Squeeze the graphics of the PC version of the war shooter regardless of your team.
Being an annual series, it is difficult to maintain interest with each new installment; but if we stay with the technical section, I would say that Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War is exciting. The reason is very simple: not only does it benefit from the improvements introduced in 2019 with the new engine, but it also brings interesting new features such as the DLSS and ray tracing support (Also SLR, although that has to do with the gameplay and not with the graphics). The result, as commented in its corresponding analysis, is a truly immersive experience supported by a interesting art direction: dark, dramatic, immersive, with great attention to detail; and also one of the first big budget games to take advantage of next-gen graphics.
Treyarch commented on a server for the press, that this installment does not use the same engine that we saw in Modern Warfare, but another that takes advantage of the improvements of the previous one (IW Engine) and adds as many of its own harvest. For users interested in improving game performance, there are quite a handful of configuration options at your reach. It is a very similar menu to the one we have been seeing for the last two years, only more complete if possible (thank you very much, Beenox). We have all kinds of options to adapt the game to our screen, plus entire blocks dedicated to details and textures, shadows and lighting, ray tracing —only modifiable on compatible cards— and post-processing.
What is the result like? Usually, very good– Just take a look at the minimum and recommended system requirements. Thumbs up for developers for detailing what performance we can expect from each suggested configuration, by the way. A fourth generation i3 and a GTX 670 are enough for us to play games, and frankly, if you have a computer designed with games in mind, you should have no problem reaching 60 FPS at 1080p. What we’re really interested in in this article is how to get a handful of extra frames for those using high-refresh rate monitors, or how to maintain a stable fluidity in high resolutions, and how Nvidia technologies behave in this area.
Observations, balance and conclusions
During the analysis and technical testing phase, we have used two different equipment. One equipped with a GTX 1080 Ti, an i7 8700K and 16 GB of RAM; and another supplied by our colleagues at Nvidia that carries an RTX 3070, an i9 10900K (without overclocking) and 32 GB of RAM. In all cases we have used the 457.30 WHQL drivers, which you can download from GeForce Experience. The game does not have a built-in test tool and Battle.net does not include its own meter either, so if you want to analyze the performance of the game, we recommend that you go to interface menu and couplings to the screen counters of FPS, VRAM, temperatures; or that you use third party software like MSI Afterburner or Fraps. GeForce Experience also has its own analysis, somewhat more limited than the latter, but it will not be for options.
We warn you in advance that this is one of the most challenging optimization guides that we have faced in the magazine: just between shadows, reflections and post-processing there are already a good number of variants to try in very diverse situations both in the Bell (especially) as in multiplayer and zombie modes. So we have chosen to examine the results of very specific missions such as “No escape” or “Broken jaw”, where certain parameters such as drawing distance or reflections become more important. What have we gotten out of all this? That, as with other games in the series, it is not demanding in terms of processor; but as we increase the resolution the GPU has trouble maintaining a framerate stable.
Not fussy on the CPU, but the GPU suffers at higher native resolutions If you have a card similar to the GTX 1060 with about 6 GB of video memory, you should have enough budget to adjust most of the parameters in “superior” quality (equivalent to “high” or “very high”), which is also the one that offers results at the level of a new generation game. That said, the difference between the average FPS in low and ultra qualities it’s huge. PvP giants shouldn’t have a lot of complaints playing at medium quality, but avoiding problems in the campaign can mean some sacrifices. Illustratively, we have recorded a 26.6% difference in average FPS on the same mission just by adjusting two parameters a little up or down.
Without a doubt, textures, screen reflections and shadows These are the adjustments with the greatest impact on both cost and results. Of course, saying “shadows” and staying that wide is almost a crime, because here that encompasses volumetric lighting, shadow quality, dynamic shadows, special effect shadows, weapon shadow, and —in the RTX graphics– ray tracing of sun shadows, local shadows and ambient occlusion; in about four qualities for each option, not counting three resolutions (1080p, 2K and 4K) video cards and very different game modes. So, let’s go in parts.
Speaking in silver, the textures can range from what we would call potato mode up to ultra quality with an optional HD model and texture pack (about 50 GB download, eye) perfectly valid for playing in 8K, as long as you have an RTX 3090, which is not our case. As we said above, the “superior” quality is what you probably want to use if you have a decent card for playing 1080p, and scale up or down (not recommended) according to your results. The screen reflections, for their part, they are a very special case because at the time of writing these lines do not seem to operate correctly. There are three settings, although the highest one disables itself and we have not found an .ini file to configure it from outside.
The reflection of the light costs us 10 FPS regardless of our configuration.
Textures range from potato mode to a 50GB HD package suitable for 4K and 8K Using the RTX 3070 at 1920x1080p we found that there is about 10 FPS separating the reflections between medium and minimum, but there are certain situations where it is virtually impossible to avoid a drop even by deactivating this parameter, so you know: minimum. On the other hand, it should also be emphasized that not all reflections are the same; glass or glass surfaces have their own texture and only offer a small range of colors reflected in low definition, with a strange feeling of opacity, as if they were plastic. But in those same surfaces we can see the best that the ray tracing from Nvidia with a really convincing result and a low impact: entire buildings reflected in a more than acceptable level of detail in a store window, for example. And what about the shadows?
It is recommended to activate the dynamic shading for all characters, because in a game like this it is not only something more immersive and credible, but it can also provide a (small and punctual) tactical advantage in multiplayer mode, giving opponents a little more visibility. The weapon shadows should also be activated if you don’t have too many fluidity problems, considering that you will be seeing your weapon in basically everything other than menus. Surprisingly, you won’t need one shadow resolution so sharp for acceptable graphics, so feel free to lower them to medium if you need to: they have a smooth and well-written mapping.
The ambient occlusionFor its part, it does seem essential to us because most of the campaign takes place in a dark and oppressive environment where the contrast of shadows plays an important role. Don’t be afraid to lower your viewing distance of objects (you will hardly miss it in a few minutes of some missions) or the shadows of the special effects to achieve something more stable in the most intense action scenes. The quality of these does not seem essential either because they only mark the resolution of the fire of the explosions and the like. Let’s review what we have learned.
- The textures they are incredibly flexible, but you should start at the “higher” setting if you have a mid-range GPU with a certain VRAM budget (4-6GB). There is a pack of textures and HD models essential for those who play in 4K or higher. In those areas, use only a DLSS-compatible graphics: at native resolution, it is very difficult to find something stable and with a good level of detail.
- Don’t be afraid to lower the definition of shades medium, but keep the weapon shadows and dynamic shadows. Turn off those for special effects and lower volumetric lighting for a more stable FPS rate. The latter is something specific, but it has a marked impact. Similarly, object sight distance can be lowered because it won’t be a problem for most of the campaign.
- He ray tracing It goes a long way towards creating a dramatic and immersive atmosphere, although solar shadows could be problematic depending on the level of the campaign we are talking about.
- Play in the native resolution of your computer as long as your GPU can support it. It’s a shame it doesn’t have internal resolution scaling, but there are plenty of options to balance fluency. Always aim for a minimum 60 FPS, and don’t use motion blur unless the action is fatigued by turning the camera.
- The reflexes they are quite a headache: some look very good, others don’t; the maximum quality is not applied correctly and in some situations they consume a huge number of frames. You may want to keep them to a minimum.