more importantly though, I didn’t notice any of the mouse smoothing or errant acceleration that PC versions of big games often get eye-rolled about.

This is a fast game with responsive controls, and it feels like a proper keyboard and mouse game, not a gamepad one going through the motions – again, with the possible (and vague) exception that it didn’t always feel as though I was physically unloading a hail of bullets into hulking baddies. Is this a rumble thing, or is it to do with the animations and other feedback we might expect from NPC-shooting? Hard to say, but I will say that it didn’t take long to stop thinking about it, in any case.

With another two months of PC development to go (though console versions launch much earlier, on Sep 6) it might be that the colours and/or a certain tactility when you shoot a dude upside whatever passes for his head will yet be amped-up in the weeks to come. Far more important, I think, is how smooth this thing runs on a wide range of hardware. Like their stablemates at Blizzard, Bungie like to target the mainest of streams, and making a game that plays well on lowish-end PCs is a crucial part of that. It’s often the case that a game made primarily for consoles isn’t anything like as optimised on PC (although PS4 and Xbone’s far more PC tech-like nature is closing that gap in some cases), but clearly in this case they’ve done the work and made a hyper-efficient game.

TLDR: no, you don’t need a new PC for Destiny 2. Hooray!

We’ll have thoughts on how it all plays later today.

30 Comments

  1. Viral Frog says:

    I’m just really hoping the game will run at all on my Windows 7 PC. I easily beat the minimum and am almost at recommended (besides my stupid 6 year old CPU -_-), so that’s not an issue. But apparently CanYouRunIt.com says it’s only compatible with Win10. So I guess I’ll see tonight when I get home and install? I derped and forgot to pre-load.

    • Askis says:

      Runs fine on Win7, in case you haven’t finished your download yet.

  2. Kitsunin says:

    Wish all my friends weren’t playing it on PS4. I just can’t abide shooters with an analogue stick. Been playing Horizon Zero Dawn and it’s great, but honestly I’d prefer it did all the aiming automatically and just had you pick which thing you want to shoot, rather than awkwardly fiddle your cursor over to the target spot with slo-mo activated, then only ever hit because a large helping of aim-assist was there to help.

    Come to think of it, Gravity Rush kinda does this and it’s my favorite console exclusive of all. Just point in the right direction and the projectiles aim by themselves. Not that it’s a shooter.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    The fact that it manages to run at all on an integrated intel chipset is freaking great.

    Not that I intend to do so, but man, A+ work, devs. Supporting nonsense that’s way below spec is a great move, even if it’s only support in the sense that the game doesn’t flat refuse to run.

    • caff says:

      Yes well done, developers! You should be proud of such an approach.

    • caff says:

      I keep getting disconnected in the intro sequence, but what I’ve seen so far is fun.

  4. TΛPETRVE says:

    Of course the shooting feels a wee bit floaty when enemies are bullet sponges. It’s been a staple issue with the genre since forever, and with Destiny having nicely heavy and hefty guns on the one hand, but also enemies on the other that don’t bleed and at times not even flinch under fire (though the critical kill animations are quite bloody nice, and show how to put that Teen rating to good use), there is a bit of a disconnect between the spectacular firework on display and the somewhat meagre effect it has on its targets.

  5. dsch says:

    You guys realise that all the screenshots get resized to 620×342, right?

  6. SaltTitan says:

    I’m sad to see that Vicarious Visions isn’t getting credited on any articles I’ve read about the PC beta. All these PC features everyone is raving about are thanks to the hard work by the people at VV and I think they deserve much more attention then they’re getting. It’s because of them that the PC version runs so well and they’ve done most of the work to get the shooting to feel right on a mouse and keyboard, not to mention graphical stuff like adjustable FOV and the 4K 60FPS support.

