Call of Duty Vanguard is here, but before you can dive into Zombies or get to the leveling grind, you’ll need to make sure your performance is in check. We took the game out for a spin with a few graphics cards to find the best settings available, and in this guide, we’re going to walk you through them.
We tested each setting, each upscaling mode, and a few different resolutions so you can maximize your PC performance. If you’re looking for console settings, make sure to check out our guide to the best controller settings for Call of Duty Vanguard. For newer PC players, our list of the best settings won’t make you better in multiplayer, but our Call of Duty Vanguard multiplayer guide offers a few helpful pointers.
Call of Duty Vanguard has a massive list of settings and based on our testing, there isn’t a single one that will tank your performance. After testing each setting independently, we found that the vast majority of our results were within the margin of error. It was only when we turned down multiple graphics options that we saw a major difference in frame rate.
Normally, we have a list of ‘optimized’ settings, which show you the key settings to turn down to increase your frame rate. That isn’t possible with Vanguard. Instead, we just have a list of recommended settings. Consider this a starting point, and tweak your settings from there. We found that different GPUs react differently to these options, so it’s best to manually adjust.
- Texture resolution: Medium
- Texture filtering: High
- Particle quality: Medium
- Particle resolution: Low
- Bullet impacts and sprays: Off
- Shader quality: High
- Tessellation: Nearby only
- Level of detail distance: Standard
- Nearby level of detail: High
- Distant level of detail: Low
- Clutter draw distance: High
- Volumetric quality level: Medium
- Screen space shadows: Local shadows only
- Shadow map resolution: High
- Sun shadow cascades: High
- Cache sun shadows: On
- Cache spot shadows: On
- Spot cache size: Low
- Spot shadow quality: High
- Particle lighting: Medium
- Ambient occlusion: Static GTAO
- GATO quality: Medium
- Screen space reflections: Medium
- Anti-aliasing Filmic SMAA T2X
- Anti-aliasing quality: High
- Depth of field: Off
The big killer will be video memory for most. For that, look toward texture resolution first, then the caching options for shadows. We set a cache size of Low for these shadows, but you can disable them entirely if you’re running into video memory problems. The game includes a video memory limiter, too, which can help older video cards along.
Out of all of the settings, the biggest improvement we found was, oddly, with bullet impacts and sprays. Turning this off, we improved our average frame rate by a stunning 13%. We reran these tests multiple times, and each run, this setting showed an improvement when turned off. That’s an easy win.
Otherwise, we had a margin of error of between two and three frames, and all of the other settings fell within that window. Going from the highest Ultra preset down to the Lowest preset, though, we improved our average frame rate by 110%. This underlines the most important thing to know about Call of Duty Vanguard‘s graphical settings — you need to tweak all of the settings to see an improvement.
Because of that, it might be easier to stick with the graphics presets in the game, and then you adjust some settings up based on our list above. There are a lot of settings here, and it can be maddening trying to tweak each of them.
Keeping with recent releases like Back 4 Blood — read our Back 4 Blood performance guide for more on that game — Call of Duty Vanguard includes a few different recommended configurations. As our testing below shows, the Minimum list is a bit underpowered. You can run the game with the hardware listed, but you’ll need to turn the settings way down (and maybe even reduce the render resolution).
|CPU||Intel Core i3-4340 or AMD FX-6300||Intel Core i5-2500K or AMD Ryzen 5 1600X||Intel Core i7-8700K or AMD Ryzen 7 1800X||Intel Core i9-9900K or AMD Ryzen 9 3900X|
|GPU||Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 or AMD Radeon RX 470||Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 580||Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070/RTX 3060 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 5700XT||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 or AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT|
That doesn’t mean Call of Duty Vanguard will have problems with less powerful hardware, though. The game scales down well, with the Recommended requirements offering 60 frames per second (fps) at 1080p with a mix of Medium and High settings. Up the chain, Competitive is great for 1440p, while the Ultra requirements squarely target 4K.
The CPU, GPU, and RAM requirements are straightforward. The other two — storage and GPU memory — have some problems. You’ll struggle to run Call of Duty Vanguard with only 2GB of video memory. Even at their lowest, the textures can take up to 1GB or more, and that leaves little room for background applications. Thankfully, the game includes a video RAM usage limit (up to 90%) and provides a video RAM usage meter for each setting.
Like previous Call of Duty releases, Vanguard allows you to choose which modules you want to install. You could just install the campaign, for example, or you could install Warzone and Vanguard multiplayer. At launch, the game takes up 61GB of space for everything except Warzone. That said, the developers are clear that the game is 61GB at launch. It will grow, likely well over 100GB, as time goes on.
You can get by with only 36GB of space if you’re only interested in multiplayer and Zombies. On the other hand, Vanguard can take up to 125GB of space with all of the modules and the high-resolution asset cache installed. This will grow much larger over time. Last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops, for example, is 225GB at the time of publication.
