PC gamers used to riding on their high horse about graphical superiority over consoles have been disappointed by Watch Dogs‘ relatively weak showing on computers. Until recently the weak PC performance was largely written off as incompetence, but an enterprising modder over at Guru3D found buried graphical settings that make the PC version look as good as the E3 2012 reveal that got everyone so excited in the first place, and the discovery has raised questions about whether Ubisoft intentionally hobbled the PC port to make the new consoles look better.
Between its first revelation in 2012 and its eventual, delayed release in 2014, Watch Dogs appears to have undergone a significant graphical downgrade. Perhaps overeager to wow fans with a vision of gaming’s future, the reality of development on a new console subsequently tempered those ambitions into something more realistic. TheWorse’s mod surprised the community so much because, unlike the countless mods for, say, Skyrim that improve its visuals well beyond what the developers intended, Watch Dogs apparently still had those capabilities buried in its code. All the enterprising modder had to do was unearth them, allowing for much more impressive lighting and particle effects.
Given that, fans now question why those settings were buried in the first place. If a lone modder was able to get them up and running without too much hassle, why was the game so heavily delayed? On the other, more troubling end is the suggestion that Ubisoft intentionally gimped the PC port to create a false parity with the new consoles and make them look better. Such a move would directly undermine CEO Yves Guillernot’s claim that PC was considered the lead platform during Watch Dogs‘ development.
A PR representative from Ubisoft on Twitter has refuted claims that the graphics were downgraded, but fans remain skeptical:
@Beeelow i recall replying saying that the game was not downgraded, i still stick to that yes.
— Tessa Vilyn (@UbiTessa) June 16, 2014
Whatever the reason, it doesn’t look good for Ubisoft. In conjunction with the recent controversy over the publisher’s stance on women in games, Ubisoft is very much in the hotseat right now.