When Watch_Dogs was unveiled at E3 2012 the unbelievably gorgeous demo footage had everyone intrigued. But after nearly two more years of development, and a delay, the now released game has been heavily criticized for lacking nearly all of the graphical effects that made it look so damn pretty. Sure, much of it can be excused on the console versions; even on the self-proclaimed powerhouses of the PS4 and Xbox One. And yes, I at least am well aware of how increases to a games content can cause a downgrade in visual quality. But surely the graphics shown in the earlier build of the game can be pulled off on PC, right? Ubisoft’s only real response to the criticisms has been to act like nothing has changed and that the game still looks amazing. Maybe they underestimate the persistence and resourcefulness of PC gamers.
A modder by the name of “The Worse” has done the best job so far of bringing back the 2012 graphics for Watchdogs, and he’s doing it using actual game files and simple .ini file changes. Apparently, every one of the now missing special effects in the game are simply hidden inside the installation, and The Worse has figured out a method of activating them. His mod (a mere 45 kb) can be found on his Guru3D forum post, as well as a series of incredible screenshots that brings back memories and does not use any custom effects. The volumetric rain, dynamic lighting, and famous E3 bloom are back, and more effects are coming.
One interesting note is that the files used for the mod, when viewed as text, place the environmental and lighting effects in categories called “E3” and “E3 Theatre”, and a comment hidden in one of the files actual says “this is PC only, who cares”. Well, it sure would seem that Ubisoft doesn’t, and the discovery of what looks to be purposely deactivated effects has raised even more accusations from gamers that the developer/publisher may have willingly dropped the PC version’s incredible graphics in order to more closely match the look of the PS4 and Xbox One versions – lest the game makes the new consoles look weak. It wouldn’t be the first time the company has been caught participating in platform-politics, and just recently they claimed that the upcoming Far Cry 4 on the consoles is equal to the PCs Ultra-High settings. I guess if you make up all the rules, no one can say you’re breaking them.
If you own Watchdogs, and if the Uplay servers will let you play it, I highly recommend you give this mod a try.