November 9, 2015
'Fallout 4' Performance Impressions: How Does 'Fallout 4' Run On PC, Xbox One, And PS4?

As with Fallout 4 and every major release on the market today, visuals and performance are major questions going into people's minds when looking at which version to invest their money in. On one hand, many people have likely already made minds with their buying decision, while others wait until metrics can be brought to light to decide which is the best for them. With Fallout 4 releasing on the PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on Tuesday, the three versions offer a varying array of performance and visual quirks, and none of them are perfect.

Fallout 4 on Xbox One and PS4 runs at a 1080p display and target 30 frames per second. Fallout 4 on PC, however, runs at whatever resolution your rig can handle (up to 4K) and runs at a framerate that seems to be hard coded to Vsync at 60fps (though this is removed via an.ini file edit, much like Skyrim). The visual disparity on the platforms wasn't immediately apparent for me, but after spending more time in all three platforms, it's incredibly noticeable.

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While it looks like all Fallout 4 versions run on at least high-ultra textures, the PC version benefits from superior lighting, shadows, depth-of-field, anisotropic filtering, and the use of higher quality god rays. Fallout 4 on the Xbox One and PS4 look pretty much identical, however, both using what looks like temporal anti-aliasing, and medium-to-high lighting and shadow quality compared to the PC.

It's not all perfect on PC, however, as Fallout 4 suffers from some really drastic framerate issues in certain areas of the Commonwealth. My PC is no slouch, and while it might not be completely up to the recommended spec, it's far above the quality of the minimum specs required to run the game. Yet, when walking across the Charles River into "Boston" proper, I started to get framerate dips from 60 down to 17fps in some instances. These issues didn't clear up when changing my settings down to "console-esque." I was still seeing framerates in the teens when walking through Boston. Only by locking my framerate at 30 and paring the graphics down even more do I see any real results. Fallout 4 seems to be unoptimized for certain configurations, such as my AMD FX-8320 and GTX 970, as the game seems to be offloading most of the load onto only one of the cores in my CPU and underutilizing my GPU (image below). This isn't to say that everyone will notice these issues, but it's worth reporting. (A recent Digital Foundry video, however, confirms that it might be a driver issue with AMD driver specifically, and as I'm running an AMD CPU, it could be the crux of the issues.)

Fallout 4 Screenshot PC Bethesda Softworks
'Fallout 4' PC Screenshot showing metrics. Notice the load on CPU 1, as well as the GPU usage. FPS in the 20s in this screenshot. [Image via Bethesda Softworks]

Fallout 4 on Xbox One and PS4 doesn't fare much better, however. While both struggle and are far from locked at 30fps, the Xbox One does seem to perform a little better under load. I've experienced single-digit framerates on both platforms, most crucially when coming under fire by the denizens of Fallout 4's Commonwealth. However, in some areas, the game runs without flaws. These pockets seem to be, unfortunately again, tied to Boston's streets themselves. While admiring the Massachusetts State House, the game kept at 30fps just fine on PC (which again, I'm being required to lock my framerate to get Fallout 4 playable), however, the framerate chugs on console, the worst issues coming on PS4.

These results are further proven in Digital Foundry's latest Performance Analysis of Fallout 4. While they noticed a better experience on PS4 over Xbox One (while I experienced the opposite, personally), both consoles struggle to maintain a target 30FPS, far from the "locked" framerate Bethesda has been toting with Fallout 4. The Xbox One suffers greatly inside some of Fallout 4's most important locales, notably Diamond City with a constant refresh at 20FPS, far below the "30FPS" line. Additionally, there are instances where Digital Foundry has recorded Xbox One framerates at zero. Yes, that's not a typo. Frames per second at zero.

Whatever version of Fallout 4 you decide to grab, be warned that until there's a patch forthcoming -- which, as of publication, there hasn't been one mentioned by Bethesda -- you will run into framerate issues. It's in stark contrast, especially on PC, to other open-world games such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. While that game does run into some issues on console in terms of performance, the graphically superior game runs at a locked 60fps in the most intense situations on PC, making the visually dull Fallout 4 (by comparison) seem all the more underwhelming as a result. When your framerate dips from 60fps to the teens when just walking down an empty alley in Fallout 4, yet when running through the crowded streets of Novigrad in Witcher 3 you can experience not a single framerate dip, the question needs to be asked: Was the inclusion of all the great game systems added at the cost of time spent optimizing what is already there?

Which platform do you plan on grabbing Fallout 4 on? Sound off on your thoughts and experiences below.

[Image via Bethesda]