As usual with our PC performance guides, we tested three graphics cards for the three common resolutions — the RTX 3070 for 4K, the RTX 2060 Super for 1440p, and the RX 580 for 1080p. We tested each card with an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X to remove the CPU from the equation as much as possible, along with 32GB of RAM.
|RTX 3070||RTX 2060 Super||RX 580|
|1080p Ultra||115 fps||69 fps||44 fps|
|1080p Recommended||149 fps||91 fps||56 fps|
|1440p Ultra||85 fps||49 fps||31 fps|
|1440p Recommended||112 fps||66 fps||40 fps|
|4K Ultra||48 fps||27 fps||17 fps|
|4K Recommended||64 fps||37 fps||23 fps|
With the Ultra preset, we couldn’t hit 60 fps with these cards at their respective resolutions. Our recommended settings aim to push each card above the 60 fps mark. The only one that couldn’t get there was the RX 580, which topped out at 56 fps at 1080p.
It seems the Recommended system requirements target 1080p with the Medium preset, while the Competitive requirements are focused on 1440p with Medium to High settings. We achieved an 85 fps average with the RX 580 at 1080p with the Lowest graphics preset, so there’s still plenty of room for less powerful cards to hit 60 fps at 1080p.
We normally wouldn’t recommend the RTX 3070 for 4K in a recent AAA shooter, but the card managed to keep up in our testing. 48 fps at native 4K isn’t bad, and with our recommended settings, we increased our frame rate by 33%. Call of Duty Vanguard includes three upscaling options, too, which can push the RTX 3070 above 100 fps. You don’t need an RTX 3080 as the system requirements call for (though, it would crack 60 fps at 4K Ultra).
The RTX 2060 Super almost mirrored the RTX 3070, just at 1440p. An AMD RX 5700 XT is a good replacement here, allowing you to climb above 60 fps with a few settings tweaks. Once again, though, the upscaling modes offer a more sizeable frame rate improvement.
Call of Duty Vanguard includes three performance-enhancing options — AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution, Nvidia Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), and a built-in dynamic resolution option. We’ll get the last one out of the way first. In our testing, the dynamic resolution option did nothing, even with a frame rate limiter enabled and V-sync turned on.
That leaves us with FSR and DLSS, which are both better options than dynamic resolution anyway. Before getting to performance, let’s talk about image quality. Neither of these upscaling features looks bad in Call of Duty Vanguard, but as you can see in our image quality comparison above, there’s one that looks better than the other.
We chose a cutscene from the opening moments of the game. It’s dark, but this mission has a lot of distant fine detail and a downpour of rain, so it’s a good test for DLSS and FSR. The bars on the cart in front of the camera fall apart with FSR, and the train car on the left washes out in a shimmer of pixels whenever light passes.
These objects are close to the camera, too. As you look at further objects, the differences between FSR and DLSS are even clearer (though, those distant objects have less of an impact when you’re actually playing the game). It’s never a good idea to pixel peep, but the cumulative effect of shimmering and fine details washing out in a smear of pixels adds up with FSR, and DLSS doesn’t have those problems.
|RTX 3070||RTX 2060 Super||RX 580|
|FSR Ultra Quality||65 fps (35%)||39 fps (44%)||26 fps (53%)|
|FSR Quality||78 fps (63%)||46 fps (70%)||29 fps (71%)|
|FSR Balanced||89 fps (85%)||53 fps (96%)||33 fps (94%)|
|FSR Performance||105 fps (119%)||64 fps (137%)||40 fps (135%)|
Still, we’re always happy to see two upscaling modes, especially when they cover the vast majority of graphics cards available today. We achieved more than a 2x increase in performance with both upscaling features, though FSR was able to climb higher. It doesn’t look as nice, but it was able to get even the RX 580 to a playable frame rate at 4K.
We recommend paying more attention to the percentage increase in performance, not the actual frame rate. We tested FSR and DLSS at 4K with the Ultra preset turned on — it’s the aspirational graphics mode, and it pushes both upscaling tools to the limit.
FSR scales higher than DLSS, but that doesn’t mean DLSS is a bad option. It looks much better overall, and even at its least intense Quality mode, it offered a 50% increase in our average frame rates across the RTX 3070 and RTX 2060 Super. In fact, we’d recommend just skipping the settings above if you have a GPU that supports DLSS. The Quality mode provided a higher average frame rate at 4K, and it’s difficult to tell the difference between DLSS and native resolution.
|RTX 3070||RTX 2060 Super|
|DLSS Quality||72 fps (50%)||42 fps (56%)|
|DLSS Balanced||82 fps (71%)||49 fps (81%)|
|DLSS Performance||87 fps (81%)||56 fps (107%)|
Call of Duty Vanguard reveals the same story we’ve seen time and again with FSR and DLSS. FSR allows you to push your frame rate further, though at the cost of image quality, and DLSS offers a sizeable increase while keeping the quality as close as possible to native resolution.
The most important thing is that Vanguard includes both. We’d recommend using whatever upscaling mode you have access to before trying to squeeze extra performance out of the settings.
- The best Combat Shotgun loadouts in Call of Duty: Vanguard
- Best gaming laptop deals for December 2021
- Nvidia confirms the 12GB RTX 2060 — and it will arrive next week
- Best gaming PC Cyber Monday deals 2021 — what’s still available
- The best Cyber Monday gaming laptop deals still available