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      Nauallis says:

      True. It’s great that Bungie is (legally) 100% taking ownership of any problems or concerns from the PC port of Destiny 2, but yeah it’s been a little bizarre that there’s been almost no mention that Bungie didn’t actually directly port the PC version themselves, as that’s being handled mostly by Vicarious Visions. But maybe VV just did the engineering & grunt work for porting Destiny 2 onto PC – I’d imagine it wasn’t a total rebuild given that it was on Xbox first. Quite possibly Bungie is doing all of the post-launch support and tweaks themselves. I’d certainly be interested in more information in this regard.

  7. KillahMate says:

    How come mice with rumble aren’t standard by now? We’ve really had plenty of time to make it happen.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      That’d be because it’s funny to watch PC gamers squirm and whine.

    • Dreggsao says:

      Because randomly moving mice make no sense.

    • fish99 says:

      The thing about having a controller rumble is it doesn’t throw off your aim at all, because the sticks don’t rumble. I feel like the gyroscopic effect of a rumble motor would make a mouse feel heavy and sluggish and affect aiming.

      • Koozer says:

        Rumble keyboard? Ooh wait, rumble headband! *sprints to patent office*

        • Xzi says:

          Actually I do have a USB headset that has a “rumble” feature in addition to its normal bass. Works pretty well, it’s big and secure enough that it’s not like it’ll rumble off your head.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    Based on the intro mission, looks like the same thing as Warframe, except without parkour and melee weapons. The graphics are about the same quality; both run well in 4k@60fps.

    • voidmind says:

      There’s no melee weapons in the beta but there will be some in the full release.

    • Wibble says:

      I must be missing something, but I don’t get what all the fuss is about. Sure, it runs well and is reasonably pretty, In a bland way.

      But that intro mission was utterly dull. It was like going back in time 10+ years. Completely linear, nothing to discover (that I could see). Doesn’t help I’ve been playing Doom recently (just today, in fact) and it does all that much, much better.

      • Xzi says:

        It’s impressive if you view it more through the lens of an MMO, which is basically what Destiny is. OTOH yes, it’s pretty weak compared to modern single-player FPS campaigns. The article isn’t wrong though, looks and runs great at 4K with no AA on a GTX 1070.

      • fish99 says:

        That opening mission isn’t representative of the game. The regular game is built around large shared open world areas which have a bunch of world events happening on timers, plus entrances to mission-specific dungeons (which are linear). Then there’s the shared player hubs where you get quests and buy stuff, and there’s strikes and raids which are instanced dungeons for teams. Also the game does have looting and stuff to discover.

        It’s an MMO-FPS hybrid.

        • Premium User Badge

          Don Reba says:

          That makes a big difference. I got the impression it was strictly mission-based, like Warframe.

  9. TΛPETRVE says:

    Also, the complaint about D2‘s colour palette is moot once you’ve played the Inverted Spire strike, where everything is ridiculously bright.

  10. AthanSpod says:

    It’s running very smoothly on my i7-4790k paired with a GTX 780 Ti, both at their stock clocks. This is on a 2560×1440 display currently set to max out at 100Hz, but it can go to 144, or even 165 if overclocked. Oh, it’s also G-Sync (Asus ROG PG279Q).

    No feeling of any stutters or input lag. I’ve not kept my eyes glued to the FPS monitor, but it’s usually at/near 100 when I do glance that way. Oh, and I’ve a feeling I’ve PLENTY of headroom as I’ve not heard the 780 Ti fans spin up at all so far.

    This is with no AA mind, and I’m not really feeling the lack at 1440p. I’ll give ’em a go though. Oh, and now I check a lot of the other options were on Low, or Off. I shall have a tweak and more play after a late dinner and report back.

  11. racccoon says:

    Love the title …smooth as perma-gloomy butter it made laugh so hard lol

  12. JamesButlin says:

    Once again, RPS seems to be reviewing something without bothering to try the (whole) thing. Don’t talk about gloomy colour palettes until you’ve tried the strike. It’s definitely one of the most colourful destinations we’ve seen in a Destiny game and personally, I think it looks incredible at 4k.

  13. Pinga says:

    “3440×1440”
    Silly RPS, you can’t show pictures wider than 620px.