Forza Horizon 4 PC Performance Review
Published: 5th October 2018 | Source: OC3D Internal Testing | Price: |
There is a lot to talk about here, but I know how the comments are going to go down on the Forums are on Facebook. "The Windows Store Sucks," "UWP is trash" and "I'd have bought this if it was on Steam." These are all frequent complaints about any new game that releases as a Microsoft Store exclusive, but dismissing Forza Horizon 4 out of hand is doing a huge disservice to Playground Games and the sheer effort that they have put into the PC version of the game.
When Forza Horizon 3 first released on PC, the game had problems. Whether it was due to inexperience with the platform, or the reveal of the "Xbox Play Anywhere" initiative late in the title's development cycle, it is undeniable that the Horizon series had a less than perfect start on PC, especially when combined with the usual Microsoft Store and UWP related issues.
Performance-wise, Forza Horizon 3 was CPU limited, so much so that beefy systems of the time were unable to reach 60+ FPS in all areas of the game, an issue which likely stemmed from the game's Xbox One origins, where a 30FPS framerate was targeted. Since then Playground Games has taken their lumps and has addressed this situation, both in Forza Horizon 3 (with a Multi-Threading patch) and in Forza Horizon 4 with a slew of engine upgrades.
On the CPU front, it is clear that Playground Games' optimisation efforts have paid dividends, enabling the Xbox One X version of the game to operate at 1080p 60FPS while allowing PC users to reach for loftier heights. With our 4GHz i7-6850K, we were able to achieve average framerates as high as 140 FPS on an RTX 2080 at 1080p Ultra settings, with a minimum of 112 FPS, only then becoming CPU limited. A higher clocked processor like an i7-8700K would likely reach higher performance levels, especially when overclocked, though we can see that systems with lower core/thread counts will have trouble reaching beyond 60FPS.
Playground Games is one of the premier developers of the Xbox Platform, and with Forza Horizon 4 we have seen this development mindset translate exceedingly well onto PC hardware, though that doesn't mean that the game is issue free, especially on older hardware.
If there is one thing that we have taken away from Forza Horizon 4 it's this, the game loves modern GPU architectures, with Turing showcasing a huge performance advantage over Pascal, with Nvidia's RTX 2080 smashing past the GTX 1080Ti, while AMD's Vega graphics cards can storm past their usual Nvidia competitors. This trait can be seen in one of two ways, either as Playground Games taking full advantage of modern hardware or as the developer designing the game without older GPUs in mind. In this case, we are leaning more on the former than the latter.
On today's mid-range graphics cards like our RX 580 Strix and GTX 1060 Strix, we found that the cards were capable of 60+ FPS at 1080p using Forza's Ultra preset, 1440p 60+ FPS under the game's High preset and 4K 30+ FPS at Ultra settings. Both cards are sitting with almost identical performance levels, showcasing the amount of effort that has been put into optimising the game.
Moving onto lower-end graphics hardware, like the R9 380 and GTX 960 (see page 12), we find that Forza Horizon 4's performance falls flat on its face. In older games, we typically found that these graphics cards could offer around 65% of the throughput of an RX 580 and GTX 1060 respectively. In Forza Horizon 4, we found that these graphics cards only delivered 35% of the performance of their modern counterparts. Several factors contribute to this, with architectural disadvantages, memory bandwidth, and VRAM capacity all having a role to play here. At best our two graphics cards can run Forza Horizon 4 at 30FPS locked at 1080p at Medium or High settings respectively on the R9 380 and GTX 960.
When looking at out CPU and GPU results, we can see two emerging trends, first that the era of dual-core processors is over, at least when it comes to high-end gaming, and that quad-cores without SMT are starting to struggle. We have seen this in previous performance reviews, but now it is becoming clear exactly where the wind is blowing. That being said, a strong quad-core is enough to play Forza Horizon 4 at over 60FPS, but at this point, it is starting to get hard to recommend anything below a strong SMT/Hyperthreaded quad core these days. There is a reason why Intel's i5 series now offers six cores.
On the GPU front, we can also see that 2GB graphics cards are on the way out. Modern games are starting to use a lot of VRAM, and Forza Horizon 4 is no exception. In recent months Nvidia has already seen the writing on the wall and released a 3GB GTX 1050, effectively making 3GB the new bottom of their graphics card range. Moving forward, graphics cards with small frame buffers will need to sacrifice a lot of graphical detail to achieve high-performance levels; this is not a trend that started with Forza Horizon 4.
Graphics Requirements - What we Recommend
While the minimum system requirements of Forza Horizon 4 are low, we will note that those who wish to desire to play the game with that level of hardware may want to consider upgrading their system. Move back to Page 4 and 5 and look at the graphical sacrifices that are needed to play Forza Horizon 4 using its minimum requirements. Beyond that, resolutions below 1080p and the lack of Anti-aliasing will create a lot of graphical mess, making the game's Xbox version preferable.
We wouldn't want to play this game at anything lower than the title's Medium preset, where shadows are of reasonable quality, the model detail of nearby vehicles are accurate, and MSAA 2x smooths out edges to provide players with a clear image. With this in mind, our minimum GPU recommendations are a GTX 960 and R9 380, both of which can hit a framerate target of 30+FPS at 1080p Medium settings. Perhaps we would get a lot more performance if we used their 4GB counterparts, but this is something that we are unable to test at this time.
For the 1080p 60FPS crowd (see page 9), it is hard to steer away from the RX 580 and GTX 1060, both of which are incredibly capable graphics cards that can run Forza Horizon 4 at 1080p 60FPS using the game's Ultra preset. There are no compromises here with advanced settings like Night shadows adding an extra level of graphical flair to Forza Horizon 4's nighttime scenes. Both graphics cards can even stay above 60 when MSAA is cranked up to 4X, smoothening the edges of vehicles and other geometry.
At 1440p (see page 10)you can go one of two ways, the RX 580 and GTX 1060 are capable of 1440p 60+ FPS at High settings, with Ultra being possible with graphics cards like the GTX 1070 or the RX Vega 56, though the RX Vega 56 has more than enough headroom to move past Ultra settings at 1440p.
Cranking things up to 4K (page 11), the GTX 1060 and RX 580 continues to impress, offering a 4K 30FPS experience at Ultra settings. 60FPS purists will wish to co higher, with users of graphics cards like the GTX 1080 and RX Vega 56 being able to reach this target at 4K High settings. Those who wish to push things to 4K Ultra will need a graphics card like the GT 1080 Ti, with cards like the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti proving more than capable of 4K 60 at settings beyond Forza Horizon 4's Ultra preset.
If there is one thing that can be said about Forza Horizon's development team, it's that they are passionate people. A lot of care and attention has been put into the game, and this is apparent within the game's level of graphical detail, the improvements over the title's predecessor the ability for the studio to address their shortcomings to create one of the best PC racing experiences out there.
Small details like the game's Night Shadows are an impressive feat, every small detail adding up to create an impressive whole. This is not the most realistic racing game out there, but that's never been what the Horizon is all about. Leading up to the game's release, Playground games even went so far as to add extra graphical options to utilise the power of Nvidia's new RTX series, showcasing a clear commitment to PC gamers, including those with insane hardware setups.
Playground Games has done a stellar job with the PC version of Forza Horizon 4, leaving us giddy with excitement and with a genuine urge to play more of the game.
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