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Control PC performance: How to get the best settings

Taking back Control

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Like Alan Wake before it, Control is one tough customer when it comes to getting smooth PC performance. As you may have already seen in my dedicated Control RTX ray tracing guide, even some of today’s best graphics cards struggle to run this eerie behemoth of a game at higher resolutions, so I thought it was high time to have a look at what all the other non-RTX Nvidia and AMD graphics cards can make of it as well. If you want to know the best way to get Control running at a smooth 60fps at 1920×1080, 2560×1440 and (in a few cases) 4K, read on.

Control PC performance: PC requirements

But first, some minimum and recommended specs. Control’s PC requirements have had a rather unusual journey over the past couple of months, first stating you needed a PC with as much heft as one of its creepy Object of Power fridges to get the game running, before taking it all back a month later and saying you only needed a mini-fridge-sized PC instead. Below are said mini-fridge specs, which are still the latest and most up to date PC requirements for Control, and at first glance it all looks like pretty standard stuff.

Minimum PC requirements:
OS:
Windows 7 (64-bit)
CPU: Intel Core i5-4690 / AMD FX 4350
RAM: 8GB
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 / AMD Radeon R9 280X
DirectX: DirectX 11

Recommended PC requirements:
OS:
Windows 10 (64-bit)
CPU: Intel Core i5-7500 / AMD Ryzen 3 1300X or better
RAM: 8GB
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 / AMD RX 580 or better
Ray tracing GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
DirectX: DirectX 11

What Remedy don’t mention, however, is what kind of performance their minimum and recommended specs are actually aiming for, as I’ve found in my testing that even the recommended GTX 1060 and RX 580 GPUs aren’t really capable of hitting a consistent 60fps at 1920×1080 unless the quality’s on Low.

Medium is still more than playable at that resolution, I should add, but in both cases you’re looking at average frame rates somewhere in the region of 45-50fps as opposed to that sweet 60fps – and that’s with a pretty up to date PC, too. With every graphics card I tested here, I paired it with an Intel Core i7-8700K CPU, 16GB of RAM, plus all the latest Windows 10 and graphics drivers installed.

To see what each graphics card made of Control, click the links below. Apologies for a mild lack of lower-end graphics cards this time round – I’ve had to send a lot back in recent weeks and I wasn’t able to get them back in time for this particular test, but I’ll update this guide with more GPUs as soon as I’m able to get my hands on them.

Control PC performance: The goal

As with all my graphics card tests, the aim here is to get Control running at a smooth 60fps at 1920×1080, 2560×1440 and 4K. Admittedly, very few GPUs will be able to manage the latter, and even some of today’s top high-end cards will struggle to run it at 1440p. That’s because this game is as tough as old boots when it comes to performance, especially if you want to make the most of its Nvidia RTX support.

To test each card, I recorded the minimum and maximum frame rates I saw when I was guiding the game’s main protagonist Jesse Faden through the game’s Cafeteria and Dead Letters areas. Control doesn’t have its own built-in benchmark, unfortunately, so I had to improvise with a route of my own devising.

I think it offers a pretty decent slice of how the game functions, though, as the Cafeteria is a large room that’s not only prone to regular Hiss attacks, but it’s also full of destructible chairs and tables and bits of furniture. The Dead Letters room, meanwhile, is an even more cavernous space for graphics cards to deal with, plus there are lots of stairs, lighting effects and things to look at.

Control PC performance: How to get the best settings

I stuck with the game’s three main quality presets (Low, Medium and High) for my tests, as well as their default Medium and High presets for the cards that support ray tracing. You can see how each ray tracing effect looks in my separate Control RTX ray tracing guide, but here’s how the regular quality presets all stack up against each other:


 
As you can see, they’re all pretty similar in terms of object detail and overall density. The main differences lie in how all that chaotic debris gets lit. Low, for instance, doesn’t have as many highlights as Medium, which in turn isn’t quite as reflective or quite as defined as High. It is subtle, though, so you can probably get away with playing on a lower graphics setting if you find your PC’s struggling a bit and still get a pretty decent image regardless.

At the moment, Control only has a limited number of graphics options in its main Display menu, but more are on the way in an update later this September, including an option to turn off its heavy motion blur effect. This could end up having quite a big impact on performance compared to what I’ve outlined below, so watch this space for some more analysis once the update’s available. For now, though, here are the best tricks I’ve found to help get Control running at teensy bit faster than its three preset graphics options.

Indeed, with quality options confined to just Low, Medium and High, it doesn’t leave us a huge amount of wiggle room for any potential shortcuts. Still, if we take 1920×1080 High as a base line, then one way to nudge that frame rate counter up a teensy bit is by switching off SSAO, lowering the Texture Resolution to High, and selecting MSAA x2 instead of x4. This should help push up your average frame rate by another couple of frames.

It’s also possible to eke out another frame or two by lowering the Texture Filtering to Medium, as even the full-blown Medium quality preset puts this all the way down to Low.

Apart from that, though, turning down any of the other quality settings here would pretty much land us in straight up Medium territory, so you may just have to bite the bullet and say goodbye to playing on higher settings until we see what this motion blur option brings to the table.

With all that in mind, let’s launch ourselves into the red, pulsing void and take a look at some of them there graphics cards. Just click the page numbers below or hop back up the page to the card of your choice.

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Who am I?

Katharine Castle

Hardware Editor

Katharine writes about all the bits that go inside your PC so you can carry on playing all those lovely games we like talking about so much. Very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests.

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