Modder Unlocks Watch_Dogs' E3 Graphics Settings

It's time to party like E3 2012 as a modder unlocks the original graphics settings for PC users

Watch_Dogs has had a successful if rough reception. Despite being the highest pre-ordered game in Ubisoft history, the actual critical response has been mixed. A seriously flawed PC port, a sloppy focus on the main premise, and game design  continuing an unsettling trend of Ubisoft seemingly trying to homogenize and mass produce it's games has some people on the fence. The latest revelation about the notably downgraded graphics from earlier E3 showings will not help in this regard.

Found by Guru 3D user TheWorse, apparently not only are the original 2012/2013 demo settings still in the game's code, but they are specifically labelled as E3 settings. It's understandable that such promotional settings would be left in partially -- Deus Ex: Human Revolution's dev console unlock mods from a while back revealed that bits and pieces of press demos, special debugging commands, and levels could still be found in the core game.

The reason why this is going over far worse is that these settings aren't just leftover partial assets. All the original coding and effects are there, and they can be activated in full. Several users on Reddit have reported that running the mod has even reported improved game stability on PC. Not only does it make the game look notably better, but it fixes a problem that apparently resulted from Ubisoft downgrading the graphics. For reference from your usual experience, here's what the game looks like with the mod applied:

And here's the game in a similar instance without mod:

Take a minute and process that. By making the game look inferior and trying to demand less from your machine, they made it less optimized and run worse than if you have all the original highest settings running. This was chosen by Ubisoft over just releasing the game with the E3 settings enabled. 
Currently the mod includes the following changes:

  • Changes to the default fog values
  • Enabled bokeh DOF for the main cameras
  • Stuttering Improvements
  • E3 2012 Bloom
  • Performance Improvements
  • Enabled Headlight Shadows
  • LoD Changes
  • Reflection changes
  • Added 3 new cameras to the game(closer, normal, further)
  • Rain changes(High quality rain drops, properly reacting to light, etc)
  • LensFlares(WIP)
  • Lighting changes(TESTING AND WIP)
  • Civilians density changes

While it is nice that at least PC gamers can finally get a game far closer in look to the original E3 demo, it's confounding that Ubisoft would choose an inferior version of the game to release. All major press outlets have reached out to Ubisoft for feedback, but no word has been reported at this present time. After the Assassin's Creed Unity controversy and similar upset towards Far Cry 4, in addition to the botched PC launch and console authentication issues of Watch_Dogs, Ubisoft certainly has some ground to recover.

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Published Jun. 9th 2020
  • Common Claude
    Going over all the hundreds of articles about this I've rediscovered reading. After years of tinkering with pc graphics to get the best looking games and videos my interest in coverage of this mod has as I implied at the top caused a rekindling of what it's like to read something at length.

    Oh edit: And I don't like the DoF either in the mod but you can turn it off completely in the game menu to make it clear all the way to the horizon. There is distant fog nearing the horizon as is in many games but it's not DoF.
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    It's weird and funny to me because to me it's obvious that without this "mod" the game looks better. It's all preference I guess.

    And some screenshots are gimmicky. I can take screenshots of the game without this "mod" where it looks absolutely stunning.
  • Si_W
    I agree, I don't think there's anything wrong with the graphics as they are and I'm not convinced the screenshot comparisons do anything to change my mind...
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    I watched the video last night and my first thing on the field of depth view..the character needs some glasses if that's as far as he can see clearly! lol
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    Yeah, I've never been a huge fan of Depth of Field. I know it's seen by some as cheating but I actually prefer my screen come across as flat. I prefer that, it's a lot easier to keep track of things.
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    I don't mind it, if its for background sake..and I mean background. 20 ft? That sucks.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    Let this be a lesson kids -- dressing like the personification of Max Payne cosplaying as an inuit hipster can severely dampen your field of vision.

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