Another great PlayStation exclusive has made the leap to PC, and the results are spectacular. Sony Santa Monica has collaborated with studio Jetpack to produce an excellent God of War port that truly captures the original experience in every way, improving graphics and image quality and taking advantage of exclusive PC technologies like than Nvidia DLSS. The performance is also fantastic and offers as much compatibility with ultrawide monitors as it does with high refresh rate displays.
There’s a lot to say, so where to start? My first encounter with a PC game normally starts with the user interface, and God of War keeps the genre well in that respect. The menus are simple, easy to navigate, don’t load up, and work great with the keyboard and mouse combo as with a command. Seriously, the game supports various aspect ratios, such as 16:10 or 21:9, and the graphics options are as plentiful as the benefits. Surprisingly enough, the game runs on DirectX 11 and, as far as I can tell, doesn’t use an extended compilation stage for shaders, which makes shooting minimal. The only significant omission is a depth of field selector, although that would be tricky to implement considering the camera can do everything right. Undoubtedly, this constant camera movement has an option to reduce its severity, which is appreciated.
On PC, it also features a range of menu improvements, including over the parked PlayStation 5 version of the original PlayStation 4 Pro game. Nvidia Reflex has been implemented, for example, with which the input lag is reduced to 11ms using a DualSense control (which naturally works). There are also faster loading times, depending on your hardware. But the biggest differences are in the improved graphics, starting with the image quality and the elimination of the checkerboard rendering of PlayStation 4 Pro and PlayStation 5, with which artifacts in patterns and particles, as well as the clutter on texture surfaces, disappear in PC. In this version, almost all of these aspects can also be improved with native resolution, using the game’s standard TAA or DLSS. And yes, with DLSS it looks great, to the point that it includes some aspects of the presentation better than native rendering. This is something impressive bearing in mind that the DLSS rendering mode works with fifty percent of the pixels of the PlayStation 4 Pro checkerboard solution; smart climbing solutions have come a long way and it’s great to see developers at Sony Santa Monica studio leveraging these advancements in their PC ports.
From there, we move on to graphical fidelity improvements, where God of War also impresses. For starters, it’s fantastic to see that in the graphics options there’s an “original” option to match the quality of the original PlayStation 4. This helps to set a kind of standard and that users with more powerful hardware are better at it. For me, the most obvious are the shadows; in the console game the sun shadows are displayed at quite a low resolution, but by improving the quality of the shadows on the PC this effect is reduced, parade and even some ground detail is improved.
The second most obvious visual quality is the quality of the geometry, with more detailed and redundant objects than in the original console. That’s a lot more to enjoy, but what’s impressive here is that the PC version is also more stable on the move thanks to it, having fewer pop-ins near the camera when moving or running around the world. Improvements in the environmental setting are also noticeable, improving the integration of objects into the scene and introducing an element of rebot in the light. The quality of volumetric snow can also be improved, reducing aliasing, as well as the quality of reflections in screen space, improving resolution and reducing glare. This can be harder to see, since God of War doesn’t usually have a lot of reflective surfaces, but when the results look pretty obvious.
Finally, the quality of the textures is also better compared to the original PlayStation 4, mainly because the art is no longer treated with a checkerboard rendering. Although the anisotropic filter also improves the presentation, there is a texture option that increases the resolution of textures loaded by remote diffusion, although this change is not as dramatic as one might expect.
Optimized options? You can keep the selectors on “original” to replicate console game quality, but I think there is a better possible setup. For example, reducing Ultra shadows to Alto improves performance by no more and no less than 48%. The reflections are also expensive: going from Ultra+ to Ultra increases the framerate by 9%, while in Alto the best goes up to 16%, so Alto seems to me the most appropriate. The model’s quality option also offers a noticeable performance boost over the Ultra to High market, increasing the frame rate by 9%. Other than that, I recommend using the “original” option for atmospheric effects and Alto for environmental protection. With this setup, it finally has a higher quality than the console version, but the performance hit isn’t as pronounced compared to the “stock” preset.
What is even more problematic is the consumption of VRAM. God of War requires a minimum of 4GB of graphics memory and has measured usage of up to 5.5GB at 1080p with Ultra textures, rising to 7.2GB with native 4K. You can reduce VRAM consumption in the GPU by reducing the quality of the textures to “original”, and the truth is that there is a little better visually outside of the vegetation. I would generally recommend keeping the textures option as “original”, even if you have a 6GB card. If you have one with 8GB or more, you can set the textures to maximum with any resolution. Using an RTX 2060 with “original” quality textures, we see that the optimized options could increase performance between 40% and 50% over maximum detail, although the drop in visual quality is less obvious.
And what about mid-gamma GPUs? In the announcement of the port, it is suggested that a GTX 1060 will be required to achieve 1080p30, something a little alarming if we keep in mind that this type of GPU is more powerful than the PlayStation 4, a console that works with the same resolution and performance. Unsurprisingly, trying the game with the “original” 1080p options on a GTX 1060 will find that performance is closer to 60FPS, with less than 50FPS in more complex scenes. In a Radeon RX 580, performance is more problematic, with more variation. The problem is reduced by using a more powerful processor, which suggests that the problem could be caused by AMD’s DirectX 11 driver, which is not the most optimal. Moving on to more powerful cards, gaming at 1440p with optimized options is possible with an RTX 2060 Super or an AMD Radeon RX 5700, although here Nvidia comes back with the advantage of having some issues with the DirectX 11 driver on the Radeon card. With the AMD 60FPS option, this is the maximum that can be reached on certain points, so I would like to see better in this situation for users of these GPUs.
The CPU requirements are relatively simple for a game with PS5 quality at 60FPS. In my testing, I saw the game running at a maximum of 160FPS, limiting runs with high range, but the consumer-favorite CPU, the Ryzen 5 3600, is able to push the game between 100FPS and 120FPS , with some shots in the Timeframe. Moving on to the Intel Core i9 10900K, we see how 160FPS is maintained almost all the time. Without hesitation, it’s clear that there are parts of the game where God of War streams data from the scenes, causing spikes in the time frame that complicate 60FPS in the Ryzen and 120FPS in the i9. Reducing the quality options for shadows and models can help alleviate those occasional shortages, in any case.
In general, if you have an RTX GPU, you should use DLSS. Including an entry-level RTX 2060 can deliver a 4K60 experience with DLSS performance mode, which is significantly better than checkerboard gaming on the PlayStation 4 Pro. If you can’t use DLSS, consider the game’s internal indexing option, which is a temporary rebuild, something that doesn’t happen with AMD FSR (available with any GPU). Try both options to see which works best for you. DLSS is my go-to for RTX users, although there are some minor visual flaws, such as fluctuating snow deformation. What’s even weirder is seeing issues with ghosting or high contrast vegetation; in general, the quality and performance more than compensate for the occasional appearance of some image artifacts.
In summary, the PC port of God of War is spectacularly good, with useful graphics options that take the game further than the original PlayStation experience. GPU performance is generally good, although I’d like to see some improvements in CPU utilization, especially in streaming assets with AMD’s DirectX 11 driver. We cross our fingers so that it works out through the parks. Ultimately, the port is fantastic, and the magic of Sony’s proprietary game is still there, despite what was originally released on PlayStation 4 almost four years ago. In February 2021, we’ll return to play on PlayStation 5 – essentially playing on PlayStation 4 Pro but with the frame rate unlocked – and continue to have a brilliant experience. It’s also now, in 2022, and the best are even more pronounced on PC, so it’s a title we highly recommend.
Translated by Josep Maria Sempere.